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Can I convince you to abuse your dog?

Now, I know, and I hope that everyone reading this would instantly say "No, no way, not ever could you get me to be mean, cruel, or abuse my dog".

But, what if I told you there is a high possibility it could happen to you and your dog!!

Let's go back to the 1960s when The Milgrim Experiment, " Understanding Obedience" took place.

The Milgram experiment was designed to test people's willingness to obey authority, even when that obedience caused harm to others. The study involved three participants: The Experimenter, The Learner, and The Teacher.

The Learner and Experimenter were both " in on it" but the Teacher was a real participant.

The Teacher ( the real participant) was instructed to administer an electric shock to The Learner whenever they gave a wrong answer to a question. 

The shocks started at a low level and increased in intensity with each wrong answer. The Learner was not actually receiving shocks, but they screamed out from behind a visual blocker and pretended to be in pain whilst begging The Teacher to stop. 

Despite this, The Experimenter instructed the teacher to continue shocking The learner. The Teacher was advised that the Learner had willingly participated in the experiment and wouldn't get paid if the experiment was not completed, The Teacher, although feeling uncomfortable with doing so, continued to administer the shocks to The Learner.

The results of the Milgram experiment were fascinating. Despite The Learner's protests and pleas for the electric shocks to stop, most participants continued administering shocks to the maximum level.

When asked by the experimenter why they did this, the answer was "Because you told me too".

The lines between right and wrong became blurred when an authoritative figure was in place and using the manipulation of words "you're doing them a favour, they chose to be here, they won't get paid if you don't administer the shocks" was all it took to convince The Teacher to keep shocking The Learner.

Fast forward to today when I recently watched Derren Brown repeat this experiment but in a slightly different format.

In a single phone call to a cafe, with the caller having an authoritative, confident tone pretending to be a police offer, they convinced a high number of unknowing participants the lady with the baby who had just walked in ( an actor) was wanted for kidnapping the child and they needed the help of staff members to remove the baby from the kidnapper, most staff members did steal the baby from a customer in the cafe!

So how does this relate to your dog???

Say you have a dog that is barking indoors, you reach out to a professional who is confident, and concise, offers guarantees they can fix the behaviour, and sometimes in a certain time frame.

They sound authoritative and confident that they can get you the results you want and understandably this can seem more enticing than the other professional you spoke to who told you, nothing is guaranteed in behaviour therapy.

You book them, you pay their fee and they arrive.

They walk in and instantly " take charge" They push your dog off the sofa, and although you feel a bit uncomfortable with this or you might even feel shell-shocked, what do you do?

You have booked this person, paid for them, and want to trust they know what they doing.

You are told that "your dog lacks leadership, you need to be Alpha and they need to know their place in the pack, if the dog does not know their place in the pack it is unkind to the dog because the barking you want to " fix" is because they have no leadership.

You are to blame for not taking control and being the leader they need!! 

You need to stop letting the dog call the shots ( make choices) because it's not helping them, it's causing the dog stress which is why they are barking. 

Don't let them on the sofa, don't let them eat before you do, and don't let them walk through doorways first, these are all the things an Alpha does first.

Most people already doubt themselves hugely, you now feel very insecure that have been "too soft" and this has created your dog's "issues".

A little "pop" on the slip lead to stop them barking doesn't hurt, slip leads are fine you are told, you just have to know how to use them correctly."

The professional seems to be saying they want to help the dog not be stressed so they can't be that bad, can they?

Maybe we should stick this one session out even if I am feeling a bit uncomfortable, what do I know, I called them, and I've spent money on this, and I won't get a refund.

SO......Let's look at this in stages

STAGE 1-The Buy-In

The person made you confident promises and you liked that, you booked and paid for that, so you are already at a disadvantage as you are invested, emotionally and financially. Consistently convincing you about pack mentality and leadership, they certainly sound knowledgeable, and other people wrote good reviews about them and I get loads of " after support"

STAGE 2 - Respect My Authority

These " professionals" appear confident, firm, even a little forceful, sometimes even intimidating, so the tendency to speak out or against them when they are sat in front of you is already greatly reduced.

"I've never had anyone come back to me saying my methods didnt work" is a well-quoted phase. Truth is they are right to a degree, people don't go back to them, but not because they were successful, that's just ego talking.

STAGE 3 - Taking Control - They often walk in and instantly start handling the dog, and the dog goes quiet. Mmmm maybe this professional is right, look the dog is quiet and has stopped barking, it's working, phew.

However, for the dog, a bullish stranger has just hoofed them off the sofa and is now acting quite intimidating and my humans are not helping me.

These methods are NOT working, they are just scaring the bejesus out of your dog. 

STAGE 4 -The Convincing 

Whilst you hear outdated crap about dogs being like wolves and pack mentality, scaring, worrying, and even abusing your dog ( such as a slip lead that stops them from breathing) is all nicely packaged up and sold to you as " being kind by taking the stress away from your dog and you being in control" by being a bully you are doing your dog a HUGE favour.

Just like electrocuting a man who's begging for you to stop could be overruled by a pushy person and some smooth talking about it being in their best interests


I have had so many clients racked with guilt after these one-session wonders have been in, bullied the dog or dogs, often made things worse, and then disappeared off into the sunset with their cash never to be heard from again.

So, if you think that you cant be influenced into abusing your dog, you absolutely can, it happens all the time to good people, people who genuinely love their dogs but fall into the trap of booking a certain "professional"

To become a victim you just need three things

1)A dog

2) A human seeking some help

3)Someone willing to be authoritative, convincing, and manipulating.

The Experimenter, The Learner, and The Teacher!!!

These "professionals" are preying on YOU, just as much as they are preying on your dog.

If something doesn't feel right, it can be tough to speak out, your heart will be pounding, and your mouth might feel dry, but you are your dog's advocate, and asking someone to leave is ok, you don't need to see the session through, so what if you lose money, you lost it the minute you paid for this type of service.

If something doesn't feel right STOP, give yourself time to assess what is happening, and stop The Experimenter hurting The Learner, no amount of money is worth putting you and your dog through that experience.

Your dog may not be the vision you had in your head, they may be annoying and frustrating, and you may be at breaking and rehoming point, but don't ever lose sight of the fact your dog needs you to be their safety net, the person they go to when feeling unsure, and don't forget there are amazing professionals out there that can genuinely help and support you.

They may not offer quick fixes, time frames, guarantees, and magic wands but they are the ones you should consider working with because they will work hard to get the best version of your dog possible by teaching compassion, empathy, trust, safety, and choice-based learning.

Be brave, be aware, and be prepared to STOP!

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