Evolution anyone?

I watched a 28 second video yesterday of a trainer in Canada, doing some pretty rough stuff to a dog. The abuse that he inflicted on the dog included sharp collar jerks, pulling the dog off its front feet and slapping the dog on the face. It was unclear what the dog, a large breed, perhaps a vizla or Rhodesian, had done or was doing to provoke this kind of treatment. The setting appeared to be an outdoor training class with other people and their dogs circled around. The dog being abused was barely moving, which may have been the ‘problem’ in the trainer’s eyes, I don’t know. The creator of the film claims that the trainer was annoyed with the dog’s owner and took his ire out on the dog.

When I watched the clip I got that heart constricting feeling that occurs when my body has a physical reaction to seeing not only someone/thing suffering but also a response to the perpetrator of the violence. I prefer not to fantasize about being violent toward other people, but in this case I had flashes of what I would do had I been there to witness it. It was shocking to watch a group of pet owners, who no doubt care about their animals or else they wouldn’t be bothering with a training class, standing around while someone assaulted an animal. Whether anyone spoke out for the dog I couldn’t tell. It may have happened so quickly that there was little chance to react and while some may have been dumbstruck by the treatment, others may have assumed that it was justified.

In the clip I saw the film had been looped so that it looked like the dog was being yanked and hit several times. This was unfortunate since it was not explained that this editing had been done. But more unfortunate is the idea that yanking and hitting a dog once isn’t that bad and only if it happens repeatedly is there a problem.

Some may criticize me for using terms that are usually applied to violence against people, to an animal, but what else is it other than assault when someone has another being trapped by a chain around their neck and proceeds to hit and choke them? Oh wait, there is another name for it, it’s called TRAINING by folks like this trainer!

Why is it that we are drawn to watching people who gain control of other creatures through the use of intimidation and physical violence? Is it because we don’t define what we are seeing as violence? Is getting what we want when we want it, exactly as we want it, enough to justify the means we use to get it? Who finds these people and then popularizes them by giving them TV programs and guest appearances on talk shows and why do they do it other than to make a buck (or millions of them)? We are sickened when we watch programs that advocate the teaching of violence to young children (yes Virginia there are people who do this) yet tune in weekly to learn how to bully, threaten, scare and hurt dogs, without the bat of an eye. It surprises me how many otherwise intelligent, thoughtful people do not see violence against animals as what it is, violence, period.

I have four dogs and board others at my home. I understand what it’s like to feel frustrated and angered by their behavior. It seems that in the spectrum of human behavioral responses to being frustrated and angry, violence comes more easily than thoughtfulness and patience. There is probably an evolutionary reason for this, but it seems a poor excuse when with instruction and practice we are capable of measured, productive, non-violent responses. As a species we find reasons to justify our bad behavior whether we are enslaving other people, beating them up for being different than us, or eating a piece of cheesecake and although they are not comparable, they are evidence that we can delude ourselves about minor to major things.

Isn’t it time to move up on the evolutionary ladder rather than slide down a few rungs?

Check out this video clip with a group of OFF LEASH puppies paying attention to their handlers and learning new behaviors without a slap, collar jerk or shout.

11 comments so far

  1. Alexandre on

    I completely agree on that. Even though dogs behaviors can be frustrating sometimes, beating them up is the faster way to increase the problems. Simple things can be done instead of that looser attitude. And if at last, the problem is not solved, I think that punishment by the environment works much faster. I mean by that tricks like getting biscuits on a string with empty cans near the edge of the table. Then, when the dogs gets the food on the table, their is a punishment inflicted by it’s environment. No human involved or else. You don’t have to beat him up but he will be scared to do it. not scared of you. It’s time to think when something happens. And it’s funnier to learn how to teach them then to act stupid and beat them up.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the fearful dog blog. Your comment reminds me that it’s important to pay attention to how the environment can either be rewarding or punishing for a dog. Knowing how your dog perceives different situations is important for handling and training and understanding what motivates your dog.

  2. Eileen on

    1000% agree. It’s so frustrating to run into people with the attitude of “I know I have to dominate my dog…” but I work really hard to not show reaction to statements like that and just show another way. Usually when I don’t criticize “dominance” methods but just show positive methods…and get a really fast result…the people are more than happy to give them a try!

    The only way dominance training makes sense to me is the man-in-the-white-lab-coat experiment (Milgram): people listen to those in authority positions. But it still amazes me how people will go against their gut and do what an authority-figure says..especially to someone they love.

  3. Lorie Huston on

    You’re right, it is absolutely time to move away from this barbaric means of “dog training” and move toward positive training method. Great youtube video. Very helpful in showing how this method works without abuse.

    All we can do is keep talking and keep trying to educate people. Some will listen to us. Some, unfortunately, will not. It’s a shame that such big names are associated in the popular press with dominance based training methods. Some of these folks have set the whole training movement back years, if not decades with their techniques. But, eventually, I have to believe that most sensible people will see the benefit of training their dogs and not dominating them and making fearful dogs.

    Thanks, Debbie, for the great post.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thank you Lorie for taking the time to read and comment. Since my fearful dog Sunny came into my life I haven’t been able to STOP talking about non-aversive training techniques 😉

  4. lili on

    “it still amazes me how people will go against their gut and do what an authority-figure says..especially to someone they love.”

    I hope it’s ok to share my experience here with a punishment-based trainer we had last year, and why I did what she said instead of following my gut.

    Our trainer taught us to use corrections and this is what we did because no alternatives were offered. I winced each time my dog was corrected. The trainer assured me that there was no pain, and we tried out the prong collar on my arm – and true enough, there was a sensation of pressure but not one that was in any way painful. This made ME feel better but my dog still responded with loud fearful yelps to each correction, and the trainer told me not to worry. “He isn’t in any pain. He’s just being a drama queen”.

    I wasn’t happy about this method of training but whenever I expressed concern (to the trainer or to my partner /friends), I would be told that I was too soft, and that if I didn’t “toughen up”, my dog would “win”. I truly believed all of this stuff and I thought that I was weak. I tried very hard to give stronger corrections as the trainer told me to do, change my posture, my tone of voice – be firmer etc. It was really difficult to do and eventually I gave up because it didn’t feel right. The more I read about other methods, the more confident I was that we had the WRONG type of training program for our fearful-aggressive dog.

    We now have a positive trainer and I am so relieved.

    It really doesn’t surprise me at all that people will follow authority even when the method looks harsh and violent. At the time I really had no idea that other methods existed and I believed that we had a “dominant dog” problem.

    – Lili

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for sharing your story Lili. You are so right that when it comes to behavioral challenges in dogs it is difficult for people without a background in training to know what is the right way to help their dogs, especially when someone who claims to be an authority is giving out the information. I’m so happy to hear that you have found a trainer that can help you with your dog. I hope it is going well.

      • lili on

        thanks, Debbie! Positive training is still new to me, but yes! Everything has been going much better than expected.
        – Lili (my blog – http://boogiebt.wordpress.com)

  5. trish on

    this could not have been said in a better way.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Wow, thanks for that Trish! Appreciate it.

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