Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Training, Pet Safety > Disturbing dog training video has me asking what you “see” and “hear”

Disturbing dog training video has me asking what you “see” and “hear”


PugHave you ever had that experience where what you see and what you hear don’t match up? Like when a sound reel for a movie runs a little bit faster or slower than the person speaking the words on-screen?

Well, recently I came across a video (Note: this video has since been taken down.) that demonstrates a disconnect between what you see and what you hear. The video was posted by someone knowledgeable about animals, but not necessarily knowledgable about dog behavior. It has been making the rounds among dog trainers and dog training circles because it is so deeply concerning and because what is being “said” is not what is being “seen” in the video. Many trainers have encouraged the person who posted it to take it down, but instead she just disabled the comments (and disallowed embedding the video into a blog post).

Those of you who read my blog know that I am a firm believer in the importance of understanding dog body language. This video should be an example to all of us that just because someone presents themselves as an expert does not always make them so. We should always trust our dogs are telling us.

I’ll let you watch the video yourself, but I thought I would take the opportunity to share my observations with you – both what I “saw” and what I “heard”. As always, I welcome your observations. What do you see and hear? Does what the “expert” says match what you are seeing?  

First, a few details about the video:

Purpose: To show clients how to keep a dog contained and safe in a fearful situation (in the video fireworks is referenced as one of the situations in which a dog might be difficult to contain).

The “expert”: A holistic veterinarian from Minnesota (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, no animal behavior or dog training certification mentioned on her website)

The dog: A heartworm positive pit bull-type dog who (according to the vet) was found in the areas damaged by the Oklahoma tornadoes. (Dogs who are heartworm positive and being treated for heart worm are supposed to be kept quiet and put under the least amount of stress possible to avoid affecting their already weakened heart.)

Sounds used in the video to trigger the dog into a fearful reaction:

  • Banging on sheet metal
  • Shotgun blasts

Here is the video: Keeping a Dog Contained and Safe in a Fearful Situation

My observations:

What I heard from the “expert”:

  • We only say “It’s okay” when something is wrong.
  • If she were to start to have concern with it, all I would have to do is put her in a sit-stay.
  • I am just reinforcing with her that I don’t really care that there’s a loud noise.
  • This isn’t mean
  • I’m not reacting to it. I’m not showing her that I am reacting to it.
  • Insecurity = disrespect
  • Comforting a dog reinforces the behavior
  • The reason she was reacting there is because I was asking her to sit beside me. I’m not going to let you hide behind me.
  • I think the shotgun freaked her out, so that’s good for us to know.
  • If you don’t react to the noise it will keep the dog calm.
  • It’s kind of funny because now she is looking where the shotgun went off right now. She’s incredibly concerned about the man behind the bush with the shotgun and the more she looks at Winston (giggles), the more worried she is.
  • This is how I am going to train them through it. It doesn’t matter if it is a tornado. It doesn’t matter if it is a man behind a scary bush.
  • However, if I had a dog that was disrespectful of humans, I am going to put her back in her sit-stay.
  • It’s about not babying them.
  • If we act like it’s no big deal, yeah a shotgun went off. Whoop-de-do. She will pick up on that vibe and start emulating that.
  • We have no control over getting away from the fireworks.
  • (Another shotgun blast.) Kind of scares me too, but I’m not feeding that for her.
  • If I give her a treat right now I would only be rewarding her for being afraid and that’s what a lot of people do really wrong with treat training
  • The only thing I can keep telling her is ‘calm is the answer’
  • Sitting and staying meant calm energy next to me
  • Every time I am afraid I should sit-stay and my human will take care of me.
  • I don’t love seeing her frightened of the shotgun, but I also know how important it is for her to overcome that.
  • She is actually calming down more about the noise (as the dog pulls on the leash again and tries to get away from the noise)
  • She’s also a dog that is heartworm positive so for her, she has to stay calm (which is why I decided to expose her to shot-gun blasts?)
  • That was another shot-gun and she’s doing much better with it (as the dog pants heavily and tries to jerk away again)

What I saw the “expert” do:

  • petting the dog after she demonstrated signs of fear (several times)
  • pulling the dog forward on the leash despite the dog pulling away from the scary sounds
  • kneeing dog to the side to keep her in a sit-stay
  • choking the dog with leash by pulling straight up or pulling her to her side (numerous times)
  • lifting dog’s paw and pushing her into a “down”
  • dragging the dog forward (and towards) the shot-gun sounds using the leash
  • jerking the leash and jerking on the dog’s neck very forcefully (several times)
  • holding the leash tight around the dog’s neck to prevent her from pulling away from the sound

Behaviors exhibited by the dog:

  • pricked ears
  • backing up
  • pulling back on leash
  • turning head and body away from the direction of the noise
  • lowered head
  • hunched body
  • laying on ground and pulling front feet under her or close to her body
  • jumping up on “the expert”
  • hiding behind “the expert”
  • pulling away
  • writhing away from the sound and the leash
  • ears back
  • lip licking
  • blinking
  • low tail close to body, slight wag when touched
  • yawning
  • panting
  • jerking away from sound
  • hiding
  • jumping up on the “expert”
  • pricked ears
  • tucked tail (under butt)
  • leaning away from the sound
  • looking away (multiple times)
  • Facing away from the sound and the “expert”
  • Jerking away from the “expert” with her whole body, writhing and twisting to get away
  • rolling down on the ground

Analysis:

What I saw and what I heard were at complete polar opposites of one another. Despite saying over and over again that remaining calm would keep the dog calm, the “expert” was unable to demonstrate this at any time throughout the video. Instead, the dog exhibited increasing and escalating signs of stress.

I heard the “expert” tell viewers to keep “control” of the dog by making them do a sit-stay, but what I saw was the use of force, via the leash and through the use of her hands, into a sit-stay. Essentially, she forced the dog to endure continued shotgun blasts for the purpose of showing clients how to control a dog during fireworks.

I heard the “expert” stress several times that petting the dog or reassuring her would reinforce the fear and that was a bad thing, yet she did this herself several times throughout the video.

I heard her say towards the end of the video that the dog was heartworm positive and should be kept calm, but the “expert” repeatedly exposed her to loud, scary noises and forcibly made her endure them despite her fighting like crazy to get away. Not exactly a calm situation (for any dog).

What I heard at the beginning of the video was the dog didn’t appear to be fearful of noises, but by the end of the video she demonstrated fear of all of the noises being made, and possibly the man making them from behind the bush. She most certainly will be fearful of loud noises after this 20 minute ordeal.

What I heard was that one needed to be prepared for a dog that was afraid when bringing them to a fireworks show. What I did not hear was the most obvious and logical solution to a dog who is afraid of fireworks – leave the dog at home.

****************************************************************************************************************

To say this video was disturbing is an understatement. I keep hoping Melissa will take it down, but from what I have heard, she staunchly defends it. All I can say is I am terribly sorry for the dog and for what she was forced to endure. Please, if you decide to take your dog to an “expert” ask about their background and training in dog behavior. No dog should be forced to sit through something like this.

For more information on dog body language, refer to Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff

For more information on working with fearful dogs, go to FearfulDogs.com.

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  1. July 15, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    Mel, I agree with you – this doesn’t seem like a very consistent presentation – do as I say not as I do?? I’m a ‘lay person’ and can see from that dog’s behavior how ineffective her treatment is. Too bad. I hope she takes it down too and I hope that dog finds a better home.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      Thanks for your comments SlimDoggy. I agree, it isn’t very consistent. I hope she takes it down too.

  2. July 15, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    Seriously? She has her DVM? It needs to be revoked. I have a dog that just recently developed a fear of loud noises, (seriously no clue what caused it, she used to be afraid of nothing) any sound that is similar to a shotgun blast, or makes the house shake (we can feel the quarry blasting on the odd occasion) she freaks. She is more than willing to stay wherever I am regardless of the noise if she would otherwise be by herself if I were to let her hide under me or climb in my lap. Usually she’s in our bedroom burrowing under the blankets or trying to dig underneath me if I’m on the couch. There is a caveat to her behavior though, if the sound or vibration comes from the TV, she couldn’t care less, and doesn’t flinch when explosions or gunshots are on TV, real life is another story entirely.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 6:56 AM

      I am so sorry your dog is suffering like this Victoria. My Lab is deathly afraid of fireworks and thunder. I have found that the Thundershirt has helped in many of these situations, but occasionally when the fireworks are really loud I out on music that was scientifically designed to calm dogs, Through A Dog’s Ear. That seems to help a ton. Maybe one or both of these will help your dog?

      • victorialynncarter
        July 15, 2013 at 12:19 PM

        Thanks for the links, I’ll check them out. Luckily the noises that scare her the most don’t happen often, fireworks are one to two times a year tops so those can be prepared for, thunder and quarry blasting do make her nervous but not to the same extent as fireworks or shotgun blasts (we live outside of city limits so there’s nothing we can do about shotgun shots nor can we anticipate them).

      • Mel
        July 15, 2013 at 11:09 PM

        Same here. Daisy is usually fine with the exception of fireworks and thunder. At least you can prepare for some of the things. I cannot imagine how Daisy would handle quarry blasting, but I suspect she would not handle it well.

  3. July 15, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    Even if this was the best, or even the only way to deal with fear of fireworks, I COULD NOT do this to my dog. As simple as that. I could not physically and emotionally do this.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 6:58 AM

      Neither could I Jana. Just watching the dog’s behavior is painful. Most humans look to escape pain and fear, yet dogs should be forced to face it? So sad and wrong.

  4. July 15, 2013 at 3:16 AM

    That’s completely wrong! How can someone do that to a dog. My Aunt has a dog that is heart worm positive too and she got stressed out and made herself unwell after coming up against a growling bigger dog. That was unavoidable, this is completely avoidable. If you don’t have training in animal behaviour you should not be allowed to ‘advise’ people. I think that lady should take it down, get some training and then see if she still thinks it’s the right thing to do.

    ~Amy

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 7:01 AM

      Thanks for commenting Hutch A Good Life. My biggest concern was for the dog, knowing she is heartworm positive and knowing the stress she was put through. Second is my concern that this is advice someone is sharing with the average dog owner.

  5. July 15, 2013 at 3:20 AM

    It’s pretty painful to watch that video so I close it off. I do feel sorry for the dog. 😦

  6. July 15, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    We can hope she has an epiphany. Some day.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 7:01 AM

      I really hope so Deb.

  7. July 15, 2013 at 6:16 AM

    IMHO, this “expert” should not be around dogs. Period.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      I can understand how you feel. She clearly understands some animals if she is a vet, but dog behavior and body language is not one of those areas.

  8. July 15, 2013 at 6:54 AM

    An important point is to understand what is reasonable to expect from the average vet. Their training is in the medical treatment of animals, not behaviorism or training.

    I love my vet. But I would only consult her about possible physical causes of behavior issues, not how to resolve a behavior issue.

    Luckily, my vet recognizes the importance of specialization and she refers people to the Karen Pryor trained, relationship-based trainer that worked with me and Honey.

    I only hope that the comments on the video were phrased in a way to get this person to reconsider her knowledge in this area. But somehow I suspect that’s too much to expect on the internet.

    This is another great teaching moment, Mel. I’m really glad when you share these “what do you see” videos. I learn a lot from watching them and reading your and the other commenters’ remarks.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:03 PM

      Thank you so much for adding to the discussion Pamela. As always, you make some great points.
      In answer to your question about the comments made on the YouTube post, the ones I saw were pretty civil (most of the commenters were dog trainers or animal behaviorists). I can’t say what kind of comments she received after that, but I suspect not all were civil.

      I am so glad you like the “what do you see” posts. I learn a lot from the commenters too!

  9. July 15, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    I can’t wait the whole thing but what I saw, I’m amazed this woman is talking like she’s a great trainer. She’s not even using the slip leash correctly. What a d****. This angers me so. I’ve reported the video.

  10. July 15, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    This is just wrong, wrong, wrong in so many ways! I only watched about half of it and that was enough to see that this “expert” doesn’t have a clue about dog behavior. I couldn’t continue watching this poor dog be subjected to this. It is crap like this on the internet and from “trainers” that causes more harm than good. I feel so sorry for this dog.

  11. martie13
    July 15, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    somethingwagging :
    I only hope that the comments on the video were phrased in a way to get this person to reconsider her knowledge in this area. But somehow I suspect that’s too much to expect on the internet.

    I think the reason she removed the comments and then blocked comments was because she received so many that were negative and critical of her training methods.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      I am sure of that.

  12. martie13
    July 15, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    This was hard to watch. Those of us who have dogs who are fearful of noises are not served well by advise such as this. At one point I heard her say something about Cesar Milan’s training methods being different than hers implying she wasn’t being as dominant as he is, while at the same time she was using dominance to train this dog and using terms such as “pack leader”. All in all her methods are very scrambled and wishy washy and proved to be very ineffective. She needs to get some training herself or else stop trying to be something she is not. This video is not only a disservice to those seeking help but is potentially very damaging to a dog’s welfare and psyche. Hopefully there will be enough pressure for her to take it down, especially if some of the respected dog trainers get involved.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      Martie – Thank you for making such an astute observation. Yes. Her methods were wishy-washy and ineffective. I agree. The video is damaging to the dog in the video and to anyone who thinks it is advice they should follow (God forbid).

      As a side note: Several respected trainers did comment. They were civil about it too. She just disabled the comments.

  13. Fletch'sMom
    July 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Just reading your notes is upsetting to me. I cannot watch the video. What sort of VET uses a sick dog (HW+ – supposed to stay calm) to make this type of video?? I am disgusted.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:12 PM

      I totally understand. I had a hard time watching it, but I wanted to document what I saw and heard because I felt it was important to show how they can be so different. Reading my observations again makes me sad. I cannot watch the video again. It just upsets me too much.

  14. July 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Absolutely sad and disheartenting video. what an irresponsible woman. She is not a trainer and if she’s a “holistic vet” then she should stick with her plants and remedies and leave the actual training to a trainer.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:07 PM

      I had trouble reconciling the video with being a holistic vet too. I always thought holistic vets would be much more humane, but I guess not. Or, at least not in this case. 😦

  15. Erika
    July 15, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    She may have disabled the comments function on YouTube, but her business, Crow River Animal Hospital, has a Facebook page — here’s the comment I left for her:
    “Melissa, Your YouTube video about Keeping a Dog Contained and Safe in a Fearful Situation is a disgrace. In 20 minutes you took a dog who appeared well-balanced, friendly, and tolerant of loud noises… and developed a fear of loud noises that will probably be an issue for her the rest of her life. And a heartworm positive dog should not be exposed to ANY stress! You are a DVM — you should know better! Shame on you for what you did to this dog.”

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      Thanks for commenting Erika. Many people said similar things to her in the comments section of YouTube, but she did not seem to hear them. I hope with time she will understand why it is so upsetting to see this.

  16. July 15, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    That poor dog was so obviously freaked…I really couldn’t watch the whole video…it’s sad to think there might be people out there who try to use these methods 😦 Like others, I can’t believe she used a sick dog and subjected him to these major stressors..for shame!

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      I know Gizmo. That’s why I cannot understand why she has chosen to leave it up. It does not show her in a very good light. There is so much that bothers me about this video.

  17. July 15, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    I can’t even go watch it – I live with a dog who gets that freaked out, and to do that to her without a clear way of helping her . . . . .so sad. It is a good reminder that we need to be careful with who we trust. We actually left a dog class once because we did not agree with the teacher’s methods. I am not dog behaviour expert, but I am a behaviour analyst and I know my dogs and I know how I expect them and me to be treated!

  18. July 15, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Ugh. i couldn’t watch the whole thing either. The dog starts out fine with the noise – and gets more distressed as it goes on. I’m no expert on training, but I agree with what Pamela says above – I don’t go to my vet for training advice. In fact, my vet knows he’s no expert, and he recommends trainers to work with. That poor pup. Ugh.

    • Mel
      July 15, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      I had a hard time watching it too Jackie. If not for the blog post…
      I think Pamela’s advice was excellent.

  19. July 16, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    We have seen the video everywhere for the past days. Like Jackie we could not watch the whole video (mom was biting her lips). Just not fair for the dog … and unbelievable that she created this video. Our vet is just a vet n does not offer training. Golden Thanks for sharing. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  20. July 17, 2013 at 1:12 AM

    It looks like she did take down the video. I was interested in seeing it but after reading your post and everyone’s comments I think I’m happy it’s unavailable.

    • Mel
      July 17, 2013 at 6:08 AM

      Wow. I am glad to see that she did take it down. Thank you for letting me know. Yes. Be happy it is unavailable. It was awful to watch. I hope my observations at least gave you a sense of what was shown.

  21. July 17, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Glad she took the video down, sorry she acts uneducated and insensitive to the dogs she works with. I wonder if she’s ever read The Bark magazine or any of the top dog behaviorists.

    Trying to force a dog or person to not be fearful never works.

    Current research on humans shows that “exposure” is painful and adds to trauma conditioning. There are several more effective and much less stressful and painful therapies for PTSD like EMDR. I have friends who have used it on their dogs.

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