And I'm already in trouble . . . why can't I just "go with the flow?"
I don't want to use a gentle leader with Elo and our instructor is not happy. She wants everybody to use a gentle leader, and she does not like people that disagree with her. About anything. Night one was a people-only lecture and it was liberally sprinkled with groans and eye rolls for people who believe in "leadership" concepts of training and people who use no-reward markers, etc. Well, I believe in being a leader to my dogs and I use no-reward markers in certain situations--topics for another day and I wasn't gonna get into it. But I don't want to use a GL for Elo, and I did get into that.
For one thing, Elo doesn't NEED a GL. Elo is a trained dog, unlike some of the other dogs in the class who really haven't had much if any obedience training. He's perfectly under control on a buckle collar. It's what we've always used. I have nothing against GLs. I've used one with Jun, but I am currently regretting my dependence on it with her, and with Elo I wanted a dog who knew how to behave on leash on a plain buckle collar. We are well on our way to achieving this. I see no need to introduce a tool (particularly an aversive tool) where one is not needed.
Second, Elo HATES the GL. I put one on him once and he flopped on the ground like a fish WHILE reacting to the nearby dog. Sure, I could desensitize him to it. But why would I want to if I don't need to use it? And you can't tell me that all dogs learn to tolerate the GL. Jun's been wearing hers for 2 years and it's always predicted fun things, yet she STILL doesn't like it and tries to rub it off any chance she gets. It's a distraction when we're training (and it interferes with HER behavior mod work) and I don't want that with Elo. Lok did not learn to tolerate it either, completely shut down and ignored me with it on, and pulled just as hard. Ok positive trainers . . . can we stop pretending that the GL is a positive alternative to the prong collar? At least on a prong, the dog only gets punished when pulling. On the GL a dog who doesn't like it is being punished constantly.
But the REAL reason I was extra resistant to try it with Elo is the stated justification for using the GL for a reactive dog . . . . Supposedly, if your dog is staring at his trigger, about to react, and you need him to stop doing that, all you have to do is gently use the GL to turn his nose away. I am calling BULLSHIT on that!!!!!!!!! Oh, that is SO complete BS! Jun is reactive and good luck turning her nose away from anything she is intent on staring at! Sure, I might be able to turn her head, but it won't be gentle--she is going to resist and keep trying to look at whatever is scaring her! And if I DO succeed in turning her head, she is just gonna swivel her body around so her head is pointed the way she wants it again!
If Elo is so under control while looking at his trigger that I will be able to turn his head gently, then I would also be able to just say his name and break his focus and get him to look at me. In fact, if I did try to use the leash to control him, it would probably be MORE likely to cause a reaction (tight leashes anyone??). If he is already over threshold, there is NO controlling him and I might as well just get him out of that situation however I can.
I am also extremely put off by the fact that my safety concerns were completely ignored. Elo is a cattle dog. He may be small, but he is STRONG. And when he hits the end of the leash, he hits it HARD, regardless of the amount of slack there is. To me, that creates an extreme risk of injury to his neck on a GL. He's not thinking at that point and is not going to self-preseve--the GL works to stop pulling because dogs are thinking about it and choose not to pull to avoid the pressure on their nose. A reactive dog is no longer a thinking dog and he has suddenly lost the ability to moderate the corrections he receives from the device. This is dangerous for him, period. But my safety concerns were brushed off (more groans and eye rolls).
A gentle leader is supposedly the best option for ALL dogs. I hate inflexible trainers. I hate trainers that assume their students don't think about things and make reasoned decisions in the best interest of their OWN dog. I hate trainers who assume their students know nothing about dog training and should listen to the instructor unquestioningly. In the end, she agreed that we could "see how it goes" without the GL. This is going to be fun.