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Zakkie’s Story Part 1 (a Dog Trainer’s First Dog)

Zakkie was my first dog. Enjoy Zakkie's Story where I share the story of our challenges and lessons.

Before I got Zak I was a cat person (yes really!).  I even trained my cats – I kid you not! Anyway, getting a dog was never really something I thought I’d ever do, I mean they’re a bit stinky and they slobber (I know, I know, I was a bit precious back then)… well… then our home was burgled…  To follow is Zakkie’s story, we hope you enjoy his story.  He definitely was a character!

The attending community constable, who came to take the finger prints, suggested we get a Rottweiller. I couldn’t see myself owning a Rotti, so the search began.  Anyway, all the family had opinions of what dog I should get.  So the lists started… I laugh at myself now for all the old wives tales I believed.  On the list was intelligence, a short coat and I didn’t want to start with a puppy!  It was one of my better decisions to get a rescue and not start with a puppy!

Anyway, I started reading books on dog training, (yeah, I know, I kinda have an OCD personality) and religiously watched the TV dog trainers – yeah I know… don’t worry I cover that!  I even got my Dog Owners License from the Auckland City Council before I even had my fencing up.  It took about two years, between the time I made the decision to get a dog and when we actually got Zak.

Zakkie’s Story

We were FINALLY ready to get a dog, and I saw Zakkie’s gorgeous face on Trademe.  A sleek handsome Dobermann with a keen, expression (they obviously held a tennis ball for him – an interesting side note, Zak could fit THREE tennis balls in his mouth… and he liked to play keep away.  Do the math… if you weren’t onto it, even playing two-ball ended up with the humans on the losing end of the game).  So we drove out to South Auckland to go and meet him!

The lady who had him was from Dobermann Rescue.  Zakkie’s story was that he came from the pound.  He had such a sweet nature they couldn’t put him to sleep.  .  Mum was not too impressed that I was getting a Dobermann.  They’re too big and vicious apparently… and he was a boy.

Anyway, so within a week the gate had to go up and we had to get a kennel sorted for Zakkie’s imminent arrival… well, NONE of the TV trainers and books prepared me for Zak…  But, at least he wasn’t a vicious beast… he could be bribed with fruit (banana and strawberries were his favourite!).  He was very excitable though!

Zak at Obedience Class

Of course, the first order of business was enrolling Zak into the local obedience club.  When we got there, Zakkie pulled me all over the place (imagine a 40kg Dobermann and a 50kg 20-something year old).  The first thing he did when he saw all the other dogs and people was cock his leg and pee all over my shoe.

One of the instructors came over and told me to use a choke chain.  Well, it’s one thing to tell someone to use a choke chain, and it’s all good if they can use it.  But that choke chain wasn’t much use… there’s no magic tool in dog training.  And I’ve since learned to use one, but when I had Zak, that tool was pretty much useless. It’s one of the reasons tools get such a bad reputation. No tool is a magic wand. You need to learn how to use it, and your dog needs to learn to work with the tool.

Anyway, at the end of the term, we weren’t much better off.  Obedience Club group classes are not a good place for a novice to start. But it took me a few more goes to learn that.  Another reason why I train the way I do now.  I don’t want any of my clients to be in the same boat I was.  Despite failing at obedience, I wanted to compete with Zakkie in Obedience competitions.  I mean, really… how hard could it be?

Zak the Obedience Competitor (sort of)

We went to lessons every Monday night.  I did all my homework and did what the instructor told me.  A few months later the first opportunity came to run Zakkie through his paces!  I’m not quite sure what Zakkie had learned in all those classes, but ‘heeling on my left’ wasn’t what he learned.  He did manage not to pull on lead, but he kept walking round and round me!

He did a PERFECT sit and down stay in a lineup even, but we got disqualified for his version of heeling.  His failure at heeling was my fault. I did not teach him what I wanted. But as I’d gone to the club for help, it was the instructor’s responsibility to teach me.

I felt a confused about why we couldn’t get it. Afterall, the Border Collies ‘got it’. I assumed obedience was just not our thing otherwise, we’d get it… right?!  Anyway, so that was the end of Zakkie’s obedience career, and I thought he’d enjoy Agility more.  Maybe we could get something right togehter…  So we enrolled at the local Agility Club’s intro course.

Despite all his Obedience lessons, he was still pulling my arm out of its socket every walk.  And heaven forbid he’d see a cat!  Yup, he even tracked them! Usually this happened at 6 am, while I was still half asleep and didn’t realise what was going on!  And needless to say, he was chasing our own cat as well!  He once chased her with so much gusto, he got his head stuck in the gate!

I was feeling like a very frustrated, discouraged and embarrassed dog owner at this point.  I was pulling my hair out.  Training a dog shouldn’t be this difficult!  I wasn’t enjoying my dog as much as I wanted to.  Anyway, join us for the hilarious next installment of Zakkie’s story.  It’s only now that I’m comfortable enough with the embarrassment that I can actually tell the story…

Read Part 2 Here!


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