Thank you, Tip-sheet Trainer.

You killed another one.

The lady called me about a month ago. Her cattle dog puppy was nipping a lot. The family’s first dog, they didn’t know quite what to do. He was nipping their children, their feet and their cat. They weren’t quite sure how to handle this, so they called their vet who gave them my number.

I returned her phone call within 2 hours and discussed the situation with her. I explained that nipping is normal puppy behavior. SUPER normal for cattle dog puppies. I explained that puppies have to learn arousal control, and impulse control and how to use their mouths in a socially appropriate manner. We discussed that this could be covered in a puppy class, or in a private session at home. She said she wanted to talk to her husband, and she would call me back.

Sure.

But of course, now I’m worried about this little butt-headed cattle dog puppy, running around putting his mouth on things and persons and getting himself in trouble. And naïve owners whose instincts are going to prompt all the wrong responses to this. So a week or so later, I call her back. She said she discussed the situation with her husband, and with the holidays and all they just weren’t going to be able to afford to do training just yet. I’m just feeling weird about this, so I offer her the opportunity to come to the puppy class for two sessions, free-of-charge. I give out scholarships all the time, so why not? She said they would have to see and call me back.

So another week goes by and no word from the lady, so I call her again. She says she appreciates the offer of free help, but with the holidays and the kids and all, her time is at a premium, coming to class is not going to be an option. BUT, she did find this great tip sheet on the internet, just last night. It says when puppy nips, then let out a high-pitched yelp and pull away or walk away and that will teach the puppy not to nip. Hmm, I said. That might work for some puppies, but not for all. Letting out a high-pitched yelp for an already excited cattle dog puppy could just make things worse. And pulling away or walking away could just make puppy frustrated, and that will make things worse, too. Tip sheets, I said, are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions to anything.

The lady is more than a little aggravated with me. This is all she’ll be able to do right now, so she’ll work with it and call for help if she needs something else. And hangs up. I feel my jaw clenching. Or do I hear my molars scraping against each other?

So a week later, the phone rings, and it’s the cattle dog lady. She’s very agitated. There’s something seriously wrong with her puppy. She did exactly what the tip sheet said, and the puppy’s biting has gotten worse, much worse. She says he’s positively manic now and she can barely handle him when he “gets like that”; she has to put him out in the yard to keep him away from her kids. She called the vet again, and the vet said that sometimes puppies are “born bad” and can have “bad wiring” and there may not be any way to address it. Certainly don’t want a full-grown dog like that. I offered to have her bring the dog to class so I could check him out in person, and we could see what could be done. But she’s got an appointment with the vet during the afternoon when the puppy class is in session. She’ll call me back.

I’m feeling very sick now.

After two days I call her back, but my call goes to voice mail. After three times, it occurs to me she might not want to talk to me, so I call her from my home phone; the number’s blocked so she can’t see who’s calling. She answers on the second ring. I asked her how the vet visit went, and there is a bit of silence. We had to put him down, she said. He’s bitten all the kids, and her, and even the vet. Clearly this was a very “broken” dog, certainly nothing a regular family could hope to cope with. Hello? Hello? Are you still there? I realize I’m stunned into silence and am not responding. I mumbled something about something and excused myself, hanging up. I still bump up against a numb place in my brain when I think about it.

I know why you’re doing it. Maybe you think you’re doling out helpful hints. You probably want your tip sheet with the cute puppy graphics floating around the internet making your web site hits go up and up. Get your name out there. Make your impressions soar. But who’s paying the price for your incomplete information that the uneducated will take to heart because some “trainer on the internet” with cute graphics and a copyright statement said so? At least one little butt-headed cattle dog puppy. And make no mistake, there are others.

So thank you, Tip-sheet Trainer. Another pup with “bad wiring” has been removed from the gene pool. I pray the lady doesn’t get another cattle dog puppy, hoping to get a “good one” this time. And I pray you won’t be putting out any more of those toxic tip-sheets.

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