Adopting a Dog - Part 4
First things first: Dog Trainer and Dog Groomer
After Cady, my adopted Chow, came home, I kept her with me as much as possible. She was dirty and her fur was full of burrs and sticks and mud. It was bad. I never realized that finding a quality dog groomer would be difficult.
I started by looking online. Because Cady is a Chow, the first couple of people I contacted immediately shut me down."Chows are mean". "I don't do Chows". "Good luck". It was a little frustrating.
I finally got a name from a friend, and I called the recommended groomer. She was hesitant, but finally agreed. However, she couldn't do it for two weeks. I made an appointment. She also told me I had to have proof of vaccinations, which I thought was a good idea. I already had an appointment with my very nice veterinarian, Dr Diesem at Loyal Oak Animal Clinic in Norton for the next day. After he saw her, and vaccinated her, he declared her "no worse for the wear!" That was a relief!
The local pet stores have groomers. While I was hesitant because I wanted a more low-key environment for her first grooming, they agreed to take her in and see what they could do. They were a little apprehensive, but at least willing. Cady was REALLY unwilling. She didn't bark or growl or bite, but she had to definitely be pulled along to get her behind the door. They called me about an hour later to pick her up.
I would say that it was a fair to medium job. In order for her to have been done so fast, they had to soak, scrub and blow dry at record speeds. I was a little worried that rapid handling could have been a bit traumatic, but at least she was shampooed. This visit cost about $65.
I kept the appointment with the private groomer for two weeks away, because Cady was such a mess to begin with that she started to have that "dog" smell pretty soon after the first shampooing. This was the end of June, so the summer heat took its toll on this longhaired doggie. This groomer asked me to bring her and drop her off and that it would take 4 to 5 hours. At least I knew that it wouldn't be a rush job. I stayed with her a little bit and took pictures of her before grooming.
This groomer put each dog in a crate while they waited their turn. I came back at the appointed time and it was a quality job. She was clean, smelled great, and was appropriately trimmed and brushed. At the check out counter the groomer told me that it was (a whopping) $150! I was pretty surprised, but didn't have much experience before with dog grooming. I didn't make a follow up appointment since she told me I could go several months between grooming.
Stick with me here; there is more to come about grooming.
If you think finding a quality groomer is difficult, just wait until you have to try to find a dog trainer that is still in business!
I started to look for a dog trainer. I sat down at my computer and Googled "Dog Trainers Akron Ohio".
Again, I wanted a more private or personal trainer. I walked past the local pet store in-store training, and decided that it looked more like a basic puppy class and Cady was 2 years old, and very skittish.
I looked in the classified ads and came up empty. I tried to email a few of the Google contacts that came up in the search. At least five of them had disconnected telephones. I emailed another half a dozen and received no response. It was a little frustrating. I could have found a trainer that would do protection or agility training in the Cleveland area. After asking around, I called Canine University in Cleveland and had an appointment for an evaluation.
Canine University was a pretty nice place, with a storefront that was large and roomy inside, with agility equipment and basic items like collars and shampoo. At the time they offered classes in groups of 6-week blocks- Puppy Kindergarten, Basic Household Obedience I, Household Obedience II, Canine Good Citizen, and as many blocks of 6 weeks it would take to become a Therapy Dog, Agility, etc. You pay a set amount for each 6-week block. More expensive than the local pet store, but less expensive than I expected. The trainer spent a little time with her and decided that she should start with Household Obedience I, so I gave her a check and a plan to start classes in 2-3 weeks. I felt a wave of relief. Just to know that there was a plan. The only downside I could see at this point was the drive from Akron to Cleveland, a 50 mile round trip, once a week for who knew how many weeks.
This was the summer of $4.00 + gasoline, which added expense to the training, plus a 40-minute drive each way. A training financial commitment, plus the gas and the time commitment -this was a pretty good block of time to factor in. When I went home, I called the Better Business Bureau, and there were no bad reports on Canine University. My only wish was that it was a little closer to home. But I would say that 90% of my feeling was positive and having made a plan and knowing that there would be some direction.
I started taking Cady to work with me, because she needed to be socialized. I took her everywhere with me, as much as I could. BUT, she was on a strong leash, on a slip proof collar and everywhere I went, I used a carabineer to fasten her somewhere. To the tree when we were outside, to the back of the headrest in the car, hooked to the grocery cart at the pet stores. I was afraid to let go of the leash for any amount of time. I took her to the park for a concert in the park, which was too much for her. She was very worried. The next day was the Fairlawn July 4th Parade. I knew that if the concert freaked her out, the parade would have been a big mistake. So instead, we drove near the parade route, and parked in an elevated parking lot where I could watch the people and the parade, yet stay in the car.
One of the participants in the parade was a silver car, with the words "Sit Means Sit Dog Training" on the side of the car. There was a beautiful border collie sitting on the roof of the car with a water bowl in front of her. She was just happily sitting on top of the car, looking at the people, as the car drove down the street, with the trainer walking next to the car. No Leash.
I tucked this bit of information away.
The following Thursday when the West Side Leader came out, there was a picture of the dog (Roxie) and a story about the trainer - they had won first place in the parade!
I went back to Google. "Sit Means Sit Fairlawn Ohio" and came up with the local website. This also included the national website for www.SitMeansSit.com. I started reading. Sit Means Sit uses a remote collar, and promised that your dog would be off leash and doing basic obedience within about three weeks. "Ha", I thought. "I'll just bet". But, since I had checked out Canine University I felt that I should at least check out Sit Means Sit's program.
I called the phone number; 330-310-D O G S which I thought was catchy, and sounded like the company was planning on being around for the duration. I left a message and the owner/trainer; Paul Pollock called me back within 24 hours. I explained to him that I was a little reluctant. I wasn't sure about a remote collar, and I sure didn't want any additional trauma for my poor little Cady after her recent ordeal.
Paul explained that the way his company works, he would come to my home, or location of my choice, for a free evaluation and a free demonstration lesson and at that lesson he would explain the program. I thought that sounded fair. Since it was warm weather, I opted for a park setting, rather than my home. My main problem was? well, EVERYTHING, but primarily I wanted a good recall to start with, because I was so worried about her running away! I brought a 50-foot lead with me so she could move around outdoors more than she could at home.
This was one of the most educational and fun hours I had spent with Cady since I had acquired her! Here were these two dogs, able to be off leash, running and catching a Frisbee, coming when called, sitting and laying down on command. It was impressive to say the least!
He still had to convince me that this was a non-traumatic training method. I wanted positive training, without punishment.
He was holding a remote collar in his hand. He asked me to hold out my hand and cup my fingers around the remote so that the collar was against the palm of my hand. He showed me the remote and explained that in the "old days" the "shock collars" were on and off. He explained that the remote collars today had a range of stimulation, which he explained was more like an electrical vibration. I was a little skeptical. He placed the remote on "1" and pressed the button. I thought, "Great. This collar doesn't even work." I hadn't felt a thing. He moved it to a "2". Still nothing. On "3" I felt a feeling that was exactly like a slight vibration, not enough for me to even be surprised. On a 4 I was able to feel a stronger vibration. I FELT it, but it didn't HURT. I was pretty impressed. This was a great demonstration.
He then asked if he could put the collar on Cady and I said yes. While I sat on the curb with my two friends, he took Cady and my 50-foot lead out about 20 feet out so she had room to move about. He worked with her for a few minutes, telling her to "come". He would lead her toward him while he said "come", then release the lead so she could walk away. He repeated this several times. Before I went home from this free demonstration lesson, Cady knew "come". It was remarkable.
He gave me the paperwork, explained the different programs and tailored choices and fees. And then, after a little more discussion and questions from my friends and myself, he said that if I made a decision within 48 hours, I would receive a discount. I am pretty good about not making impulse decisions, so I took the paperwork and went home to start my due diligence. Low pressure.
I did the same thing that I had done with Canine University. I called the Better Business Bureau. I called Paul and asked him for the names of six local references. As I called each person, when they didn't know who I was they sounded hesitant to talk. As soon as I mentioned Paul's name, the whole tone of their voice changed. I could barely get the people off the phone! People with dogs from Rottweilers to small dogs said the same thing. It was remarkable. It was fabulous. Paul is a great guy. Paul is a wonderful trainer. I went online and watched videos and read stories. There were zero travel costs because he would come to my home. The training fees were very competitive with Canine University.
I called and set up an appointment for lessons. I also called for a refund from Canine University. They were very professional and refunded my deposit promptly.
The first lesson with Sit Means Sit was at my home. I was worried about being pulled down the steps, since I couldn't let go of the leash. First lesson - pulling on the stairs: corrected. The other first lesson objectives were demonstrated. The next two lessons were scheduled. We practiced.
Cady learned fast. On the third lesson, we were outdoors, and Paul told me "Are you ready?" I looked at him, "For what?" He said, I'm going to drop her leash on the ground". My heart started pounding and I said "No!" He grinned at me and dropped the leash and she stayed put. He walked away and called her. She came to him. He had me call her and she came to me. It was really something.
Since that time, I have gone to group classes (unlimited for the life of my dog! !) that were included in the package I purchased. Each group class provided more socialization and more "tuning up" of trained behaviors.
It was the best decision I had ever made. I know that there are people who find remote collar training controversial. There are trainers who use only treats. There are trainers who use choke or prong collars. It's really a personal decision for each person. It's a big decision that everyone should look into for his or her particular situation. This is my personal story and decision. I have enjoyed the relationship with the dogs and trainer so much that I now work part time with the trainer. That's how strongly I feel about the decision I made.
Oh! I said there would be more on dog grooming! Remember? Well, at one of our group classes, which was held at the Paws A While facility in Richfield I saw that there was a sign saying "Grooming". I went over and introduced Cady and myself. She told me that she was pretty busy and almost at capacity. She graciously made an appointment for me and for a reasonable fee, much less than that of the other private groomer and did the most wonderful job of grooming. Plus, the dogs only went into crates if they didn't get along with the other dogs that were dropped off. They did, so they are allowed to play while they waited for their turn. Cynthia at Paws A While rocks! Just like training, do some research until you find what fits for you and your circumstances. It's very worth the effort.
It took time, effort and diligence, but I have a groomer and a trainer who are loyal to me. My Cady, and her "brother" Zack have recently passed the Canine Good Citizen test and now are both Certified Therapy Dogs!
I am one happy dog owner. With two happy and beautiful dogs!
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