One dog's bully is another dog's best friend
By JOHN WADE, QMI Agency
Hello John: I recently went into a national pet store and was astonished to find how a so-called certified trainer was training a yapping dog. Every time the dog would yap, she would bang something and yell at the dog. She kept this up while the owners were walking alongside. The woman owner looked very uncomfortable with this process. Please tell me that this is not the way to stop a yapper, with bullying and aggression? -Lise
Dear Lise: Have you ever seen a mother dog apply an attitude adjustment? She’d make that trainer look like Mother Teresa. Nevertheless, I can’t support or condemn what that dog trainer was doing because I don’t know the dog they were working with.
With a “by nature” highly anxious dog I might consider such an approach abuse. With the attention deficit disorder types I wouldn’t expect them to bat an eye. With some dogs though, the artful application of an abrupt loud noise to get the dog’s attention followed up with some crystal clear “Mama’s not happy!” tone and body language might be just what it takes to connect the dots.
Some teachers drop books; others clap their hands to get an unruly class’s attention, coaches blow annoying whistles. Once they have their charges' attention, they communicate and sometimes they aren’t smiling and bubbly when they do it. Maybe that’s what the trainer was doing?
This is worth broaching because there is an odd group of dog trainers that believe that to be “humane” all “bad behaviour” is to be ignored and that if all "good behaviour” is rewarded that the bad behaviour will go away. They believe any form of discipline is abuse.
This is very dangerous because dogs, wolves, apes and even humans all pretty much take their little ones from birth to young adulthood through the measured use of reward and discipline. If this group of dog trainers gets their way, dog owners are going to have some very difficult-to-live-with dogs and it will cost some dogs their lives.
In the real world, if any species' parent were to be prevented from fairly addressing “bad behaviour” with appropriate discipline, all would soon find themselves with no one to whom to pass their genes. Discipline doesn’t mean mindless confrontation but it does mean that sometimes parents must address those that they love in such a way that makes ears go back and tails tuck. The truth is that appropriate and timely discipline comes from those who care for us and that’s what keeps it balanced. With our dogs it should be no different.
Truly professional trainers need to thoroughly understand dog behaviour AND individual dog behaviour. What is a reward for one is not to another. What is discipline to one will be barely noted by another. Being an all-positive reward good behaviour-only dog trainer doesn’t take a lot of skill, but then it doesn’t produce a lot of practical results either. One size cookie does not fit all.
True professionals look at each dog individually and let each dog communicate what counts in the reward and discipline departments. With that they can achieve results that produce a happy dog that responds to its lesson with, for example, “Oh, I’m not bad, and you’re not bad and even barking isn’t bad – but – barking in this circumstance is bad.”
John Wade helps dog owners through his books, workshops and telephone consultations. If you have a question, email him at email@example.com.