Today is Sunday and time for a little relaxing, so me and the pups are on the couch and I thought I would watch a little TV while they had their siesta. I turn on the TV and I find this dog show about this so called dog coach teaching people how to handle their problem dogs – YEAH, I think. What better way to relax than to watch dogs!
However, a couple of minutes in I am not relaxed at all, rather I feel my heart pumping very fast and my blood pressure rising cause what I am watching is not only very disturbing but also a VERY wrong understanding of how dogs learn and how you should teach a dog anything. I see pulling on a dog’s cheek to make it obey, I see rough hand handling to make the dogs move, all the while I am told by the so called “dog coach” that this is how dogs communicate!
Not once is a dog given a reward to do right, cause we are after all the leaders so the dogs should just obey us of course!!! ( feel the heavy sarcasm!)
Now, it has been scientifically proven that dogs do not aim to be our leaders, they do not try to control us or any form of situation. This understanding of so called “dog communication” is an old fashioned way of thinking before science told us better, so my first prayer is that if you get a trainer or read a book or article, and they start talking about being the leader, and tell you that your dog is trying to take over, RUN, run as fast as you can and do it fast! Furthermore, if you do not see any use of treats in their training but instead they use force to get what they want, like the above mentioned example, run even faster!!!
Now I see the appeal in wanting to get a quick fix for your dog, which these type of trainers offer, but this is not fixing the underlying problem (yes, there always is one!). This is scaring your dog into obeying you, cause after all who would want to be pulled on their cheek! However, this will destroy the trusting bond that should be between you and your dog and will lead to a very stressed, fearful and distrusting dog. And not only that, your dog will never understand what he or she (in this programme the dogs were also called “it”, a term no dog lover would ever use!) did wrong in the first place, and worse yet what they are doing right. All they know is that if I lie down in a corner and are very still, I will not get hit, pushed or pulled.
What I find even harder to believe is that this is shown on national TV right in prime time, but where are all the shows where the lead person actually has an education and has studied dogs and their behavior, and most importantly is backed up by science?
So what to do instead?
Dogs are communicating with us non stop, we are just too oblivious to notice it, so it is our job to educate ourselves when owning a dog. The knowledge is out there – Dog Decoder to mention one example is an excellent app to learn how to read dog body language. Several ethologists, such as myself are standing on their tippy toes from the eager of sharing their knowledge with you. Not to mention all the dog instructors out there who makes an honor in keeping themselves up to date with the newest knowledge on how to train dogs, and YES it is in a positive, force free and effective way, so my second prayer for you today is please please look into whoever you chose to work with background – do they use positive methods (treats, praise), are they force free, what is their background/knowledge and most importantly listen to your gut feeling, if you are not comfortable using these methods with your dog, then there probably is a reason.
Thank you for reading my blog and see you soon!