Trainer Caught Beating Client’s Puppy

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A pressing reader question: What would you do if you caught a trainer hitting your dog?

A reader asks: What would you do if you caught a trainer striking your pet?

Hello Life With Dogs,

I have an infuriating issue on my hands and am not sure how to best address it. I’m seeking feedback from those who have been through anything like this. Hopefully, few people have.

My husband and I brought home a lab puppy seven months ago. We both have demanding jobs and while we have plenty of time to spend with Ryder, we can’t come up with enough time to learn how to properly train him. After seeking suggestions a friend recommended a local “puppy boot camp”, a program where you leave the dog for two weeks and bring it home once the training program is completed.

I had reservations about leaving our boy for two weeks, but the testimonials offered by this business (I am considering legal action, and my attorney has advised me not to publicly disparage the business) seemed positive and legit, so we dropped him off and expected to bring home a new, improved, well trained puppy. Our expectations were dashed when we saw Ryder again for the first time.

He was clearly despondent. Normally excited by our presence, this typically cheery dog seemed depressed. We were troubled but thought he just needed to get home. We were wrong. After he got home, Ryder would sulk, preferring to spend time alone in quiet parts of the house. He also started peeing inside again, something we had not encountered since he was four months old.

Concerned by the changes, we called the trainers to ask how things went during his stay. We were assured that he did well, learned the standard commands promised by the program, and that he had “graduated” in top form. They also recommended that we bring him back for a two day, $500 refresher course designed specifically for dogs who slipped up after returning home.

After discussing it, my husband and I agreed that a couple more days might make the difference, so Saturday we dropped him off again. We were told to return for him on Monday.

On Sunday we were discussing Ryder’s recent behavior with friends who we consider dog-savvy, and they were alarmed by the changes we’d noted in our dog since he came home. They didn’t suggest that the training program was flawed, but they did point out that some methods are incompatible with certain dogs. After hearing this, it occurred to us that we might be causing our dog undue harm.

So late that morning I drove out to the trainer’s property. I was rushing to get Ryder back and didn’t think to call ahead. It’s a fairly large, open space, and as I rounded a curve in the driveway I stopped my car when I saw my dog cowering as a man swung a leash over his head and hit him with it full force.

I have no idea how long this was happening before I arrived, but once I saw Ryder recoil when he was hit a second time I stepped on the gas and blew my horn. The man stopped and turned toward me as I sped closer to the kennel. When I got out of my car he met me and seemed unconcerned, despite my obvious rage. I demanded to know why he hit my dog. He denied doing it.

He said he was using leash “snaps” to get Ryder’s attention, and that he was just hitting the ground near the dog – not actually striking him. But Ryder was cowering in the corner of the kennel like he was trying to make himself as small as possible. I know my dog and I know what I saw. When I pressed for answers the trainer was elusive, and said unconventional dogs sometimes require unconventional techniques.

I told him I knew better and put my frightened dog in the car. I drove home in tears, riddled with guilt for putting my pet in such a stressful situation. The changes we saw in him started to make sense. He had been completely traumatized.

Now we have two issues to sort out. I need to know how we help Ryder to rebuild his confidence, and I need advice on how to handle the trainer. I wanted to take them to court for misrepresenting their services, but without photographic proof and no visible injuries on my dog, my attorney says it’s my word against theirs and is probably a long shot. I understand that, but how do I address this?

I never want another person to experience this with their dog, but my lawyer says I could be sued if I tell everyone not to do business with these people. I feel like my hands are tied and I don’t know what to do next. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Shannon Keating

0 thoughts on “Trainer Caught Beating Client’s Puppy”

  1. Never mind what happened at the training program… that sounds terrible and if true, they should be dealt with harshly. But if your “demanding jobs” and time constraints don’t allow you the time to even do the simplest of training with your dog, than you shouldn’t have a dog. Period.

    • Why blame the *victim” here? In case you hadn’t heard, a great many people actually work for a living, and don’t have as much time as they would like to spend with their dogs. Most responsible dog owners always find a way to manage their lives and their dogs without resorting to either abuse or neglect. In this case, the villain is not the dog owner, but the trainer, who is clearly nothing more than a law breaking animal abuser given to those archaic, ignorant methods born of Dominance Hierarchy theory. Certainly, the owner here did responsible thing and wasted no time getting training. Unfortunately, the problem is clearly that, like many others, she did not do her homework, and was duped into believing, like so many others, that all training methods are safe and effective, when nothing could be further from the truth. Clearly she was not well informed about training regimes; had she been, she would likely have engaged a certified and experience positive reinforcement trainer. The only reason incidents of this sort continue to flourish is precisely due to the lack of state regulation; thanks to the absence of regulations and any licensing laws whatsoever, any moron can call himself a dog trainer, and even get his own television program. That is all about to change, believe me. Count on it!

      • This is such a sad story…it just makes me sick. NEVER EVER EVER send your dog to boot camp. They only learn to follow the trainer and not you. People are the ones who need to be “trained” to work with their own dogs. I’ve seen too many of this very same story. I know people work and love dogs and they can often combine the two successfully, but YOU are the one who has to train your dog. While it’s sad to see dogs crated all day while people are at work, perhaps choose a breed that doesn’t require a lot of exercise and take your vacation at the time you adopt your new pet so you will have the time to bond and get started with training. Better yet, adopt an older dog.

    • Wow – that was completely uncalled for – no wonder you remain ‘anonymous’. They thought they were doing the right thing – no one expects their dog to be beaten when it goes for training…you’re an ass!

      • you did read his entire comment, yes?? He is staunchly against this but he or she also stated that these people shouldn’t have a PUPPY in the 1st place as they even admit to having no time. That is why I have a rescued DOG. The place was allegedly cruel, I agree.

    • Really? they pay apparently a bucketload of money to get the dog trained, he gets abused and you attack them? Asshat.

      She said quite clearly they have plenty of time for the dog but not to learn how to properly train..meaning they didn’t want to do what this “trainer” ended up doing.

      You’re an idiot. Find a rock. Climb under it.

    • I think I would contact the nearest PETA office, and inform then of what you saw. It is unfair of the dogs that agency is so called “training” to have to be handed from one owner to another, because they think their dogs are incoragable and can’t be trained!! That is alarming to me!!
      It isn’t the dogs….it’s the trainer and the methods they use! That is CRUELTY no matter what label they try to put on it.

    • @ anonymous. If everyone who had demanding jobs stopped adopting pets, what do you think would happen to all those homeless pets? Think about how stupid you sound before you come up with such an idiotic comment. The working person who wrote about this ordeal stated that they had enough time to spend with their dog but not enough time to train it. I guess you haven’t noticed but most responsible pet owners have jobs also. It helps to pay for things like shelter, heat, food, etc. and even medical for their families including their pets.

  2. I think Anonymous is a little harsh. I understand not having all the time you would like to spend with pets but the thing about dogs, they appreciate every moment you do spend with them.

    A lawyer is the best place to go regarding what you can do to the idiots that would beat a puppy (since beating the trainer with a leash, although it might teach him a lesson, would constitute assault). Maybe small claims?

    I have found over the years that having more than one dog helps their behavior more than anything I could do with a single dog. They socialize and entertain each other when “the peeps” aren’t there. If you can’t have another dog then maybe a doggy day care (after considerable research so you don’t have a repeat abuse. Socialization with both people and other dogs reduces much stress and anxiety. This is my opinion, I have no professional creds with dogs other than living with them my entire half century. Good luck.

  3. Wow, that is a sad such a sad story! I am a fellow dog owner, as a matter of fact I have a yellow lab. Labs are some of the easiest dogs to train; their high energy coupled with their quick wits allow them to learn basic commands and tricks rather quickly. With that being said, I think first you need to settle the matter legally: figure out you’re rights, see if a lawsuit is necessary, and at the very least see that justice is paid for Ryder. Secondly, and this is where it starts getting harsh, if you can’t find the time to train your dog then maybe you shouldn’t have it. I know this sounds rude or uncaring but the fact of the matter is that Ryder needs to be trained by his master. Dogs are pack animals and they learn to listen to their Alpha Male, sending Ryder to another trainer only leaves him confused as to who the master is. The best trained dogs are the home trained dogs. My Lab doesn’t need a leash when we walk because when we walk he knows that my wife and I are the Alphas in the pack, he knows that when we go out or leave for church that he needs to go into his dog house/kennel and wait for us to return…this kind of training only happens when you have the time. We made time…I hope you can too!!

    • Honestly, don’t you see (new dog owner) that if you have plenty of time to spend with Ryder you DO have plenty of time to train. Short frequent training sessions work best for a pup anyway.

      I think you need to reconsider why you got the dog in the first place.

    • I accidentally clicked on the “thumbs up” but I couldn’t disagree more with this “Alpha” mentality! Such outdated, myth-busted dominance hierarchy BS–so frustrating to see so many ignorant & ill-informed people believing in that junk. People, if you’re going to preach, be sure you’ve read up on the science of animal behavior/learning theory of the 21st century before you do it! Especially talking to the “dog trainers with 30+ years of experience,” who apparently haven’t updated their libraries in a while.

      PS, You CANNOT REINFORCE FEAR by comforting your dog when s/he’s scared! How many parents refuse to comfort their child after going through a traumatic event, for fear that they might reinforce more fear/trauma into them? This is not true for dogs, just as it isn’t for people. Google “Dr. Patricia McConnell” if you don’t believe me.

  4. Ask around at vet’s offices and contact local rescue groups. They may know others who have experienced the same thing. See if he is ‘accredited’ with any organization and contact them.
    Get another trainer to evaluate your dog. Did you get the dog from a breeder (not my first choice but…) and get them to testify how the dog was as to how it is now.
    You can at least sue to get your money back and later leave poor ratings at various websites. Do not sign anything saying you will be quiet!
    This poor dog. He was just trying to please. Though I think the person was a tad harsh to say you should not have a dog at all…perhaps more research (testimonials can be fake) would have saved your dog such torture and better planning on your part would have prevented this. So yes, ultimately it is your responsibility. Did you ever ask to observe him training the dogs? Talk to a reference?
    I would suggest a good doggy day care so this poor dog has some fun and not be locked up alone all day. And get personal references this time! Go and observe. Do your research as you would if you were placing a child.
    Even if he didn’t actually hit the dog, that method of training is barbaric. If you had researched you would have found positive methods and trainers. I hope you are now more educated and will become an advocate of change rather than going back to ignorance. You can save another dog the same agony….do it!

  5. Since you are being advised by the attorney that an abuse charge cant be filed due to lack of evidence, go with what Bouncer’s Buddy said and approach it from a financial point. Your dog was not trained as promised and was actually traumatized (you do have proof of that). If you win based on this point, then you CAN make it known that this trainer is not the place to get your moneys worth. Sadly, most states recognized dogs as property so approaching it from a purely financial point of view may be the only way to proceed.

    • Most (if not all) states consider animals “chattel property” and as such, you can show that the dog was “damaged” and as Jane said, you did not get the training promised. Civil/Small claims has a different burden of proof than Criminal so you it would be easier to prove your case.

      In short, though it would feel good, violence would be a bad idea. If you want to get an idiot’s attention, smack him in the wallet with full force.

  6. there is a facility like this near me. they use shock collars and the dogs are very depressed-I would seek legal action. you need to find a trainer that uses positive reinforment-treats! and probably a behaviorist because he is definatly damaged. If legal action is not an option focus on getting your dog better. I have told people about many places around me that I would never go again or have not gone because of reviews. have you looked the facility up to see if there are any bad reviews you could try that if someone else has an experience you might be able to do something but first and foremost help Ryder. I have 5 dogs and we work fulltime. we do things at nite and on the weekends. there are plenty of good trainers and facilities out there but if anything is called a BOOT CAMP run in the other direction. you want a Positive trainer. this site lists trainers and methods. good luck and just be kind to him he will come around.

  7. Write reviews about the trainer using his name and business name. If he has accounts on Yelp, Yahoo, Manta… etc, make sute you write reviews. You can also start a blog….the more you put his business name out there, the more people will be aware of this person.
    As for your puppy, you can try another trainer, but make sure he/she allows you to be part of the training (a good trainer will never say no). Bring your dog to parks and expose him to new people and other dogs.


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