Thursday, June 2, 2016

Honmoku Dogrun Ordeal

I'd heard from two different doggie friends, a black lab and a golden retriever, that there was a dog run in Honmoku park open only on Tuesdays and weekends. So after Sherlock had his stitches taken out, and the big C is finally over thanks to fantastic vetting from Dr. Koyama, I decided to top up the excursion with an exploration of the park and the new dog run. 

I had taken the dog vaccination certificates, their registration and rabies tags, and my alien registration card for ID, and it took a while to fill in all the papers for three dogs and pay the registration fee and user fee...goodbye, $45...but what I wasn't prepared for and my friends hadn't told me about was their submission-focused mandatory incident-management dog-control session (I hate to call it training...)
They had two safety protocols: first, stepping on the leash, moving in closer and closer to "down" the dog by the pull on the neck. Second, whiplash style tugs on the neck to get the dog to "leave it " in the event of toy-guarding or prey-chasing modes. As far as my well-trained dogs are concerned, it seemed to me to be like trying to hammer out chopsticks on a Steinway: all you need to do is say "down" or "leave it", right? Unfortunately the run accepts all and sundry including potential problem dogs, and therefore insists on strict adherence to their protocols. 

You can just see the difference in Sherlock compared to the pictures from last week: I was mortified, I've just got him to feel confident and relaxed and hold his head up high, stand up tall, and there I was dragging him to the ground in forced submission, waiting as he struggled and got all confused, and reviving the trauma of some dumb training techniques which give him no choice and don't allow him to learn anything other than fear and insecurity, and quite frankly restrict major energy chakras and potentially damage posture and injure the neck.

In retrospect I wish I'd had the courage of my convictions and simply told the trainer that we had a difference of opinion on safety and training and I would not be using the dog run and could I have my money back. Instead I soldiered on eating more and more bad energy in the hopes of the final reward, a chance to cavort in the shade...
Nobu and Claire know "down" commands so they navigated the stuff well, even though poor Claire had a hard time coping with whiplash tugs by the trainer on her leash when she will change direction for you with a simple spoken command. Nobu let off steam afterwards wrestling wildly with me and chasing the water bottle for a toy. He's such a healthy, balanced sweetie, knew how to get all that tension and bad energy out of his system.
Claire tried to avoid invasive butt chasing by a wee poodle by trotting away, only the poodle wouldn't give up. At that point I stepped on the poodle's leash to stop him harrassing Claire...and the trainer stepped in. He forced both dogs down in a face off position nose-to-nose, or at least tried to: while Claire was willing to accommodate his demands in a "training" style environment, she simply refused to face off with this dumb poodle...of course, Cesar Milan-style, he couldn't back down, so he ended up letting the poodle free and continuing to pull down Claire! I don't understand the logic in this, facing off is an aggression in dogs, if you insist, downing them side to side in a mutual 69 butt sniff position might make more sense. I didn't feel safe to talk to this trainer with open communication and suggestions, so I just hovered around miserable.
To my mind, all it needed was more friendly "greetings" between the dogs and their mums, I realized, and proceeded to get more active doing rounds to say hello (I had tried to say hello and greet on the way to the dog run when we met the poodles in the park, but there you go...some people won't...). I use the Japanese word "aisatsu" multiple times daily to let the dogs know it's time to sniff and greet new friends, canine and human.

 I can cope, says Claire, I'm old and wise...but we all had stiff necks afterwards, and I made sure to massage my babies well in the evening. Never going back, methinks, there are other more healthy options than placing yourselves knowingly in the power of a dominance believer, however necessary incident control may be for a run that welcomes all kinds of untrained dogs and their owners.
Photos by KyouSK, who was also miserable...sorry, KyouSK. We had some delicious jasmine tea together at home to soothe the nerves.

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