The Dark Age of Dog Training

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I have been struggling with a website a friend shared with me.* On the site a ‘trainer’, who seems to boast no qualification other than maybe owning the boxed set of TV’s The Dog Whisperer DVDs, proudly describes and documents with chilling videos, how a ‘dominant’ dog was put in his place.

The dog, a breed which is known for its wariness and tendency toward being hypervigilant had shown an unwillingness to perform behaviors on cue ‘unless he feels like it’. He has resorted to biting on multiple occasions, including members of his family. The dog’s unwillingness to go for walks is ascribed to the dog’s desire to be with his ‘subordinates’, i.e., the people he lives with.

The dog, supposedly a power hungry maniac, ‘whines anxiously’, and pees when spoken to in an angry tone of voice. Both tactics employed by the stealthiest of confident dogs apparently. The author deserves an award in fiction, because the entire piece is that, fiction. The cause and motivation of the dog’s behavior have been ‘made up’ in order to fit the author’s view on dog ‘psychology’, that being the desire of dogs to wield power in relationships.

The videos included are painful to watch. The dog appears to have on two collars, one of Cesar Millan’s illusion collars and a choke collar, and in order to balance the playing field, a slip-on muzzle which the dog was forced to wear through 4 hours of coercion and abuse (keep in mind that a slip on muzzle, unlike a basket muzzle does not allow a dog to pant and breathe normally). Watching a dog fall to the ground to avoid being made to move is wrenching. Yet the trainer sees it as one more tactic of a manipulative, dominant dog resisting the will of the true ‘pack leader’. As the dog lies on his side in a last ditch effort to avoid going anywhere, the handler (for I have ceased to be able to call her a trainer) pulls the dog’s tail out from between his legs to ‘change his energy’. Skip the certification for dog trainers, let’s require IQ tests as a start.

Finally, after 4 hours of being pulled, dragged and forced to comply, and no video tape left to film in the dark, the dog walks along with the handler, proving the skill and ability of the handler to wear down an animal so completely that they no longer have the strength or will to try to protect themselves, which is what fear based behavior is all about. And it’s labeled a success. There were no follow up videos of the dog happily walking with his owners through fields of daisies.

When someone is caught on videotape abusing a dog there typically follows a round of petitions calling for the perpetrator’s arrest. Yet cyberspace is replete with images and videos of dogs being abused and few bat an eye. They don’t bat an eye because the abuse is labeled ‘training’. There was a time when people argued that animals did not feel pain, and this justified and excused the most horrific of treatment. Few would debate that issue today, accepting that dogs have nerves, and those nerves register painful stimuli. It is accepted that dogs have limbic systems much like our own and experience emotions, and one of the most obvious emotions we can observe in dogs is fear. That anyone with a heart, nevermind a brain, could subject a fearful dog to hour after hour of torment is beyond me.

I am reminded of 5th century cleric Augustine’s words, “Since God has spoken to us it is no longer necessary for us to think.”

Apparently we are not out of the dark ages just yet.

*I have not included the link because the video does not deserve getting hits.
[dcs_head top=”0″ color=”#666666″] [/dcs_head] You can join author Debbie Jacobs for a full day seminar on the care & training of fearful dogs on January 21, 2012 in Bow NH.

11 thoughts on “The Dark Age of Dog Training”

  1. Thank you for writing this article and thank you for saying what so many of us dog lovers have said all along about these disgusting “training” methods.

    • Is there nothing we can do to stop them? A lot of people will believe “experts” simply because we are trained to follow authority figures without question. These horrible training techniques will continue to spread. I feel as though there should be some way to report them for animal abuse.

  2. I recently became certified in pet dog training and I use the positive reinforcement training and have had many shelter dogs in classes, some so very so very scared that in the first class and up to the third class, they are so skittish that they dont want to come out from under the chair that the pet parent sits in. I’ve used the old methods previously and I see now how wrong they are. I have such a great result with the positve training method that I’m happier than the pet parent when it happens, Its such a great feeling to see a dog so scared, learn to trust people again. Its hard to explain, but Im more confident that the dogs I train now, will stay in a home because the owner and dog have worked together and the accomplishment they have achieved have brought them together.

  3. Yes, be wary of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers APDT They and other Dog Training Associations will allow anyone to call themselves a Dog Trainer, as long as they pay the annual membership fee to have their listing on the site. I had a problem with a Dog Trainer that was forcing dogs to stay in crates for 12 hours + day and 12 hours all night, to force a dog to comply, as living in a crate, a dog gives up. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Association APDT said that the Dog Trainer pays the annual dues then they will not remove his name from the list. Said they are not responsible for Dog Trainers as long as they pay the membership dues. It was all about the money not the dog training at APDT.

    A dog’s area needs to be restricted until they learn the rules of the home, then free range works great and is way more humane than crating. We used 2 exercise pens on the tile area when we could not supervise, till our puppy was house trained and learned to only chew her own chewies. At about 1 year old, we left her for longer and longer periods loose in the house, and within a month she has free range day and night. No problem ever. Never chewed the furniture. She is exercised several times a day, and 2 hours after work of walking or off leash playing. She attended puppy class, basic, intermediate, agility, click a trick, etc. We kept her brain busy too. We include her in the daily schedule so she gets exercise and play time. And take fun training classes when we can.

    Feel so bad for dogs whose people refuse to exercise them and force dogs to live as prisoners in a tiny crate. Is this what they do to their kids when they don’t take time to humanely train their kids.

    Best way to learn about crate training, like both Cesar and Victoria, etc dog trainers showed on TV too. Is have your family lock the person in a tiny metal crate for the same amount of hours as your dog. Then let you out for a minute to pee, if they remember, otherwise the human must pee in the crate or poo in the crate. And this way humans learn how humane it is to live locked up as a prisoner in a crate for hours all day and all night.

    Pack dogs never locked themselves in crates for unlimited hours ever. It is not natural.

    Dogs are pack animals and live with their family.

    Yes, puppies and new dogs to a family need a restricted area until they have time to learn the rules of the home to live with humans. But once learned, no more need for a tiny crate, if ever. Better to use a large exercise pen, 8 panel fold up pen sold pet supplies online or pet stores, in the house, stands on hard floor area to restrict the area till they learn the boundaries when you can’t supervise them. But once they learn the rules of the home, give them more and more unsupervised time out of the restricted area till they are free to live in the home with their family.


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