Thursday, May 17, 2012

Take the Leash!

The need for better education on dog behavior in my community has become much more pronounced over the past few months, with the shelter I had thrown all of my support to deciding to go down a path that I just can't, in clear conscience, join them on. With their decision to not only support but also loudly promote a trainer who believes in shock collars and prong collars exclusively, came my decision to walk away. This is someone who calls positive trainers "dog killers" and boasts about how little he cares if a dog is nervous or afraid. His questionable results are the product of practically ancient training methods used by thousands before him to attempt to gain control quickly, at all costs. Thank God we have learned so much more since the time when this type of training was universally embraced, but many trainers like this guy still remain to preach that quick "fixes" are more important than anything else. 

I firmly believe that our already-fearful, confused, anxious shelter dogs deserve better than intimidation and pain to achieve "results." Those of you who are familiar with progressive/positive training know that despite the level of severity, even an aggressive dog can become a wonderful companion once the source of the problem is identified and dealt with. You don't have to use physical or psychological punishment to accomplish this and that is my message. Ignorance creates these dogs. Ignorance might later suppress their aggressive displays, but it will not "fix" them.  

"We can't solve problems by using the same thinking we used to create them." ~ Albert Einstein

Shelter dogs deserve to be assessed, understood, and then trained based on what they are, not treated as if they come from the same mold and as if they should behave like robots. The use of the outdated, now-debunked pack theory nonsense is the mark of someone who has never learned how to train properly. This is a red flag to indicate someone who has never moved beyond that infantile initial entry into the training world. Anyone can cause a dog to cower, to beg forgiveness, and to be afraid enough to stop whatever it's doing. (The secret ingredient  that these trainers so cleverly try to disguise is simply punishment, and the level of punishment is directly dictated by just how motivated the dog is to continue displaying the behavior that you want to eliminate.) It takes skill and education to actually train a dog to the point where it is no longer afraid and knows how to properly communicate without the use of aggression. Your dog should be able to confidently look you in the eye to ask for guidance, not stare at the ground hoping to avoid the next round of punishment.  I have been on both sides of this issue and the one I'm on now has led to much happier, more stable dogs. I've seen the darkest depths of that other side and I will not stand by and give any inkling of support in that dismal, outdated, misguided direction. 

For those of you who are ever in a similar situation... raise your voice. Do it diplomatically, respectfully, and tactfully, but don't let it go completely unheard. And if you're still not sure where you stand, keep researching; ALL sides, not just the first one you hear.

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."  ~Martin Luther King, Jr 

Sunday is our very first Take the Leash seminar, where we will attempt to educate our community on the basis of dog training and behavior. It has recently become even more obvious to me that the reason many people choose training based on fear and pain is that they just don't know any better. If I can help it, there will be no more excuses. Knowledge is both power and responsibility. I feel our community deserves to be told the truth so that they can then make an educated, well-informed decision and then spread the word to others. The seminar is free for anyone who can attend, I only ask that those interested RSVP by sending me an email: 


  1. Sorry to hear about the turn of events at the shelter- it is terrible to think about someone intentionally adding more stress to those dogs. It's good to hear you're making a difference in the community by educating dog owners.

    1. Thanks. :) Yes, it was pretty crushing to be honest. Not just for me but for some of the other volunteers who really put their all into this place by heading up adoption events and basically doing anything we possibly could to help. It was very hard to walk away and several attempts were made to reach out to people who might show some understanding and help avoid this mess. But at the end of the day their decision was made very clear. This trainer will be coming to teach the shelter staff and community his methods and that isn't something I can have any part of. My hope is that they see him for what he is and stop being blinded by the fanfare of the event.

      My other hope is that the seminar is helpful and that we can do many more! :)