The Magic of TV Training


It seems no matter where you look on the internet there are always conversations about TV trainers to be found. We have a few trainers to chose from here in the states. Those include Cesar Millan of National Geographic Channel's "The Dog Whisperer", Victoria Stilwell of "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet, Andrea Arden of "Underdog to Wonderdog" on Animal Planet as well as the various trainers on "Barking Mad", also on Animal Planet. (correct me if I have forgotten anyone)

What the viewer needs to keep in mind is that most TV shows are designed as entertainment first. They will look for people that are charismatic and subjects that are dramatic. Charisma and drama are what's going to keep viewers tuned in after all. Having once hosted a show myself I can attest that a lot of editing happens after taping. Bits of the actual training may be left off the show making it look like a much quicker process or easier than it actually is. (and some of those cutting room floor bits can be necessary pieces for people trying to be able to successfully use the prescribed advice methods)

Some shows have disclaimers stating "Do not attempt those techniques without professional help". Of course this doesn't deter people who perhaps can't afford a trainer or simply ignore the warning. I do wish that people would take these disclaimers seriously. There is a reason they add them after all.

Even with the negatives, I think that the fact dog training is now all over TV is a good thing. Even if all the shows aren't what I might recommend for every owner to watch, it has put the spotlight on the owner as needing to be involved with their dog. It has gotten the message out that dogs need exercise, training, and boundaries; that dogs are not simply people in little fur coats. And the big one, just because someone has a dog with a behavior problem doesn't mean it can't be changed!

The downside to some of the shows is that now there are a lot of "armchair" dog experts. They watch a few shows and think they can solve every issue with one technique. I own a car and have watched them change the oil but that doesn't make me a car mechanic. A good trainer has studied and practiced their craft in order to best be able to help dogs and their people.

Some of the shows have great techniques on them and I really like that they show positive reinforcement does NOT equal permissive. (a myth of positive training methods) Of course as a positive trainer myself I do like that there are positive trainers on TV to point people towards so they can see both sides of training if they have only seen one side.

Yes, there is fallout from TV training, I have seen it in my own business with clients who tried a TV trainers technique and failed. Now with the addition of more training options to be seen by viewers, perhaps we will see significant changes. At least that is my hope.

What do you think? Are dog training televisions shows helpful or harmful? 

For more on this topic read Gillian Ridgeway's As Seen On TV

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