Everyone was a beginner at some point, right? Well, in this next installment of the owner profiles we are discussing that person who just never gets with the program. Somehow, even after owning a dog for years the most basic information has completely eluded them.
Description: When interacting with the Baffled Amatuer (BA), it becomes apparent that despite owning dogs for years, this person still does not understand the basics of dog training, behavior, or even anatomy. These are individuals that no matter how much advice they get, classes they take, or reading they do, they never seems to quite “get the the hang of” dog ownership. Strangely these people often have some of the most extensive and best help available to them, yet they never quite grasp the subtleties that make basic survival possible. This causes us to wonder how the BA has managed to exist as long as they have.
Common Locations: The vet. They spend an ungodly amount of time at the vet or asking people if they should take their dog to the vet. They are also training class regulars, frequently taking and dropping out of classes when their total lack of comprehension is only topped by their dog’s utter confusion. You may also find them standing baffled in front of any number of aisles at the pet store staring vacantly as though they are communing with a world only they can see.
Breeds Owned: The BA tends to be an anomaly in breed picking. Like much of the country, the top ten breeds are exceedingly common. The BA however, will with astounding frequency, own not only uncommon, but downright rare breeds as well. How they found them, let alone were given permission to purchase without their guardian (because most BAs shouldn’t be allowed out without some kind of assistance) is beyond us, but apparently they have magical powers that render breeders powerless against their “I can haz puppy?” pleas.
Skill Level: Low. Very, very, low. Surprisingly, however, you will see the BA making an effort (just a poor one) at any number of dog related activities. Their sense of accomplishment however is disproportionate to the reality. A CGC becomes a Nobel Prize while a Rally Novice title is the ‘MacArthur Genius Grant’. Their perfectly average* dog is now a titan of canine perfection and the rest of us will never hear the end of it.
Catch Phrases: “I just can’t stop him from pulling on leash”, “How did you do that?!”, “Do you think this is serious?”
BusyBee: Living in an apartment complex in the middle of a large city, I spend a lot of time outside in the park near my place with Mr. T, and as such, have met quite a few neighbors and their dogs. Although I have seen a lot of idiocy (that is an entirely different blog entry), one neighbor in particular stands out as being a classic BA. Despite having owned dogs for over 30 years, this woman still lacks the most basic of dog skills. After kindly directing her to a local positive reinforcement trainer to work with her latest dog (which at 3 years old barely responded to his own name), I literally saw her in the park attempting to use her clicker as a remote control (pro tip: it doesn’t work that way). I am also fairly certain that this woman thinks I am a wizard because I have taught Mr. T basic obedience such as “sit”, “down”, and “stay”. Seriously, her head almost exploded when Mr. T. backed up on cue. While I get that everyone has different levels of dog sense and skill, I just don’t understand how someone can own dogs for 30+ years and still think that teaching a dog to sit is an advanced trick.
Potnoodle: My life is filled with these people. Between grooming and agility class, they cycle in and out of my life. Unfortunately, one person seems to cling. This person has several dogs of the same breed, all of them ridiculously fat and badly behaved. Whenever this person is given advice, it seems like she only picks up on a few key phrases. “Your dog needs to lose weight. You should probably have his thyroid checked, but also try more excercise and replacing some of his kibble with green beans.” becomes “replace his kibble with green beans.” She is then shocked that anyone would want to do such a cruel thing to poor schnookums. When she first brought her dogs to class, the instructor told her to walk around the field and get her dog aquainted with the area. Now, several class cycles later, she still walks the dog around the perimeter every time they come. Honesstly, it’s like working with a two year old.
Fang: Like Potnoodle, these people are inescapable. Somehow I managed to get herded into teaching obedience classes, and like the moron I am, I usually go along without complaint. Every single class always has at least one of these unique specimens that make me want to smash my head into the nearest moving vehicle so my own training time is a welcome break, or so I once thought. I am unlucky enough to train with one of these BAs regularly, and despite my avoidance, I frequently get to hear of the great things they have done. Their recent string of failures mind you are to him, all the dog’s fault. Hundreds of hours, four different trainers and numerous complete failures in training all attributed to his own errors are then carried to the ring and he refuses to believe he has done a single thing wrong. A recent smackdown by someone I respect hopefully reached into his brain because he has been AWOL since it happened. Thank goodness for small miracles. His dog will never be so lucky.
*We’re not bagging the titles or the accomplishments, as for some dogs these will always be a distant dream, but rather we are talking about the disproportionate acclaim for something fairly pedestrian on an average pet (i.e. one without reactivity, anxiety, etc).