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Dogs and You: Who’s in Charge? The Trainer or You?

CB106189Just this evening I was tweeted a blog post on the benefits of clicker training. It wasn’t the part about the benefits of clicker training that disturbed me. It was the personal story that prefaced it.

For the sake of anonymity, I am going to refrain from mentioning the blog (no links this time folks), but I will say that I am not making an overall judgement of the owner, rather pointing out the enormous responsibilty we have as dog owners to protect them at all times – from those who would do them harm whether they be a person on the street or a person who specializes in animal care or training.

The blog post started out with the dog owner talking about how her young pup had started to bark at other dogs and sometimes growl and pull towards them. Since she was planning to show him, she was concerned about this behavior and wanted to address it as soon as possible. So, she brought her dog to a “trainer” (Did you notice that I put that in quotes? There’s a reason for that – as you soon shall see).

When her dog saw the “trainer” and his dog, he barked and started pulling her towards the trainer’s dog. At this point the “trainer” (there’s those pesky quote marks again. Hmmm…) went to her dog and “as he quieted… he hung him severely” by his prong collar. As you can imagine, the dog started to bare his teeth at the trainer. “This was met with an even harder correction.” Then the “trainer” hung her dog a second time by his prong collar and “he finally submitted” at which point the “trainer” lowered her dog “to the ground” and the dog then “urinated and defecated all over himself.”

At the end of the session, the instructor handed the owner her leash “and said, ‘This is what you need to do the next time Ben (name changed) shows any aggressive cues to another dog.'”

It was at this point, I had to stop reading the post because I was so angry I could barely breathe. The writer goes on to describe how her dog became so reactive after that one “training session” that every time he (the dog) saw another dog, whether near or far, he reacted in a negative manner.

Without assigning blame, here is my point. We, as pet owners, are responsible for our pets. That means we can tell someone “NO” if we disagree with their methods of care. It also means that just because someone hangs out a shingle claiming to be a pet care expert or professional doesn’t make them so. Do your research. Ask questions. Talk to other owners. Read a few books. And, always, ALWAYS say NO if you feel that someone is mistreating your pet or is providing care that you do not believe is in the best interest of your pet.

Now here’s some things this owner probably did not know when she went to this “trainer” (but what “the trainer” should have known):

Just because a dog barks and pulls towards another dog does not mean that he or she is aggressive. It could mean that he or she really wants to meet the other dog and is excited. It also could mean that he or she really wants to meet that other dog and they are frustrated at not being able to do so, therefore the reaction is not aggression, but rather frustration. A real trainer would have assessed her dog’s reaction to other dogs to see if it was frustration, curiosity, or in fact, aggression.

Hanging a dog by it’s prong collar does not make them less aggressive – it’s just plain and simply put, cruel.

Treating aggression with aggression actually leads to more aggression. There actually is a study on this. See my post titled “Dominance and Dogs: It’s not what you think it is

The word “submission” or “submit” is used by a popular dog show host on TV and often repeated by dog owners around the world as something one “must do” with a dog if they act up. Most legitimate dog trainers would disagree. Ask them.
(I have been told by many people that I have always had well-behaved dogs. Guess what? Not one of them ever had to “submit” to me in order to be a well-behaved dog.)

Trusting a “trainer” before you ask him about his training methods can have long-lasting and detrimental affects. Doing your homework ahead of time is key.

Remember, you can say “NO” to someone claiming to be a dog care or training professional. It’s up to you to be your dog’s advocate. Trust your gut and your dog. That’s my advice.

  1. June 16, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    Good post! When I was sixteen I was taking my Border Terrier puppy to obedience classes with a local group that still does training in the area. They insisted on him wearing a prong collar and wanted me to hang him when he jumped up to bite at the leash. He was a puppy. He was acting like a puppy. I refused to do it even though they fairly seriously berated me about it.

    • Mel
      June 16, 2009 at 4:50 PM

      Barrie – Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am so glad you refused to comply with their instructions.
      I have never understood why abusing a dog in this manner should equate to better behavior on the dog’s part. A special WOOF! out to you for standing up for your dog!

  2. June 23, 2009 at 5:51 AM

    Hey Mel, this is an approach to dog “training” (sorry) more common than one might think. But I tell you what, email me this putzes link. If I think he’s popular enough, I’ll talk about him.

  1. November 18, 2010 at 9:34 AM

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