Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,296 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Here’s a tragic story. I struggle with whether or not I should share it but I figure stories from 'the field' are more tangible than tossing around broad generalizations of different trainers and training methods. Of course, I will keep things anonymous. And I am not here to slander any business or person as much as I might disagree with them and despise what they did to this dog. This is somewhat in response to the anti R+ posts. I side with good training, not training labels. But this is real, real people and real families affected. Not 'I heard through the grapevine' but fresh-off-the-press, genuine conversation I had today. And I wish stories like this didn't exist.

A family, potential training client, is looking to rehome their dog due to aggression issues. Anything in quotations is a direct quote from a phone conversation.
1-2 yr old dog, owned since 8 weeks and purchased from an irresponsible breeder. Fear and anxiety issues from the start. The dog has a bite history with multiple level 2-3 bites and has some handling issues. This is especially challenging with children in the household.

The first trainer they went to has been in the industry for over a decade. He is certified through a program that specializes in protection dog training. Rave reviews online. He worked with her at 6 months of age. He started with a prong collar and was “much more aggressive with it than” the family was with it. He then transitioned to a shock collar, set to level 8. The family felt the stim just to demonstrate how it is a low level (because we all know that how we feel determines how the dog feels, right? /sarcasm). The dog would yelp whenever she was stimmed and it was “scary to watch” but the trainer would call the puppy a “diva” for reacting. The female owner was advised that she had to be more assertive and the husband should tone it down a bit. The trainer also did board and train in his home and reported that the dog showed no aggressive behaviors in his home. The focus of all of this training, under the first trainer, was to teach the dog to “look to the owner for guidance” and that obedience would give the owners control over the dog’s fear issues. I asked what the trainer would do if the dog growled at him. The trainer advised the owners never to do this, especially in front of the children, as it would create negative associations… But he would stim the dog when she growled at him. This was the “hard to watch” part for the owners as the dog is very sensitive and would yelp every time. The trainer also would use treats for obedience training and rewarded good behaviors like sit, down, come and place behavior. At the end the trainer said the dog was unpredictable and agreed with rehoming as the dog is not safe around the kids.

The second trainer is even more well known in the area. Rave reviews. Has been training for over two decades, titled dogs, “specializes in aggression.” This trainer is "anti e-collar and not into treats", and started the dog on a prong. Like the previous trainer, this one told the owners they had to demonstrate they were the ones in charge and demonstrate a “calm assertiveness.” The trainer would bring the dog and owner to shopping centers and let strangers pet her. The owner noted that this stressed her dog out but that this trainer was very good at calming the dog down. If the dog growled, this trainer would jab two fingers into her ribs and make a sharp sound ("Tsch!"). The dog snapped at this trainer once at a shopping center but when the owner turned around the trainer was already calming the dog down.

So here I am, may or may not work with them as they were already on the rehoming thought train by the time they called. And the challenge is, not only is it difficult enough to work with a fearful dog. But now this is a fearful dog that has a ton of negative associations and the battle is fear on top of however she might have been damaged by previous training methods. And the kicker… The owners report that their dog is obedient alright, "very well trained"… When the prong collar is on! She sometimes blows off commands when the collar is off. But the fear and aggression are far from resolved and rehoming is the likely outcome, regardless of whether I work with them or not.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,913 Posts
You know I'm not into punishments and aversives. In fact, I would say that while positive doesn't equal permissive, I am substantially more permissive than you. YOU do things I would be HIGHLY uncomfortable with from an ethical point of view.

But I find some real irony, and not the great kind, in condemning balanced trainers for pointing fingers at other trainers/trainers using other methods and you using a single personal story to do the same thing. Less strong language? Maybe. You certainly didn't accuse them of getting this dog killed, but you did condemn them as abusive.

Dog training, the world of it, has some serious issues. Especially right now. A lot of them come from 'method wars' and an unwillingness or inability to reach across and accept and truly acknowledge and respect that there is no One True Way. There are methods that are more or less suitable for a given dog, a wide variety of skill levels, things that use pain and things that don't, and above all philosophies.

I have a great deal more respect for people who's philosophies align with mine and don't include causing pain for dogs in the name of behavior modification/training, and of course people who have a good, solid, scientific opinion.

But we all have our ways of doing things and things we consider horrible. But if you're going to demand respect and not to be blamed for the failing of trainers sharing your method, maybe don't claim all the messes you're mopping up belong to the 'other side'. Because they don't. At all. Recognizing that at the end doesn't change the irony and hypocrisy of the rest.

And you know I like and respect you but this is just... startling hypocritical. Rant against people promoting corrections and aversives as unnecessary, complain when people claim we're getting dogs killed, and a total misunderstanding of positive methods, yes. But We've got enough in-fighting and demeaning and wars without sinking to that level and engaging in pure hyperbole ourselves.

It's just not useful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,296 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Curious, what do I do that you find unethical?

And yeah, totally venting here. But on both ends with trainers stating the other creed is ruining dogs. Not 'making mistakes' or 'not helping', but flat out ruining dogs, messing them up, getting them killed... I have too many anecdotes where more forceful methods went wrong. I get how the post is hypocritical though, and I'll remove the last paragraph so it's more objective. Still, tragic story. I am all ears for a story where a R+ trainer seriously damaged a dog. I am SURE poor R+ trainers exist and I have met some. But the level of failure, in my anecdotes, did not result in the same damage done.

ETA: I'm willing to admit it when I'm called out for my bs, in this case hypocrisy. And I amended my original post to be mostly objective. Not gonna lie, it's frustrating and heartbreaking for me when cases like these come in. I have NEVER slandered another trainer in real life and I always think really hard before I open my mouth in front of client. I know that I'm not anonymous on the internet either (which is also why I appreciate being called out when deserved, btw) and it's not a good place to rant. And I'm mostly careful about what I post. But it was a hard day and I lost my cool - human error.

ETA2: I would certainly call what these trainers did "abusive". No question about it. The owner herself described stress and fearful body language, the techniques did not successfully modify behavior.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,391 Posts
I strongly suggest that you offer to evaluate the dog for free. Although the time out of your day may be significant, I don't think it will take you much time to do a high level evaluation to understand the validity for this dog of fearful vs. aggression. If you find that the owner's descriptions are accurate, then you might offer a high level estimate of what you would plan to do and what the owner would be responsible for doing. Then, provide soft progress milestones with honest confidence levels of when your next decisions would be. The owner would want to know if you can fix their dog [And you may be able to tell fairly quickly if you cannot], how much it will cost, how much effort for them, and how long it will take.

If the dog can't be fixed, then it may not be a good idea to rehome - but I don't believe this is a terminal case. This also doesn't really sound like an 'aggressive' dog, b/c he 'calms' down too quickly and easily. And, you did say 'fearful' so I imagine that you reduce a lot of the fear in a few months. Although trust may take a little time to establish, I think that positive methods [It's Yer Choice, etc.] can work better, and almost as quickly as the punishment methods above.

Re: "But now this is a fearful dog that has a ton of negative associations and the battle is fear on top of however she might have been damaged by previous training methods. " I don't think that this will turn out being as big a problem as you fear. Although the history may be useful to know, I believe that if you take the case, you'd address current behaviors, not necessarily their originations. For example, did the dog really growl at kids [menacing?] or did the dog bark at kids ... ? In either case, treats might be part of the treatment, and not a shock collar, so I'm not as concerned with the history. And, I'm not as concerned with methods that did not work, except to know not to apply those methods. I'm more interested in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

So the question is, can you evaluate and help this dog, and how long will it take? That decision is still yours. The decision to keep trying is up to the owner.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top