Loopholes in the System : Why the profession of pet dog training needs an overhaul

As I walk into the park by my house I see a man kicking a dog that is down on the ground. He is methodically kicking the dog and saying “AAHAT” each time.

I rush over and say, “Please stop”! The man hurls an epithet or two and mutters that he “knows what he’s doing” and then goes back to kicking the dog. I tackle the man to the ground. The dog is then taken by a two women that had been watching and wincing with each kick. They call the police.

I subdue the man and the police arrive and arrest the man. He is convicted of animal cruelty and serves a year in jail.  I am considered a “hero”.

However what if the man says “ I am a dog trainer, I wrote a book, I am a behaviorist, I have been helping dogs for 20 years”!

Then would I go to jail for assault? Would the “trainer” get away with his “methods”, and I am then considered the problem?

I might not get busted, as I can explain to anyone what is actually happening when a human, any human applies harsh physical or even verbal fear and pain based methods to “train” a dog. So I may be exempt in this type of situation. I may not, but I’m still going to stop a dog from being abused.

Actually some 15 years ago while I was on the way to work when I lived in Manhattan, I saw a guy out of the corner of my eye beating his dog.

I ran across the street and got in the guys face and said that he needed to “stop" and if I ever saw him treat his dog like that again I would make sure he’d “pay” for it. The dude backed off and walked off. The look in his eyes were one of shock. I will not forget that, hopefully that guy will also keep that lesson close to his heart.

I had no dog at the time, I did not even think about having a dog at that time, however I knew on a visceral gut check level that beating dogs is wrong, for whatever reason the human “thinks” is justifiable for their abusive actions. It is wrong and its abuse, period. I don’t care how long they’ve been doing it to “train” or their supposed “status” or “titles”. Abuse is abuse.

I have had similar incidents of stopping people from causing harm to their dog that have played out to varying degrees of intensity over the years. I’m really good at it now. I am equipped to handle the situation however I need to as long as the person stops their abusive behavior I have achieved my aim. If they focus on me great! If they hand the dog over to another person and want to “dance” with me, so be it. If they feel bad and realize they are harming an animal even better. I’m going to speak up and step by any means necessary. It is just who I am.

Back in October 2010 there was an incident in London Ontario where a man intervened when he heard a man that was in his apartment building abusing a dog. The intervening man was beaten and almost died. It’s not a surprise the abusers had a history of violence. They even attacked the police when they showed up. There is always a pathology that follows any behavior history.

In 2009 Jeffery Loy was convicted of animal abuse in NJ for inflicting so much damage on a dog when he was “training” that the dog was urinating blood and almost died. Then he placed threatening phone calls to the dog’s owners to stop them from pressing charges. Again we see the behavior pattern emerging.

Aimee Moore in Chicago who fancies herself a “dog whisperer” was also brought up on charges of animal abuse for putting a shock collar on a dog’s neck and genital’s as horrified people in the park watched her torture the dog in the name of “training”. However she was not convicted. 

Quite recently a man was convicted of animal cruelty for beating his girlfriends dog outside a gym in New Jersey. Onlookers called the police and then the Animal Cops showed up. He was fined because people stepped up.

Something here just does not compute with the dog “training” loophole used by some people as an excuse to abuse dogs.

These pain “trainers” are causing dog’s to become fearful, aggressive or shut down. Period. Those are the three outcomes. Additionally these abusers that blanket themselves in the comfort of “training” are usually abusive to the people around them, or their clients, or humane trainers. Behavior has history based on rewards and consequences for humans too. Teaching dog owners to be abusive is highly negligent. Essentially this is a consumer protection issue wrapped up in dog abuse.

How to spot the pain trainers

So what is the difference between a “trainer” causing a dog fear and pain and any other human? As far as the dog is concerned it’s the exact same thing.  

 It is a human and dogs generalize fear really well, don’t forget that it is an important component to building sound dogs.

Humans are by and large doing typical human things and we do many things similar when interacting with dogs such as reach with hands, bend over or the way we use our voices. These are all sequences with stimuli that have associations. Dogs learn sequences very well and they are primarily learning through association. Remember that.

As dogs generalize fear really well and have limited options due to being on leash, in a house or in some way involved in an environment that they feel as though they cannot flee; many times the idea of causing fear and pain as a way to “train” them is not only animal abuse it is unethical, stupid and that a professional would encourage or use methods that can cause harm is ridiculous.

It is unconscionable. Truth told it would bring criminal charges on anyone else, but when “trainers” do it they get a pass? How is that?

The difference to humans is the professional should be conducting their business and their dog training approaches by at least telling the truth about what the risks are if dogs are subjected to pain and fear, call it what it is. Let people know what they are creating. Other wise it is the double whammy of not only giving the bad advice but not warning people their could be issues and most likely there will be.

Expecting people to then copy and replicate the “training” by causing the dog fear/pain/startle is just compounding the problems that already exists. Imagine if you hired a plumber that said, “we’ll just tape the hell out of this pipe, my grandfather did it this way and his pipes were ok”.

You would fire that person so fast it would be like they were never there.

In dog training sadly many people get hoodwinked and duped by mumbo jumbo and pseudo science or titles and “years in the business”. Some of these so called dog trainers or dog psychics etc…are good at cherry picking dog - training vernacular and disguising the approaches they take.

Watch out for words and phrases such as “balanced”, “pack leader”, “dog psychiatry” and “energy” or “being in tune with nature” and of course “whispering”. These are usually a red flag.

If the dog trainer is calling their training methods “positive”, don’t take them at their word; find out what they do to dogs in order to train the dog

Ask how do you train a sit, how do you get the dog to walk on a loose leash, if they cannot give you a basic simple to understand approach, then perhaps they are not qualified to help you. If they can’t explain it how can they train it?

All dog trainers know the dog owner is desperate or at the least willing to listen, because they want to help their dog this puts them at a disadvantage, emotionally.

Susceptibility is part of the sell here. So the ethical side of the business of dog training has to encompass compassion and trust, other wise the dog ”trainer” is not doing a complete job. Educating dog owners is no different than teaching any other skill or providing any other service, so we need standards. At this point these ethical standards and practices are left to the dog trainer to decide. That’s not enough to protect dog owners and dogs from abusers and unscrupulous people.

Training programs that are based in safety and free of fear, pain and stress are the best option. My motto is train and explain, don’t blame. Guiding people with humane methods and truthful verifiable facts will give people a foundation and a freedom to live with their dogs.

Writing down easy to follow training protocols that anyone who can read could follow relatively well if they were consistent is the key to success. Or am I asking too much?

Trying to catch a tan in our sunshine

Many dog “trainers” use the term “positive” or “balanced”, and employ extremely harsh methods to decrease behaviors, or at least they hope it will work.

Recently a dog “trainer” on Facebook was found to be using electronic shock, yet the person’s business name actually has the illusion of “positive” in its moniker.

These are just more of the same coercive behaviors that these “types” use with dogs. Avoiding truth or avoiding educating one self about a vital aspect of their job, in this case dog behavior and the fallouts of punishments from shock is negligent.

It’s like finding out your doctor almost made it through medical school, but did really well with marketing and he’s really “charming”.

In any other business transaction you would demand the best and would stop someone from causing your property harm or potentially risking future problems based on the work the hired person was doing.

Why then are dogs, which are by and large in the eyes of the law property, not protected from being caused harm in a business transaction? Because their future behavior will be a result of all the experiences they have had.

If the neighbor is kicking the dog it is abuse, but the trainer gets $100 to choke the dog until it shuts down?

This is the most twisted and convoluted logic that I have ever heard of. If you showed a film of a human using fear and pain, shocking, choking, pinning and hitting a dog to “train”, any sane and compassionate person would either go mad with anger or condemn the human race for such stupidity and cruel treatment of innocent creatures that are considered man’s best friend. Unless they were told it was “ok” by an “expert” and it was on TV. Then it’s ok?

The proof is in the pup

I have yet to meet with a client that has subjected their dog to the electronic containment system (electric “fence”) that was given a list of potential fallouts, or a client that has used a shock collar or a prong collar that was told of the fallouts to using shock & choke by the person selling the device.

I have yet to receive a behavior history form that detailed a history of the dog’s harsh punishments where all they needed was a few easy sessions for sit and wait. It is usually something in the fear/aggression/anxiety/shut down/tuning out category that needs addressing.

In fact the standard line by proponents of fear and pain based methods be it electric devices or using fear and pain, startle etc is “they are not that bad”. Hmmm. Really?

Is that why the UK banned the use of shock collars?

The Truth Hits Everybody 

Why do these people avoid the truth? Either the people selling these devices or “trainers” using them don’t know; which really underscores the laziness or callousness or ignorance of the person or company.

It’s 2011 and the web has been around for over 10 years, so there really is no excuse to not go looking beyond your own ideas or the word of a “business person”, or your belief system about dogs.

Perhaps some people just do not care? Maybe some people do not believe that shock or aversive approaches have any downsides? Fantasy belief systems are in abundance in dog culture. Perhaps some people claiming to be dog “trainers” are sociopathic to a certain degree?  It would certainly explain the continued abuse.

Perhaps some people are dealing with a cultural disconnect compounded by religion and mythical anecdotes about dogs? It happens.

It is so ridiculous out here that recently a so called dog “trainer” professed in a public forum that he had a “theory” so revolutionary that it would give every dog owner true freedom.

It is based on God and “nature”, that’s like saying swimming is based on water, ah yea…. But there’s more to it than that…and he touted being “in tune with the dogs mind”. We’ve all heard this nonsense before.

Yet the actual practices of this supposedly highly evolved new method are at the very least jerk n praise techniques or at the absolute worst is downright abuse.

This guy actually films himself doing these abusive things to dogs and touts it as revolutionary. At least we know where to steer clear of. Got to love the internet for that! 

Do you really want to hurt me?

The reality is that any fear or pain related experiences for dog’s results in some type of fall out; it might decrease the unwanted behavior. It may also take a few wanted behaviors out with it and it usually does if repeated enough times.

The dog has to have some type negative experience to decrease the behavior other wise it will not work, and this is where the slope gets slippery for some people.

How negative? How many times? What are you really decreasing and what is the dog associating the aversive to?

Is the dog being physically or emotionally scarred?

What is the dog’s history? How well are the humans managing the dog so the dog will not do the unwanted behavior?

Is it a behavior that is naturally occurring in dogs and it just needs a proper outlet?

There are just some of the considerations that need to be addressed before we train dogs. 

If there is no fear or pain, or at least an unpleasant experience, a bummer let’s say, the behavior will not be decreased, period.

When people ignore the fact there are fallouts to extremely harsh punishments they risk the dog’s soundness, when people say, “oh the dog will be ok” that is not completely true.

That is how behavior and nature work. It works this way for humans and it works this way for dogs. However some humans find the use of punishments very rewarding as the dog might stop in the moment, but what about tomorrow or a week from now?

Fear and Pain have fallouts, period. It is not up for debate, sorry people, that is reality. It is a matter of humans being ethical by being kind and consistent. You can send a dog the message certain behaviors are not to be tolerated, yet do so in a way that is referee like, non emotional and not abusive. 

If you are one of those people that “feels”, “thinks” or “believes” that shock is “not that bad” or “ it has no real lasting effects” or there is nothing wrong with addressing a dog’s behavior with fear and pain and aversive interactions, such as a slap on the snout or a “sszzt” followed by a jab in the neck that causes the dog to be startled on a daily basis then please focus on the next part of this blog.

If you do know better but you “look the other way”, sadly you’re culpable to a certain degree. This is especially true if you are in a position to help dogs and owners on a large scale.

This is not opinion

There have been a number of legitimate studies on the use of shock and the use of fear and pain to decrease behaviors and it’s effects on dogs/animals.

Studies on addressing dog behavior in training settings with aversive approaches or humane approaches have been done as well.  All of the studies come back saying the same things. When harsh punishments and fear and pain are used dogs have increased fear, more stress, more anxiety and more aggression. Is this the behavior any responsible sane dog owner would want? Is this is the type of dog training results dog “trainers” should work towards?

I have yet to get a call from a dog owner that employed harsh punishments even daily yelling/scolding in some cases, where the dog was not either aggressing or shutting down, and the third dog has for what ever reason simply habituated to the punishments and still keeps on truckin’ for now anyway. At some point the storm will be perfect for the dog to land a bite or do some behavior that has the humans concerned.

Additionally time and time again I hear things such as “It just did not feel right”, “I felt bad doing it” or “It made the dog worse", and “the dog was reluctant to approach me”. None of these are good things in the dynamic of dogs and humans. I don’t care what any “expert” tells you.

Again we are skating on thin ice here people, stop using these fear and pain tactics to “train” dogs.

The quadrant of operant conditioning called Positive Punishment works this way, adding an aversive/punishment to decrease behavior.

Where in the definition does it say that it will not hurt, cause pain or harm? It does not. In fact B.F. Skinner is saying you’ll have to have some level of discomfort, aversion or negative association in order for the behavior to be decreased. Skinner also warned of the dangers of these fear and pain experiences.

If shock collars “do not cause any pain”, as some will tout, how do they work? They don’t “tickle”. The stimulation setting will habituate in many dogs, and the next setting is electronic shock and that’s why it was purchased, right?

This is where the humanity and the empathy of humans can be gained by having a legitimate understanding of how dog behavior actually works. It will help tremendously to stop people from causing harm. Once someone has been told the risks they usually stop, as the vast majority of people really do not want to cause a dog pain.

Humans are the biggest influence in a dog’s development this is agreed upon by all dog - training camps, right? It is the human that calls the shots, correct? That is a tenant of all dog human relations since time and memorial.

Why then risk creating an unsound companion dog?

This is where nuance, bond building, being humanely assertive, and knowing how to orchestrate dog movements without force need to be taught to dog owners and practiced by companion dog trainers.  

This is a service industry and it should be the goal of every companion dog trainer to build sound dogs and give sound advice. Or stop doing it and get out of the game.

Dropping Science 

The dog goes through life primarily making associations based on scent, these bits of information called stimuli goes past the amygdala. This is the dogs fear center and the information gets assessed as Safe, Unsafe or Neutral – as in been here and it was ok.

As James O’Heare states in Aggressive Behavior in Dogs:

“The amygdala mediates the expression of fear and modulates aggression. It has been associated with predatory behavior, as well as inhibition or excitation of social behavior. It plays a central role in emotional learning”.

We can also look to the research of Scott & Fuller in their book Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog for further evidence in how dogs are motivated to work and learn.

Emotional reactions have important effects upon performance, so that selection ability to learn particular tasks is likely to affect emotions first and true cognitive abilities later. It is very difficult to separate the two in a practical situation.

B.F. Skinner also reminds us that environment is actually the main influence on behavior.

“…Confusion may be seen in the contention that operant and respondent conditioning represent a single process, a contention said to be opposed to the view that the two kinds of conditioning affect different systems of behavior, respondent conditioning being appropriate to the autonomic nervous system and operant conditioning to the skeletal musculature. It is true that much of the activity of the autonomic nervous system does not have natural consequences which could easily have become part of operant contingencies, but such consequences can be arranged…. the environmental arrangements which produce a conditioned reflex are quite different from those which produce operant behavior, regardless of the respective systems.“

Skinner again says:

“ Survival may depend almost wholly on “competing with” the physical environment, when intelligent behavior is clearly favored. “

We can take this to mean animals are more likely motivated by intelligent behavior rather than fearful or painful behavior when given a free choice, considering that us humans arrange pretty much 100% of a dog’s environment, by causing them fear or pain/aversion – i.e. - a negative conditioned emotional response, we make the association worse, especially when it is a daily communication tactic. The slope becomes slippery indeed.

Dogs usually make the associations to the most salient things in the context and that is usually humans or dogs. We should be looking to make these associations positive.

Let’s say we are working with a dog to not counter surf and steal food. A behavior dogs cannot help in many cases.

This can be done with simple removal of freedom, time outs for setting the dog up to fail and teaching the dog what works what does not work. You don’t need violence to “train” a dog. In addition management and some good old common sense can do wonders for a whole host of dog issues humans find them selves involved in.

I agree that fear is a natural part of life for dogs. They are going to feel fear at some point. This is not some “love the dog’s problems away” hooey. It is about pragmatic, simple ways to teach dogs and humans as well as decrease the stresses of dog ownership.

Fear from the environment is one thing, say a sudden loud sound, or fear of a large animal that is prey so the dog chooses fear of large animal for the reward of food.

Survival contingencies and environmental fear is one thing.

Fear from a human intertwined with sequential patterned based triggers in daily contexts is risking the dog to generalizing the fear to not only humans, perhaps life in general.

If dogs have too many fearful and or painful experiences, they will develop more fear, aggression and anxiety or some dogs shut down and not offer any overly overt behaviors.

The behavior the shut down dog does exhibit may be subdued, appeasing, and in some cases the dog is not even doing those behaviors all that much. That is not a good out come for anyone.

When dogs shut down and show signs of stress, or no signs of affiliation, legitimate dog trainers and behavior counselors observe the dog’s stress and fear, they recognize that the dog is not doing well and is under duress of some kind, and they work to bring the dog out of their fear/anxiety or shut down state.

They will either pad those “bumps in the road” that dogs deal with or avoid things that are causing the dog to act aggressively or feel fear. They do not have the dog rehearse the event to the point of flooding the dog or taking the dog over threshold.

Many hack trainers say the dog is “calm and submissive”. Then again many dog “trainers” just want the dog to stop behaving all together and they don’t care how they do it. This is the most slippery slope.

Again B.F. Skinner sums up the confusion between laymen and scientists.

  • “To argue that laymen and scientist are simply looking at two different ASPECPTS of the same thing is to miss the point, because aspect is what causes trouble; people see different things when they have been exposed to different contingencies of reinforcement.”

This my dear readers, dog enthusiasts and fellow dog trainers this is what separates the hacks from the legits, legits do not make up murky euphemisms or intentionally cause duress and call it “training” when it is really hog wash and nonsense.

History of rewards and consequences for both dogs and people are very important. For dogs life is primarily based on survival contingencies. For humans it’s a far more murky when we get into our behavioral motivations, our moral weaknesses, moral flexibilities, insecurities, ego, misplaced anger issues, misinterpretation of science, hidden agendas, pathologies of abuse and cultures & religion.

We have the most convoluted and myth laden education “system” for dog owners and professional companion dog trainers when we should and could have the most comprehensive and humane system. Some of us do have this, yet some “trainers” operate on fantasy - island.

There are a few pet dog training universes swirling around out here and now and then sometimes these systems collide, some times they merge, sometimes they can mingle effectively, but many times sadly they crash into each other and cause confusion for dogs and dog owners.

These human behaviors and the convoluted history and baggage people bring to dogs make it tough, as humans are responsible for their imprint on the dog, our behavior must be such that it builds soundness at any cost, not simply what ever behavior we decree from the dog regardless of the environment, that approach of behavior at any cost is going against nature.

The trouble with using harsh methods and it’s slippery slope is the it largely depends on the human and well quite frankly we’ve already got all the cards in the dogs life and we really do not want to cause dogs fear and pan or startle or loss of air way by choking, or any other means by which the dog will potentially become unsound and may be physically injured, because it is only causing harm no matter how you look at it.

Simply put it is risky for dog owners and when professionals are giving advice and “ideas” to companion dog owners that can cause harm it is unconscionable and negligent.

Kind and Consistent is not wimpy and permissive

This does not mean we let dogs run ram shod over us. Many of the pain trainers point the finger and blame “ You positive trainers are permissive”. That is not true at all and if it is I would add, the dog owner needs to decide what is permissive and what is not, and the dog trainer should let them know the potential out comes of their behavior as it relates to the dogs training. Period.

We can get more mileage out of humane consequences and common sense management than any choke or shock device. We can build the strongest bond possible by building trust and teaching the dog to behave reliably and willingly, because they are happy about it. When it is not happy for the dogs it is a humane consequence not violence. 

Obviously we must have control, rules and a plan, but above all we must have people imprinting these things with soundness at it’s core and the dogs emotional responses should be considered, not simply getting behaviors at any cost.

Teaching people to focus on environmental causes and having better mechanics and how to be humanely assertive, and manage dogs can do wonders. No need to be a thug or a calm methodical abuser. When we learn to teach instead of suppress and we really find freedom in your dog relationships.

How far will it go?

This idea that the dog “must obey at any cost or the human is weak and a bad leader” is nonsense at best and simply facilitates the justification for using fear and pain and under the guise of dog “training” and self esteem building. Yes one can build self-esteem through dog interactions and training, but when it is by way of pain, fear, startle and generally using some type of punisher as a general communication it ‘s being a jerk to your dog.

Humans need help with patience, legitimate dog behavior education, training mechanics, timing of rewards and consequences, learning how to get reliable behavior all the while building a sound dog that trusts the world around them more so than not trust it, or am I asking too much here?

The ideology that dog’s “must” and “should” or the human is weak; or the dog is bad etc…is a bill of goods sold by a TV corporation to salivating dog owners, and now hack trainers and wannabe behaviorists that claim mind reading skills are duping dog owners and damaging dogs. The dog owners were already in need of help and susceptible and looking for any advice they could get. So it makes sense how all this nonsense came to be popular. That does not make it right.


Here is what companion dogs need for training

  • Emergency Recall should be 100% no fail, as an emergency cue to come to you no matter what.
  •  Dogs should be sound and treated humanely from the start. As puppies and all through their lives. Their behavior should be guided towards being sound and reliable. This is not a sign of weakness on the human’s part it is a sign of compassion, empathy, understanding and friendship. This soundness aspect to the dog is what we all want. Without soundness the dog is dead.
  • The rest of the dynamic has far too many variables to expect 100% behavior. Humans are not 100%, so why should dogs be? However the bare essentials are as follows for companion dogs and we can achieve a very high reliability without violence.
  • Proper leash skills. It is not always easy, but it’s essential. Start with young dogs and make it fun!
  • Disengagement cues such as Look  - Leave it and Touch. Yelling “No” is not a dog behavior, so the dog is at best startled at worst they blow you off and the human ramps it up.
  • Sit and wait at all doors for safety.
  • Sit and wait for anything and everything. That is what we all want more or less.
  • Achieve a 2 minute down stay – if for nothing else the vet office. But there are many applications for down stays. Not crucial but helpful.
  • Working for food with toys that dispense food. Dogs must have mental stimulation it’s a big part of their soundness. Many dogs are 9 – 5 dogs and need extra mental stimulation just so they do not get board.

Obviously we want dogs to have dog friends and humans in their lives, but as with any social setting use common sense, some caution when applicable and get some background on the dogs your dog is going to meet.

We could get 99.9% responsibility from people if they were given the proper information about training, behavior, what the fallouts from using fear and pain are and teaching the humane management of dogs.

I am not making it simple. It is simple unless it gets complicated by falsehoods and abuse wrapped in “training” Then it gets super complicated.

Many times I give this example of how many people interact with dogs.

Imagine if you sat down at a table and each time you moved a person said “ hey ahht, don’t do that”, then two hours later they told you to “ File these papers”. You’d ask why the heck didn’t you say that to me two hours ago. Many people go through life treating their dogs just like this thwarting and suppressing behavior, not teaching and releasing behaviors so the dog stays sound.

When dogs have extreme behavior issues or benign behavior concerns never use fear and pain to “train”. 

Educate Don’t Player Hate

Now back to our community of dog trainers and people claiming they “know dogs” or how they “don’t go against nature”, or “don’t tell me what to do with MY dog”. Let’s address the real hard - core side of the debate shall we.

I actually get hate mail from other so - called dog “trainers”! People I have never heard of, people that have as far as I can tell have zero credentials to even contact me as a fellow dog trainer let alone critique what I’m doing.

This just underscores the pathology of the pain trainer, they are abusive, closed minded and egotistically motivated. You can see it in the way they “train” dogs and the way the treat people.

I have no doubt that if many of these so called dog “trainers” were given an aptitude test on how to approach the various training an behavior issues companion dogs deal with they’d fail.

This goes for both camps, the pain and fear crowd as well as the balanced “trainers” and for that matter some of the positive trainers that just do some cookie tossing and making stuff up and trying to “love away” behavior issues or play away the dogs with anxiety.

All these camps need addressing. Because so for I see far too many people out here faking it as professional companion dog trainers and the results are dogs and people that love them are suffering in the process.

When people are trying to help dogs and owners and attempting to educate them it becomes confusing for the dogs owner and time is lost having to debunk and re arrange the falsehoods into truths so they can get on with learning appropriate ways to address dog behavior.

When it comes to dogs with issues either bad at the start when they got the dog or if issues were developing in puppy hood, then made worse through abusive training practices, or letting it just happen. It is sad and it becomes risky and stressful for the humans to live with dogs that have fear and aggression issues. However when it is due to them approaching it with fear and pain based methods on a “trainers” advice it turns it from ignorance to negligence.

Many of us out here that practice modern humane dog training & behavior counseling would rather spend time not undoing the crap other “trainers” sold to the dog’s owners or the stuff the trainer did or recommended the humans do to the dog as a daily way of "modifying" behavior. 

There is quite a bit of talk these days about realness, not being fake, reality etc…well let’s keep it real. Let’s give people real information and real ways to soundly build a dogs training and behavior.

To those “trainers” that are winging it, keep it real and get your education going on. You are doing harm by wasting people’s time and money. You are risking the safety of the humans, dogs and the community. You are causing the worsening of behavior issues due to you not being able to address issues that are beyond your capacity to either explain it or detail a plan for the humans to reduce unwanted behavior and stress. This goes for all dog trainers. Get with it or get out of the game.

The Law

Companion dogs should be protected under any of the laws that protect people who suffer domestic violence or any other animal abuse protections they would be afforded if the neighbor did the same abusive things.

Many dogs subjected to abuse and reported to have bitten are in homes with a history of domestic violence.

Many of the fatal and severe dog bite cases involve domestic violence or a history of abuse and neglect.

We love to anthropomorphize dogs and call them “man’s best friend”, so why not protect them additionally along with any other domestic partner?

If not protect dogs as any other family member then why would you hire a person to “train” your dog with fear, pain, shock or abuse? Why would you want to address your dog like a captive slave or an enemy?

To the powers that be in the dog training and behavior world, why not get the wheels moving to protect companion dogs from the abuses in dog “training”? What are you waiting for?

Dr. Karen Overall in my interview with her for my documentary said it is an “indictment on veterinary medicine that vet students are not taught behavior”.

Dr. Ian Dunbar said at a seminar at St Hubert’s a few years back “ It is criminal that shelters do not have a behavior department”.

When two of the most well respected people in dogs are saying that the lack of knowledge and lack of education for vets and shelters is so appalling that it is metaphorically speaking at this point, a crime. What are we waiting for to demand dog trainers be properly educated?

One line in the current animal cruelty laws would begin to clean this mess up.

Under no guise; training or other wise shall companion dogs be subjected to fear, pain, force, electronic shock, choking, hitting, excessive yelling and or excessive repeated startling as a means to correct, change, decrease or eradicate unwanted behaviors.

What someone does with their dog is ultimately up to them. However as a professional companion dog trainer, the goal is to create sound safe dogs and reduce people’s stress while teaching them the essential basics to communicate effectively with dogs.

It should not be a shadowy endeavor wrapped up in a whole lot of murky nebulous information about “pack leaders” and “sending messages to dogs through your energy”. Sure we need to have information about how human behavior affects dogs, but it is far less mystical than some would have you believe.

In fact you’ll get more mileage out of better mechanics and timing of rewards and humane consequences than some nebulous spiritual transaction. Is it not magical enough that we get to even have dogs?

The last thing dog owners’ need is another “magic way” or some “quick fix” or another buzz - word or pseudo scientific phrase, because that is not helping now and it will not help when the dog is in need of training or behavior modification.

Dog owners and humans helping dogs is shelters especially need written training plans in plain English with protocols for anyone that can read can follow, and legitimate behavior assessments based in proper humane behavioral sciences.

People need to know the hard - core realities of owning a dog in the 21st century and how to reduce stress without harmful side effects caused by fear and pain. Or am I asking too much?

As of now we have a system of pet dog training that allows for easy abuses and no real consequences for the so - called “trainers” that perpetrate them.

As this blog is published the people of Egypt have collectively stood up against fear and pain based tactics. They have changed their system and are progressing in a better way than they were yesterday. It will take time, but it started. 

Let those of us that know the difference between legitimate and inhumane dog training stand up and speak out against these abuses so our communities are no longer lost in a sea of confusion and abusing dogs in the name of “training”.

Let us not waste another day or another dog’s life by not speaking out. It is long overdue for Modern Humane Dog Training for companion dogs to be the standard in the industry.




AVSAB – American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior




Dr. Karen Overall UPenn - On the use of Shock collars


IAABC Use of Electronic Collar



Association of Pet Behavior Counselors.


Daily Mail UK – Shock collars are banned.




About Behaviorism B. F. Skinner Vintage Books/Random House February 1976

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller The University of Chicago Press 1965

Aggressive Behavior In Dogs James O’Heare

dogpsych publishing 2007  www.dogpsych.com


Do you work in a dog rescue/shelter? Sign up for the Dog Shelter Behavior & Training Program – Free on Dunbar Academy