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Discussion Starter #1
Let's start with some background. I adopted my girl (american pit terrier) about 2.5 months ago from a animal shelter. I had planned on a older dog next year but enter a global pandemic and me off work with 3 teenage children one with autism all day every day. She is my first dog ever, so I know I took on a challenging breed to start. That said I am a bit of an over thinker/ planner/researcher and none of the major breed complaints (prey drive, gameness, energy lvls, possible da) was deal breaker, especially when she bonded with my autistic son immediately. Being home with nothing better to do and a dog that was clearly going to be hard for me to physically force to do.. anything.. as an adult I focused on training especially leash manners. She was tethered to me her first 2 weeks at home and has had consistent (positive) reinforcement to be aware of me at basically all times. Normally I would have enrolled in classes, but they were canceled, so I researched training strategies and landed on a strict nilf policy with positive reinforcement and redirects. She is very clever and eager to please. (One of the traits that made me decide to adopt a pit terrier.) She knows all the basics now to be in public in dog friendly areas, shes still a little over excited and licky (not bitey or da, just pulls to get to people after eye contact/ consent and after intro will raise herself carfully on her hind legs to hand height if peting stops) but she's not even 5 months so yea I'm very happy with our manners. Now classes are open, I tried to get her in a socialization class with older dogs, but they said I had to be in puppy obedience classes first. I was mostly ok with that thinking they would have similar temperamented dogs (she s alot, and training is high energy and often loud) then I found out my mom was in the same class. Her chug is 3 weeks younger then pepper, but has never even been taught to be on a leash correctly, mom uses a retractable (shudder) much less manners. He minds me better then her when I am over (which is rarely because I cant watch the way she handles him and there was an incident). I'm the one that taught him his name and to sit - the only command he knows reliably even in his home.
Now to the questions. Is this normal. Having such a range in dogs be in the same class ie. Size, 10-35 lbs; energy lvl pepper can play/run/wrestle for an hour and still have enough energy for a light traing session, copper (the chug) doesn't even make it around the block before its nap time. training level/ needs cooper is way excitable and needs soft low tones (part of why mom has issues with him) pepps needs high energy praise/ reinforcement as she is only treat motivated when I under feed, and not always even then. Add to all that Cooper is also bitey, especially with with mom (she was bopping his nose till I ratted her out to the trainer lady), although not usually with me. I give him treats and praise pets for sitting on my lap and being good. I DID get bit by him one time while pulling him off pepper (the last time I brought her over and the incident refrenced above) when she was tryng to back away behind me. mom just watched. Pepps has to pay enough attention to me to respond to call off commands (I can't move her if she digs in) to meet other dogs, but he ignores mom whenever it suits him. So not cool (side note why can her ankle biter get away with that when my pit would be villinized) leaving a nasty mark (it looks like it ll scar) and a bruise that took 2 weeks to heal.
If this is a normal range (assuming that these are the extreme ends of the class), how do I avoid being a distraction with our high energy training, and keep pepps from picking up bad habits (like over barking).
I had assumed it would be more like high school with segregation based on skill level/needs. We met an older dog and my girl obeyed both me and her signals in an intake while cooper jumped all over tgat poor dog and had to be handled by the trainer. I just cant help feeling like I'm going in so that pepper can learn division and cooper is still eating paste.
Maybe.. ok prolly I am over thinking this cause, well, I over analyze everything. I am aware I am new at this, I believe I can benefit from more points of view, it's the stark contrast that has me confused as to how this is going to work. I want to trust they have this, it's just not my strong suit. I could really use some tips/reassurances that this is normal.
 

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It can be normal! Especially if this is strictly an obedience class, where physical interaction either doesn't happen at all, or is limited to short, carefully monitored play sessions with only 2-3 well-matched dogs at a time. A good setup usually has the dog/handler teams far enough apart that the puppies can't bother each other, at least at first, and this usually helps the pups pay attention to their handler as well.

It's generally good for puppies to learn how to handle being around dogs of different sizes, temperaments, and volume levels, so it's definitely not a bad thing to mix those in a puppy class. I can say that I've taken two well-run group classes - one puppy and one young dog - with Frodo, and I haven't seen him or the other dogs in class pick up bad habits like barking from each other when they weren't already prone to it. As for being a distraction... I wouldn't worry too much! You've found a way to work with your dog, and that's awesome. It's kind of on the other handlers and the trainer to work out how to handle their dogs around distractions, if they even find you distracting in the first place. You'd be surprised what a dog can tune out when they realize it's training time!

Obviously, there are poorly run puppy classes too. But I'd start with the benefit of the doubt here. If you find that the class is chaotic with a lot of snarking and stressful to your dog, or the trainer doesn't seem responsive to your concerns (say, wanting to keep Pepper and Cooper separated given their history), then absolutely pull out ASAP. But first see how things are managed - hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
So, that happened and I feel very conflicted. There were 2 absent, and there was us cooper, and a shy boy named finn. He's a 6 mo old healer mix, but very reserved. I'm betting my mom gave a very different pic of the encounter cause both other dogs were off leash (not even dragging) and SHE (trainer) used my lead to keep control of pepps for the play. I did not like that much. Cooper, as expected rushed in being too aggressive, and mom exercised 0 control over him. I'm not saying he didn't listen to the back offs from the other dogs, although pepper is now big enough to lock cooper down so she basically laid on him till he ran settled. He was just so uncontrolled and since pepps was on leash she didnt even get a full introduction to finn. Pepper minded the handler, didn't leash pull or bark, maintained submissive postures (laying down) showed the ability to wait on my release, and come to me when called (this was admittedly later when we moved to the training portion). No treats required. No other dog displayed any of that. I understand she has the potential to be a lot, and can see why the trainer didn't want her off leash right away but I am offended that she didnt at least let me handle my dog. Am I over thinking this? Is the normal? Should I keep going?
 

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One of the things you have to accept when you get a pit or pit mix is that a lot of people are going to look at your dog askance whether she's behaves perfectly or not. I have Rottweilers. That's just part of owning certain breeds, and you're better to accept it and handle and protect your dog with it in mind. I've experienced prejudice in a training class, although the instructor didn't act on it, just made a few snotty remarks. I ignored her, proved her wrong, but if she'd tried taking my dog and doing anything I didn't like, it wouldn't have happened.

I'll admit I look at pits askance in spite of having a breed that's also often prejudiced against, not because I don't know a lot of pitties are lovely dogs, but because a high percentage of the ones I've encountered are owned by irresponsible, macho jerks. When I did rescue work it helped me understand the anti-Rott prejudice because I encountered some of the "You got any big Rockwilders" crowd.

I've attended puppy kindergarten at 2 different training centers. In the one, the puppies never interact, they're on leash with their owners, everyone learns certain training and handling techniques, and puppies are exposed to various strange things they probably wouldn't otherwise meet. For instance, the last time I was there, they had, among other things, a short agility tunnel and a kid's wading pool filled with crushed cans. Puppies aren't forced to do anything with those strange obstacles but encouraged to and praised madly when they do.

The other class divides the sessions into two parts. For the first part, the puppies are let loose together to interact. The play is supervised by training assistants who make sure no puppy is picked on, etc., while the owners go off to a classroom for a lecture on training and puppy care. For the second half of the class, the owners go back to their puppies, and there's regular training instruction. They don't present puppies with unusual things but concentrate on showing owners how to train - sits, downs, recalls, leave it, etc.

I don't think I'd go to the second class for puppies again (I've done it a couple of times) unless the instructor agreed I could skip the classroom part. Once you've sat through the classroom instruction, it's been there, done that and boring. While I think playing with other puppies is good, especially for ones like mine that don't get around other dogs much, I don't like leaving my puppy for others to decide what supervision and handling is needed. And at least one of the training exercises involved treatment too harsh IMO. I simply refused to do it. (That's your responsibility as the owner. If something strikes you as wrong for your dog, you don't do it. You don't let the trainer do it. I walked out of a training class once when the instructor insisted on something I didn't like.)

Your post sounds like a lot of your problem is your mother's dog. That's also your responsibility. If another dog is causing a problem, get away from it. If someone gets their nose out of joint, too bad. You wouldn't let someone run roughshod over one of your kids, would you? If the trainer is taking your dog from you and doing something you don't like, speak up.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I tdied to be clear when we talked that, due to the fact I simply dont know any calm dogs that act in an appropriate manner, its all puppy's and half socialized smaller dogs that I have to manage their interactions I wanted her to learn to respect older/calmer/shyer dogs. I was told I had to go to puppy classes first though.
 

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What did the rest of the class look like? Was the play a big part of the class/the only part of the class, or were you doing other things as well?

And, importantly, did the instructor talk to you about why she was taking Pepper and what she was doing/looking for? What she was seeing in the interactions between her and the other dogs? IMO a big part of play sessions in classes is to teach owners how to read their dogs, and how to anticipate and handle conflicts - preferably before it escalates into anything dangerous or scary for the pups. I could see - especially if she'd been told a biased story about the incident between Pepper and Cooper - her wanting to handle this (relatively) large puppy who might cause issues at first, so she can evaluate how all the dogs behave for herself without risking too much. But I'd expect her to communicate that to you, and to get you back handling your dog ASAP once it's clear there's no/minimal danger, because you're the one who will be handling her in real world scenarios.

Dog training is so much about communication (EDIT: I mean between the trainer and owners, in this context, though of course clear communication with the dogs is super important too!). And I say that when I'm currently only able to go to classes in a language I struggle with. If your trainer isn't adequately explaining why she's doing what she's doing and what she's trying to accomplish, ask. Insist, even. Which can be really difficult, I know - I absolutely hate having to assert myself with perceived authority figures (or anyone, I'm a wuss haha) - but you need to know why she's making these decisions and what her plans are to judge what's going on here. Personally, I'd hope her plan included getting Pepper off-leash as soon as possible, because I do NOT like teaching dogs that prolonged on-leash play is a thing (been there, done that, have the frustration-reactive dog to prove it - not the only thing that caused that issue, but a big factor). I'd almost rather keep a puppy away from the play to observe than have them trying to participate while leashed, but that is my own bias that might border more on 'not for me' than 'universally a bad thing'.

If she's dismissive or can't explain her approach, or if she pressures you to do things that make you uncomfortable like handing the leash over to her (or insists on feeding her cheese that upsets her stomach, saw that in another post), I'd consider pulling out and looking for other options.

That being said, she IS learning from observing the other dogs. A lot of socialization happens just from exposure, not only direct interaction, and so long as she's not stressed out or subject to harsh treatment, it might be worth sticking out. Especially if you know the socialization class you originally wanted is a good one. You're at least getting her used to a class environment and working around other dogs, which isn't a bad thing. Again, so long as it stays positive for her.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
2/3 of the class was pepper on lead (it is a slightly long one, as it's her teather lead made to wrap around the waist hands free, and she holding it not wearing it) allowing her access to about 1/2 the room. she was indeed narrating her play, but it was entirely cooper running around like a crazy dog off leash without mom having the sence to check him. She had pepps and finn was cower at his owners feet. I will admit that seriously had me offended that cooper was allowed to barrel from 1 dog to another while my girl was laying in the middle of the floor requesting an invite to approach finn, and when it was allowed, cooper was not restrained and barreled in. (This is my absolute biggest issue, and I told her so after class the point is mannerd and there is NO situation in which that is appropriate) Poor Finn was so stressed by copper leaping at his face, he was giving almost constant back offs which she was narrating and monitoring but allowing. if he had been my dog it would not have gone so well. Near the end cooper got extra aggressive with pepper, ignored her back offs and escalated tone. I got really uncomfortable and stated it was getting too much right before they called it borderline, and I indicated this was where I moved into a position to intervene. She did not. I was about ready to check that rat myself (appropriatly) when my sweet girl basically body checked him to the floor and held him down till he shut up. Then he ran off crying. The lady 20 min consisted of a talk on body language, growling, and other doggie signals. It was all stuff I knew, but fair enough. Next we did the thing for the class which was colar grabs. That's where the cheese came in. They provide treats and everyone rotated around the room. That was not bad practice as I have NEVER let anyone teach over pepps head to grab her collar. I or the kids grab her harness from the side. that's the handle position.
My husband doesn't want to go back. I am trying to convince him to try it 1 more time due to the absences and whatever mom told them going in, since now they have first hand experience with the situation. I hate comming across like my dog is better (behaved) then the class but I've taken this seriously since the moment I got her, and had the time to thoroughly (over) research. She IS better behaved and I do know how to communicate better with her. Still she had fun. I was just a nervous wreck.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Oh I forgot to mention one other thing that seemed accually harmful. As I mentioned she is our first dog, so I was feeling my way through things and apparently we use different behavior markers then standard.. opps. I kept having to correct her use of things like good (girl) as that's a soft and hard completion marker respectively as it feels naturally up, with yes (netrual tone) being a maintain marker. Sits need a up tilt to the hand, ups are down tilts. She Likes the handsigns and i am more and more using them without the verbals on that lead (it's what I use in public so I can request a sit or a wait while talking with a person. ) she understands is more a request then a command then and typically obeys the spirt of the command rather then the letter.. if that makes since. She might lay rather then sit or mibe to the side and sniff grass rather then wait at attention for instance. She was responding to signals the handler didn't know she was throwing. She saw me using them later during the lecture (there were 2 trainers 1 floated 1 as by pepper the whole time) so that I wasnt interrupting, complete with soft rewards for execution. She didnt say anything about that though. That was the most stressful part. She apologized for making me uncomfortable, but that's not exactly the point. I just dont know...
 

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It doesn't sound great, I'll be honest. I'm spoiled by the trainer I have now, but even the more mediocre training we did when Sam was a puppy/young dog didn't involve that extent of free play. Short, monitored play sessions, yes. Our current trainer matched pups by size/temperament/play style as well, and is in there instructing us to intervene and check regularly to make sure shyer pups are comfortable with the play going on. But long play sessions tend to result in overtired puppies that act like jerks, and from your retelling I wouldn't be happy about the lack of management between the pups either. Even Ian Dunbar - one of the granddaddies of modern dog training and a proponent of entirely off-leash puppy classes - says obnoxious and bullying behavior needs to be dealt with as early as possible.

Some things you describe would be deal-breakers for me. Refusing to provide appropriate treats that your dog isn't intolerant to once they've been made aware of the issue is one (this is assuming you've told them the issue and things don't change going forward). And allowing Finn to spend 2/3s of the class anxious and being harassed with no effort to referee the interaction or stop it entirely when it was clear he and Cooper were not a good match. That would make me rather skeptical about how the socialization class you originally wanted to go to is run, honestly.

I'm not sure I'm clear on what the issue is with the signals. Was the trainer actually handling Pepper when she was responding to accidental hand signals? I wouldn't expect a trainer to handle my dog in a puppy class at all unless it was a demo, a specific handling exercise (ie getting comfortable with having their ears, feet, etc. handled by different people), or there was a safety concern as I mentioned before. If she wasn't, and was just nearby, Pepper will likely learn that those signals are only meaningful coming from you. It's fine if they're not what the trainer uses. There is no real 'standard' when it comes to verbal cues, hand signals, or praise, just what works for the dog in front of you.

I do puppy classes largely so my pups learn how to focus and settle around other puppies and people. Frodo also came into class with more skills in many areas than the other puppies, but for me it's all about that controlled classroom environment that I can't replicate at home or out and about. If that's what you want out of this class, and things improve, you might be fine just going through with it for the experience. But if you wanted a lot of progress with foundational skills or really well-run socialization... yeah, I'm not so sure about that.

Out of curiosity, what are your trainer's credentials?
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Im from a fairly small town. Right now most things are closed due to the pandemic, other then 1 on 1s. Hopefully in the next month things will open up but amt I seem to have the option of this (its through the shelter that I adopted out of) or me figuring it out myself more loosely in puppy parks (which I dont want to do) and using pet stores as training (this is what I've been doing). She had peppers lead and was attempting to provide verbal feedback for good play and disengages, which is fine, she was just using the wrong markers and pepps was confused. Example: pepps forces a disengage, copper leaves she gets a good girl which is signnal either that we are leaving or she will be allowed off leash now (phase 1 complete) do she sits in front of the handler for further direction. Then cooper blindsided her making her confused and upset. She was also gesturing casually in ways that resemble my signals , and since I've trained her to respond to my gestures especially on that lead she was confused. My husband says I over mark, and he might be right. she will look back at me (or the person holding the lead) for them if they are not given, though, which she was doing. Remember she had her lead for at least 1/2 hour while narrating the situation. I never allow that. Play is broken and I call her off or at least to a sit/calm state often. if her attention wanders play ends. so she tends to be very focused on the person with the lead. As most other dogs we play with are mimumly trained smaller dogs with.. lax .. handlers I thought it the safest course.
 

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A lot of trainers have been embracing remote learning, especially with this pandemic. Fenzi Dog Sport Academy is probably the biggest organization, with a large amount of qualified, science-based trainers who offer a wide variety of classes (not just sports related). Their next semester isn't until August, though. They do have webinars regularly, and self-study classes that will get you all the lecture materials, just not access to forums and other students.

But lots of independent trainers are offering classes over remote meeting apps like Zoom right now. It's not ideal for the socialization aspect, but you can definitely still learn a lot from these setups.

For your current situation, I don't think it's terrible if you keep going, since you describe Pepper as not being stressed (if you were Finn's owner, I'd think differently). I would expect to be handling my own dog next time without a REALLY good explanation, however, because you are there to learn/practice handling your dog, after all.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
So I've had some time to calm down and think. First off: I'm clearly an overprotective pet mom, and I'll need to address that at some point, there are reasons, many of the valid, but it's not good for either of us. I do feel better about being less hands on, with on leash meets now, So that's good. I think I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for another class. Next week is a holiday so itll be the week after. I stil dont like her taking pepps, but it Is easier to observe from the outside, and i didn't want her off leash anyway maybe dragging if things went well. For the most part her having the leash was a non issue as the wrong feedback cues/ accidental signals didnt matter, other then to stress me out. I get that now that I've calmed down. it was that tackle at the end. Pepper looked so betrayed (you know the look) when that dog barreled into her while she was focused on her handler expecting feedback like she was trained to do. Then them not intervening when I would have made it worse. I dont think she realized that pepper didnt see cooper comming, which caused a quick escalation. Still pepps managed to correctly check cooper so no harm done, other then to my nerves. lol
I still disagree with the way copper was handled, but mom seems to have at least realized that he was way over the top. She asked me to help her with some leash training so we went to the pet store with me handling the lead and met a little (more restrained) bulldog pup. I showed her the way I handle pepps, forcing pauses to keep him calm when he started getting over excited. he did well and managed a proper greeting on lead. She never would have asked before. I just feel bad for fiin. Given I was only watching when cooper was with him (and not pepper which was a large portion of the class) so I may not have the full story there.
Bright side, one of the ladies that works there adopted peppers sister (who is almost 10lbs lighter then my girl lol) and she had a pic of thier parents. Please enjoy some puppy pics for the feedback!! can you see the resemblance?
 

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I think it's smart to let Pepper lead the way with it. It's difficult with our first dogs to figure out where those boundaries, for sure! There's a lot of things I would like to have done differently with Samwise, our eldest, but when I take a step back and look at it objectively, he's a really darn good dog and the grand majority of my inexperienced fumbling as I learned about training and living with a dog had no major negative impact on him long term.

Very glad your mom's taking Cooper's manners more seriously too, that's definitely progress.

And it's super awesome to have family pictures! She's a real cutie.
 
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