Oxygen as a training tool

dog being dragged on its back by a leash around its neckI’m actually an open-minded trainer and dog owner who has looked at and considered the merits of a variety of different training techniques. If a handling or training technique works I am curious to see why it does, or to assess whether what we are seeing in regard to the dog’s behavior is actually success. A shut-down dog may have stopped doing something  inappropriate, but how’s that going to hold up in the long run? If a technique works, but there are alternatives which achieve the same end using less force or intimidation you can probably guess which route I’ll take.

Today I heard the darndest thing. While speaking with a group of people, all with professional dog handling experience of one form or another I was told about a local trainer’s use of strangulation as a tool for achieving compliance in dogs. Several of the handlers had witnessed the ‘technique’ being used by the trainer and one had been requested by a pet owner to use it on her dog, as she had been taught by this trainer. The handler deferred. The methods employed by this trainer are self-described as ‘natural’.

I must have missed the memo referring to the use of oxygen deprivation by animals to achieve compliance in others. Oh wait. I did read something about that, we call it torture.

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40 comments so far

  1. hornblower on

    Emma Parsons in her Click to Calm recounts that a trainer ‘hung’ her dog – a golden retriever – on a prong collar. Hard to know if the pain of the prong or the oxygen deprivation was supposed to have the desired training outcome, but it’s a variation on the theme…..

    It’s a miracle dogs don’t attack more people, given how they’re treated.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I agree, most dogs are incredibly tolerant given what they put up with!

      • Karen on

        And that’s why people who intimidate their dogs and do other abusive things think the methods work. It is so horrifying and sad.

    • melfr99 on

      I saw this same story and blogged about how pet owners needed to be their dog’s own advocate and educate themselves before handing their dog over to some hack claiming to be a trainer. If I remember correctly, the dog you mentioned had aggression issues as a result of the strangulation, but was brought back from all the damage that had been done to it through Karen Pryor’s clicker training class.

      I will never understand people who use such methods.

  2. fearfuldogs on

    I was sickened by what I heard. This was not a case of saving one’s butt, it’s being taught to pet owners as part of a ‘natural’ training method. Spare me.

  3. georgia little pea on

    Oh 😦 this is VERY bad. Hard to believe a trainer would find this “method” useful, harder still to believe that dogownerrs would believe it.

    • fearfuldogs on

      People watch it routinely on TV and laud the trainer!

  4. Katie, Maizey and Magnus on

    If I had read this anywhere else I would have questioned it’s veracity. It’s almost too outrageous to believe. I am on the Force Free Trainers FB group (a great group BTW) and there was just a post ranting against the quote, “QUOTE, “[in dog training], there are no right or wrong tools when used appropriately.”

    Seems this would be a good example of a tool that there is no “right” way to use!

    • fearfuldogs on

      What is also disturbing is that a trainer was able to convince someone, who I assume has a thinking brain in their head and likes their dog, that choking that dog as a routine practice for managing certain situations, was a good idea. I remain flabbergasted by it.

  5. Chris Waggoner on

    I had someone tell me that dogs who struggle and carry on when this “technique” is being used are “just being dramatic and putting on a show”. HUH?

  6. Magnolia Wigglesworth on

    It seems like common sense. Depriving a human isn’t an appropriate training technique. It shouldn’t be appropriate for any other kind of creature either.

  7. Ashley Taylor on

    Woah. I “knew” that people did this, but honestly thought they did it sparingly (not that that justifies it!!!). Pretty sickening that there are “trainers” who do it regularly.

    • fearfuldogs on

      And define themselves as training ‘naturally’. I haven’t gone off on this before, even though I found the whole labeling kind of silly but when I heard this, from qualified sources, I was so angry!

  8. Brianne on

    I cannot even look at that photo without bursting into tears and wanting to rip out of my skin to free that poor dog. That is an atrocity and an abuse that should be punished. I don’t see a difference between that and putting a dog in a pit to fight another dog; they are both unequivocally wrong and I’m ashamed and disgusted by anyone who would think it was appropriate.

  9. lorabaugh on

    I am just now taking classes with a dog trainer and would say I’m very open-minded to learning new techniques, but that is just horrifying.

  10. Marie Finnegan on

    It boggles the mind what people do in the name of dog training. And that photo is horrifying. Great post. I’m sharing.

  11. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart on

    Oh good God. What … so where does this fall in the quadrant? Would that be positive punishment or negative punishment?

    The only thing “natural” about suffocation is that indeed humans are naturally cruel enough to use it on other beings.

  12. melfr99 on

    Absolutely horrifying. I remember reading a story similar to the one Hornblower mentioned above. I wish people would use their brains instead of always believing what a so-called “expert” says they should do. Great post Deb. Seriously.

  13. Deborah Flick on

    Natural? That’s interesting. I’ve never seen a dog strangle another dog.

  14. Kristine on

    I don’t understand how anyone could think this was okay. I can’t even look at the photo. I am apalled. Even in my dark days when I had no clue what I was doing and was desperate for help in any form, I never would have sunk to this level.

    Isn’t this animal cruelty?

  15. fearfuldogs on

    Just to clarify. The image on this post has no connection to my post, other than it’s an image of a dog being strangled. I don’t think that I’m the person you spoke with Mel about the aggressive dog that was helped with clicker training.

    • melfr99 on

      Oh no! You weren’t the person I spoke with Deb. Sorry for the confusion. I was responding to hornblower’s comment in which she said “Emma Parsons in her Click to Calm recounts that a trainer ‘hung’ her dog – a golden retriever – on a prong collar.”

      I read that same story and was so outraged by the fact that an owner would allow that to be done to their dog that I wrote a blog post telling owners to be their dog’s advocate and not just take some “trainer’s” word that strangling their dog was “training”. It makes me mad that people take someone’s advice on how to train their dog just because they call themselves a trainer. Ugh!

  16. honeysjourney on

    Animal abuse at it’s worst, nothing more be said, IMHO

  17. KellyK on

    That’s really truly horrible. And, yeah, sure, the dog obeys now because *they’re terrified of what might be done to them.* That’s not success. Human abuse victims are often compliant too–that doesn’t make domestic violence a “successful relationship strategy.”

    • fearfuldogs on

      If a technique gets the owner the behavior they need at the time, the dog’s needs are often easily overlooked or ignored.

  18. BirdRoughsIt on

    This is totally an expert method! Cesar Milan told me! (um, just kidding. er, being sarcastic? you know what I mean.)

    This is ridiculous. Poor dogs, whose owners think this is a legitimate thing to do (“But my trainer told me to!”). Ugh.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Seems that if you can spew enough rubbish you can get people to buy into anything.

  19. Donna and the Dogs on

    Just sickening. I know Suzanne Clothier writes about how people are programmed to listen to ‘authority figures,’ even when their hearts tell them it is wrong. With my first dog I made the mistake of using training techniques that I now regret, because a trainer ‘insisted’ it was the only way to cure my dog’s dog aggression. I wish I knew then what I know now, and regret every second I put my dog through her outdated methods which included every ‘correction’ collar imaginable. But strangling a dog? How can anyone condone that? I wish trainers had to be licensed.

  20. honeysjourney on

    If you don’t want to watch, then don’t This creep needs to be stopped! CM choking a dog to submission or until it passes out.

  21. honeysjourney on

    Remove the video if you want Debbie

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Thanks George. I can’t watch this again, but what I remember, and what stands out to me is CM’s description of what is going on with the dog, calling it a ‘calm submissive’ display. It does not take a degree in animal behavior to question that evaluation. This is not uncommon in the ‘work’ he does, labeling a behavior as one thing (typically either a submissive or dominant display, as if that’s all dogs are capable of) when anyone who has spent even a little bit of time watching or reading about canine body language, could see that he’s full of……hooey, I believe is the polite way to say it. Another example is the episode with the fear aggressive Am. Eskimo, named Cotton or Snowball. A very sad story BTW, info which can also be found online (the dog never was ‘rehabbed’ continued to aggress, had his teeth lasered down….) anyhow..this dog after being intimidated and threatened by CM offers a paw raise. Paw raises are often called calming signals or appeasement gestures, whatever you call them, they are an not, in this instance, an indication of the dog’s intention to stalk and attack the handler, as described by our TV dog expert. So imagine how an owner, seeing their dog offer them a gesture indicating a lack of intent to pursue a confrontational approach to solving the problem at hand, might respond if instead they see this gesture as a challenge or threat?!! It’s freaking maddening!

  22. didiwright on

    Oh, God, that image made me cringe. I almost couldn’t bring myself to read your post 😦
    That picture and the video posted by honeysjourney reminded me of the poor dogs being hanged and left to die at the end of the Spanish racing season (I saw a programme about that a few years ago – hopefully that terrible practice has stopped in the meantime?!). Carrie’s yesterday post also reminded me of it, and I left a similar comment on her blog. I have to admit, it’s not a nice image to be haunted by for days.
    Thank you for raising awareness about the ‘training’ practices used by certain famous ‘experts’.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Hung and left to die! OMG. Between the flaying animals alive for fur and all the other atrocities we commit, I have to remind myself that there are actually more people who are good, kind, compassionate and caring.

  23. Shakx on

    no doubt it works. but what the fuck man?


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