We’re not out of the dark yet

image of someone being tortured during dark agesI have been struggling this week with a website a friend shared with me. On the site a ‘trainer’, who seems to boast no qualification other than maybe owning the boxed set of TV’s The Dog Whisperer DVDs, proudly describes and documents with chilling videos, how a ‘dominant’ dog was put in his place.

The dog, a breed which is known for its wariness and tendency toward being hypervigilant has shown an unwillingness to perform behaviors on cue ‘unless he feels like it’. He has resorted to biting on multiple occasions, including members of his family. The dog’s unwillingness to go for walks is ascribed to the dog’s desire to be with his ‘subordinates’, i.e., the people he lives with. The dog, supposedly a power hungry maniac, ‘whines anxiously’, and pees when spoken to in an angry tone of voice. Both tactics employed by the stealthiest of confident dogs apparently. The author deserves an award in fiction, because the entire piece is that, fiction. The cause and motivation of the dog’s behavior has been ‘made up’ in order to fit the author’s view on dog ‘psychology’, that being the desire of dogs to wield power in relationships.

The videos included are painful to watch. The dog appears to have on two collars, one of Cesar Millan’s illusion collars and a choke collar, and in order to balance the playing field, a slip-on muzzle which the dog was forced to wear through 4 hours of coercion and abuse (keep in mind that a slip on muzzle, unlike a basket muzzle does not allow a dog to pant and breathe normally). Watching a dog fall to the ground to avoid being made to move is wrenching. Yet the trainer sees it as one more tactic of a manipulative, dominant dog resisting the will of the true ‘pack leader’. As the dog lies on his side in a last ditch effort to avoid going anywhere, the handler (for I have ceased to be able to call her a trainer) pulls the dog’s tail out from between his legs to ‘change his energy’. Skip the certification for dog trainers, let’s require IQ tests as a start.

Finally, after 4 hours of being pulled, dragged and forced to comply, and no video tape left to film in the dark, the dog walks along with the handler.

When someone is caught on videotape abusing a dog there typically follows a round of petitions calling for the perpetrator’s arrest. Yet cyberspace is replete with images and videos of dogs being abused and no one bats an eye. They don’t bat an eye because the abuse is labeled ‘training’. There was a time when people argued that animals did not feel pain, and this justified and excused the most horrific of treatment. Few would debate that issue today, accepting that dogs have nerves, and those nerves register painful stimuli. It is accepted that dogs experience emotions, and one of the most obvious emotions we can observe in dogs is fear. That anyone with a heart, nevermind a brain, could subject a fearful dog to hour after hour of torment is beyond me.

I am reminded of Augustine’s words, “Since God has spoken to us it is no longer necessary for us to think.”

Apparently we are not out of the dark ages just yet.

* I have not included a link to the site because I do not want it to get any additional hits.

31 comments so far

  1. I could sit down and bawl right now. That poor dog.

    • melfr99 on

      I’m right there with you Roxanne. If I was this upset by the description I would be devastated to see the real thing. Why oh why do people have to abuse dogs this way? Augh!

  2. Ashley on

    I came across that site the other day from an e-mail list that I’m a member of. It was disgusting, heart wrenching, and pathetic.

    😦 I so don’t understand how people can think it’s okay.

    • fearfuldogs on

      People not only think it’s ok, they think it’s state of the art dog training. Geesh.

  3. melfr99 on

    Oh Debbie. My mind is haunted by what you watched. How awful for that dog. I agree, We are not out of the dark ages yet. In fact, many of these “trainers” have simply re-labeled themselves as “positive reinforcement” trainers so they pretend to have left the dark ages.

    One part of me was hoping you would include the link if only to allow people to comment, but I can only guess what the comments would be. The other part of me was grateful you didn’t because I don’t want to bring any attention to someone who clearly has no clue about how to work with dogs. Who wants to spread more of this disinformation around?

    • fearfuldogs on

      If the site had included an option for comments I would have. As it is you have to search diligently to find even a ‘contact’ link. It’s a purely ‘for profit’ site. Filled with cheap content to bring in hits and then get them to buy the puppymill dogs advertised on the side bars. I have no idea of who the people were made the video, there was no identifying information.

  4. fearfuldogs on

    If you watch the video and don’t constantly remind yourself that the dog is being bullied, it’s not that hard to see. The dog struggles a bit but muzzled he can’t scream or cry out. If you believe the dog is being recalcitrant I suppose you can even watch and feel a sense of satisfaction by what is happening to him. Sick.

  5. Sally Bradbury on

    I have seen the website of which you speak and it is indeed heartwrenching even when watching just a snippet of the videos.

    The image of that poor dog haunts me.

  6. pennyronning on

    Your description of the site was painful to read. Sadly, very sadly, these were the methods I watched being used time and time again — they were the methods encouraged and employed by those in charge — for the 8 months I was a volunteer working with dogs seized from a breeder/hoarder. I watched dogs being dragged out of stalls by leashes to the point where foam was flying out of dogs’ mouths. This action was done by both County employees and the specialty breed “rescue” group in charge of the adoption process.

    For the “rescue” group’s “evaluation” process of each dog, as a volunteer and handler of the dogs, we were instructed, by the “rescue” group, to place a martingale collar with a chain on our dog(s) so tight that in some cases it was actually choking the dog. The dogs were then dragged out of the stalls in rodeo fashion to be dragged, in continued rodeo fashion, through a series of tests by the “rescue” group’s “behavioral experts”. Of the 8 dogs for which I was the handler I was only notified when 2 of the dogs were to be “evaluated” by the “experts” and the ONLY reason I was notified was because they had attempted to put the collars on the dogs themselves, but the dogs were so terrified of the “experts” the “experts” could not even get close enough to the dogs to touch them. When I experienced this “evaluation” process for the first time, I wept and later vomited. It was horrendous. We watched dogs that walked perfectly on leashes with the handlers they had come to trust be dragged and pulled and yanked and screamed at by the “experts” when the dog showed the least amount of resistance or fear to the commands being ordered of them by people they did not know or trust (the “experts”).

    This “rescue” group also relies heavily on rating dogs based upon dominance and submission within a “pack” of dogs.

    Choke collars were very much the method of instruction also being employed by the “professional trainers” used to teach obedience to the handlers and dogs. And, of course, Bark Busters methods were always in play and used as a means of training. The “expert” from that school of training scared one of my dogs so badly the dog ran to the corner of the stall, shaking, peeing, and buried his face so deep into the corner I was horrified.

    To this day, I still have nightmares and cry at the drop of a hat. Of the approximate 200 animals seized, it was either 67 or 69 that died horrific, brutal deaths while in the custody of the county during those 8 – 9 months in 2009.

    My life was forever changed.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Penny your description of this ‘rescue’ event gave me the chills. At the risk of sounding completely unprofessional and rude, WTF is wrong with people?!

      • pennyronning on

        “WTF???” is the question that has been tumbling over and over and over in my head and heart for more than two years now. I honestly don’t know what causes me to ask that question more — those that engaged and/or enforced those actions or those that accepted them (and continue to do so) as appropriate, responsible, and “good” for the dogs. The actual raid when the approximately 200 animals (mostly English shepherd dogs)were seized occurred during a 10 hour search warrant period on Dec 30, 2008. The temps on that day were bitterly cold so the participants in the raid were heavily dressed…and using catch poles, rakes, shovels, and whatever other items they deemed necessary to “catch” dogs in order to crate them. The sad part is that the family of the breeder/hoarder had offered to crate every. single. dog. and deliver them to a location selected by the county. However, the county chose their method instead.

        Debbie, could you imagine your Sunny being chased and “caught” in this manner; being shut up in a barn stall with dogs he may not have been originally housed with at the only home he’d ever known; having strange people on a daily basis coming in and out of his stall; being cornered in the stall to be vaccinated on multiple occasions; in some cases, for 9 months only being able to emerge from the stall for 30 minutes or less a day; and without your knowledge or presence, being dragged out of the stall on a leash by a total stranger and evaluated by a “dominance” theory believing “rescue” group?

        One of the other volunteers shared her story of arriving to the fairgrounds (where many of the dogs were housed) one day to see one of the dogs she had been working with running toward her dragging a leash. Both she and the dog were outside of the fenced in area in which the dogs were housed. At first, the volunteer could not understand what was happening or how the dog had gotten outside the stall and then outside the fenced area or how the dog had been leashed. Then she saw the “rescue” group experts running after the dog YELLING at her. The dog ran toward to volunteer she (female dog) trusted. The only thing the volunteer had to do was simply stand still and call the dog to her. The dog went right to the volunteer, stopped and looked up at her with the most frightened eyes. The volunteer reached down, petted the dog, took hold of her leash and walked her back into the fenced in area and to her stall. The “rescue” group experts then proceeded to YELL again at the dog and then at the volunteer. The “rescue” group experts YELLED at the volunteer for her inability to have taught the dog obedience during the 8 months (at this time). Mind you, the majority of these English shepherds were under or unsocialized to more than one or two people at a time prior to the raid and I’ve not even described “separation” day to you — where it was physically determined which dogs were males and which were females. To the “expert” it didn’t matter that the dog responded perfectly to the person she trusted and treated her with gentleness. What mattered to the “experts” in their evaluation is that the dog disobeyed their directions and commands. The “expert” even yelled at the volunteer that HE tells the dog what to do and the dog is to respond. THIS is how the dogs were evaluated. These same “experts of animal behavior” have described their success with the use of shock collars.

        Again, I truly don’t know what has been more disturbing to me…those that engaged in and enforced this style of taming the “wild beast” or those that have condoned it through their acceptance of it or through their silence.

        Debbie, you, Roxanne, and all the others commenting and putting blogs out there revealing a “different” way, approach, method of reaching fearful dogs or even non-fearful dogs in regard to teaching ARE making a difference. Finding all of you has made a HUGE difference in my life. HUGE.

        As you may or may not know, I did not remain silent in regard to what I witnessed. This stand has cost me a great deal and the past two years have been extraordinarily painful in more ways than I can begin to describe. Coming up against a county government that engaged in, enforced and condoned animal cruelty when it was done at their hands, taking a stand against the style of “training” you have described from the video and what I witnessed with the seized dogs, and taking a stand against the “dominance” theory so heavily used and enforced by the “rescue” group has felt like a very lonely place for a long time.

        BUT, I was led to Roxanne by a mutual friend who thought we had a lot in common. And through Roxanne, I’ve been introduced to you and others who KNOW and apply a more gentle approach with great success. AND this has been a gift to me.

        Keep on truckin’ with your message because you are reaching people and the paradigm shift WILL come in a great wave.

        For Sunny, my Love and Joy, and all the other dogs out there in need of your influence on society — keep on truckin’!

    • melfr99 on

      Oh Penny. I am just horrified by your description of what happened to these rescue dogs. My Daisy could have been one of those dogs! I echo Debbie on this one. WTF is wrong with people?? And they call themselves “experts” and “rescuers”? AUGH!!!!!!!

      • pennyronning on

        Please give your Daisy a hug for me. I just left a reply to Debbie’s post and want to make sure you know it is for you, too. Blessings to you.

  7. Brianne on

    I have not seen the site or the footage, but I have no doubt that it would not sit well with me either.

    Is there any way to report this (if you haven’t already done so, that is) that way they can be put under investigation somehow? Although if it’s out there for the world to see, then perhaps it’s already errantly been deemed appropriate.

  8. hornblower on

    People abuse dogs, abuse children, abuse women, abuse prisoners…..& the justifications seem always to be rooted in belief. Facts are irrelevant. Belief & the cult of the personality sway people to do some truly awful things.

    • fearfuldogs on

      When I look at the image of the smiling ‘trainer’ holding the leash of a collared and muzzled dog, it is not a stretch to envision the pictures taken of bound and gagged prisoners being ‘dominated’ by their jailers.

  9. Edie on

    Some days I despair of human nature. Reading pieces like this contributes to that. But then I remember there are people like you and your readers who are trying to change this not-so-small corner of the world and I see a little light…

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sorry Edie. Didn’t mean to depress.

      There are many lights shining in the darkness.

  10. Louisa manning on

    Awful awful awful. If i had my way these people would be arrested and imprisoned and a law that days they are never allowed to own or ‘train’ a pet ever again. Just bloooomin downright outrageous some people really are evil in the world. Cesar Milan and the way the media make it look like sexy charismatic tv has a lot to answer for!

  11. Michael Baugh on


    Stay the course. The more information we put out there the better it will get. We should never give up hope. You’re part of the solution.

    – Michael

  12. Lizzie on

    And it’s not just in the name of ‘training’ that dogs are abused and mistreated.

    Puppy farmers are former sheep farmers and treat dogs as they would sheep. Cornering them to catch them with any piece of their anatomy they can lay their hands on, forcing them to walk on their hind legs or dragged along by them. Hobbling in order to slow them down, then the ultimate cruelty; forced mating. And don’t get me started on the horrendous conditions they keep them in.

    Is it any wonder that such dogs are terrified of people, I say people because the word ‘human’ is not befitting in this context. They should all be rounded up and shot.

    • fearfuldogs on

      No one can say we’re not a passionate lot!

  13. Ligea Ruff on

    I, for one, would like charges to be brought against a person who would perpetrate such atrocities on a dog, let alone have the gall to video tape it and say it is “training.” I pray that such misery and torture as this person put that dog through comes back to him ten fold.

    • melfr99 on

      I almost responded with an “Amen”, but I think I m going to pray that this disillusioned and ill-informed person comes to realize that what she considers training is in fact torture and animal cruelty. Just because someone watches a DVD or a TV show doesn’t mean they are a trainer. I pray for this person’s enlightenment and rejection of all of the methods she used with that dog. Maybe one day she will become one of the people who teaches others how to properly train a dog, with kindness and not cruelty.

      • Debbie on

        You are a way better person than I Mel.

  14. jo on

    That’s the saddest part of all… If someone managed to catch that on video, and the person dishing out the abuse was just a dog owner, abuse charges would be raining down.

    However – since this person has declared themselves a “professional trainer” it’s incredibly difficult to file charges that will stick. The lawyers will pull out the old books, state that these methods are industry-accepted for working with animals and he’ll walk.

    Until trainers, as a profession, band together to embrace humane standards publicly, I don’t believe we will see any change.

  15. Donna and the Dogs on

    This is all so sad. Even if this person is too blind to see the dog’s fear while working with them, you would think they’d see it when they re-watched their own video. How awful for that dog, and any others who’s owners try to mimic those methods….

    • fearfuldogs on

      You’d think wouldn’t you? Not the case. Once we paint a dog with brushstrokes of ‘dominance’ their every action is colored by it, and explained by it.

  16. fearfuldogs on

    Penny your story is chilling. I can imagine Sunny being ’rounded up’ as I recently was told by someone that it took a group of people over an hour to ‘catch’ him. He spent a month in a kennel by himself before being prepared for transport to Vermont. I have no doubt he was stressed for days on end.

    I have been at abuse and neglect sites helping to gather animals and even when done as kindly as possible is still horrifying to experience. A dog on the end of a catch pole struggling for its life is sickening. I attended a workshop with Mark Johnson DVM of feraldogs blog who teaches people how to use a Y pole. It’s one of the most humane ways I’ve seen of getting control of a dog. It’s uses are limited to situations in which a dog is in a confined area, but the stress level for handler and dog is minimized.

    I’m sorry that speaking the truth and bearing witness for those dogs has been so difficult. But I suspect that you could not have done anything less.

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