My intention was to just observe, learn, and not to assist or co-teach and certainly not challenge the instructors or try to teach the class myself.
I thought this should be no problem. I only have trouble keeping my mouth shut and observing when I deeply disagree with the training methods being taught, and this was a CGC prep class! I thought positive methods were guaranteed given the requirement that they be used on dogs taking the test.
I guess the people running this class didn't bother to read up on the CGC test. Dogs were wearing choke collars and prong collars. Students were yanking their dogs' necks up and pushing their butts down to make them sit. One of the assistants had a gorgeous German shepherd who was being used as the demo dog. This dog had a prong collar tight around its occiput, and I saw this assistant yank down hard on the prong collar to make the dog go into a Down-Stay. She then left him in the down-stay for a long time, and when he got up to sniff, she yanked him back to his place with a loud No!
The dog kept shaking its head at her. She was obviously clueless that the dog was telling her to chill out.
I sat quietly through all of this and calmly held the dogs' leashes as they practiced their Supervised Separation task, though I'm sure I wore a horrified expression on my face. After all the dogs had practiced most of the tasks, the instructor asked me if I had noticed anything or had any feedback for the students. I said that they should know that they are not allowed to use prong collars or use physical corrections during the test itself. As a student of body language--human and canine--I noticed that the instructor looked away from me, ready to move on, as soon as I uttered these words.
At the end, a student asked the instructor about her dog's pulling and the instructor tried to sell her a prong collar. The instructor actually said that she doesn't like the Easy-Walk harness because "Dogs don't learn not to pull" with it, whereas with the prong collar they do. Fortunately, I was able to dissuade the human from purchasing the collar and to talk to her about better ways to train loose leash walking. There are very good reasons for not using prong collars, some of which are outlined by Dr. Karen Overall in this paper.
The American Veterinary Society on Animal Behavior's guidelines on punishment--which includes choke, prong, and shock collars--also discourage the use of these methods and types of equipment. Using an aversive method like a prong collar with sharp corrections just desensitizes a dog to pain, and does nothing to help him learn to work with his person.
It pains me to think of that poor GSD shaking his head to no effect because his human is too obtuse to stop and see what she's doing to him--or to even read the guidelines for the thing she's representing to the public, which state clearly that prong collars and harsh physical corrections have no place in a Canine Good Citizen program.
The Washington DC area has many wonderful dog trainers and I have been fortunate to apprentice and be surrounded by some of the most progressive and thoughtful. It is good to know one place to absolutely NOT refer humans or dogs for any training that is informed by the developments of the past two decades.