APDT alarm bells – Here’s the first one I heard ……

During my APDTUK assessment, I was required to teach an unknown class of people/dogs, certain behaviours for (I think it was an hour?) whilst being observed by two assessors placed at either end of a training hall. The teaching requirement was held secret until I entered the hall and began the session. At the conclusion, I was asked to leave the hall and wait outside, where I was led to an undercover area, which joined one of the assessor’s houses.
As I waited, a group of 3 or so dogs (from memory they were Belgian Shepherds – Tervurens or Groenendales) emerged tentatively from the back door of the house, eyed me with great mistrust and wariness, and one of them continued a low grumble, whilst looking towards me from sideways on. “Ooops .. Ignore them” remarked the husband of the assessor as he brought me a cup of tea, “They’re no good with strangers” … He turned to the dogs “G’wan – Inside!” and shooed the dogs away.
I was advised some 10-15 minutes later, that the assessors were ready now, to give me both my aural assessment, along with their feedback on my work. I was taken through to a conservatory, where the two women awaited me. Now I have to say that each of the women were lovely to speak with and both nodded encouragingly as I explained my use of class layout, positive reinforcement, choice of rewards, reward delivery protocols, projection of instruction, explanations etcetera, in relation to the preceding class work.
Then it came to my scores!!
“Do you teach classes already Jamie?” I was asked.
“No, I don’t” I replied
“Why not?” the second assessor enquired
“Because I don’t necessarily believe that hall-based training is the most beneficial training I can provide” I answered, trying to choose my words so as not to offend!
“Well you should!” announced the first lady (not as in the president’s wife .. She wasn’t there .. I just mean ‘the first one of the two to speak in this recollection of dialogue’ … Anyway, I digress) … “You did an exceptional job in there! The woman who kept wanting to do things HER way is a NIGHTMARE to train, but you actually chose HER dog to demo with! It worked!”
I smiled, “Oh .. Thank you”
Then came my results …..
“Well, you scored all but perfect! Well done!! It isn’t very often we get scores like this. You only dropped half a point, giving you a score of 17.5 out of a possible 18!! Well done!!!”
The second, smiling assessor asked “Can you think why you dropped the half-point?”
I thought …. “Errm?? Timing perhaps?”
“Er? … I’m not sure, was I rude or anything? Did I miss a technical point? .. I really don’t know?”
“Ha ha! Nope!” Chuckled my judge “That was all great! … I’ll tell you ….. Do you remember going through the DOWN exercise?”
“Yes, I do” I answered, a little puzzled
“And do you remember the Poodle?”
“Yes, I do … She was the young one who was taking a while”
“That’s right” said my second judge “And why was that do you think?”
I knew the answer to this, so I replied with confidence “OH! ..That’s because the dog didn’t fully understand the mechanics of the exercise. The owner was choosing to lure for too long, making the dog over-reliant on the visual cue of the hand containing the food – It was as though her nose was attached to it with string .. It moved and she broke!” I smiled …
“Errrr? No …. No that isn’t what WE had down? …. Why else do you think a dog like that may struggle?”
Now I was confused! I KNEW why the dog wouldn’t DOWN; It was for the reasons given! I tried a generic answer .. “Well .. Either the dog doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour, perhaps it has a prior training history which conflicts with what was being taught there, or the motivation to perform it is insufficient for that particular dog in the circumstances?”
The ‘professional’ interpretation has stayed with me from first hearing it … This was it …
“No .. That’s not what we think Jamie. What we see is a young Poodle in a training hall in the colder months. Now his fur on his tummy is shorter than the rest of his body and the floor of the hall is pre-tty cold for that little one …..” (I sat – Stunned) … “So what might we have done differently?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! …. But I found the words dropping from my mouth, like broken teeth from the ‘stun-punch’ to the chops I had just sustained … “Put.a.coat.on.it??”
“YES!!! A coat … Or put a warm blanket on the floor!” ….
……. A warm blanket …… Because a dog which originated working in swamps and water, will endure a ‘cold tum-tum’ performing a DOWN inside a training hall ……
I think I knew from that moment on, that my future as a member was to be a brief affair ……..

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