Outdated beliefs and training methods that rely on lack of choices, control. micromanagement and intimidation are sadly still all too common within the Dog Training and Behaviour industry.
I work with some amazing people, who like me, their compassion for dogs and dedication to making dogs lives better consumes our almost every thought, sadly though this isn’t true for everyone working with dogs.
I can honestly say that my heart breaks almost daily when I speak to clients and hear some of the things they have been told to do to their dogs in the name of Training and ironically support.
When we think about animal abuse we often think of dogs being hit, beaten or kicked and often we think about the owner being the person that is the abuser.
However, intimidation, lack of choice, threat of being harmed and creating low self-esteem are all forms of abuse, so it is pretty destroying when a well-meaning person has been advised by a ‘professional’ to do such things?
It’s even more upsetting when that advice has created emotional damage, the advice that well-meaning people paid for has if not caused, contributed, to the dog now having emotional issues and that’s if the emotional damage is recognised. Ots not uncommon to see dogs just shut down and both the owner and professional think the behaviour has improved, and it was a job well done.
Let me set the scene, that advice to grab a puppy by the collar and tell it “No” led to a dog that hated having its collar touched and worried about hands coming towards them.
You go to the vet, and they go to lift your dog on the table, the dog worries about hands coming towards them and bites, you are now legally accountable as you are aware your dog is a bite risk.
Your dog needs to go to the groomer every 6 weeks, but the groomer is going to need to take their collar off and touch them, you know a bite is a possibility.
Your dog gets out and someone tries to catch them by the collar, they bite the stranger, all this is now YOUR worry, your issue and you must think about every little thing to manage your dog and people’s safety.
If your dog has started to become fearful of other dogs because they are walked in groups that are not suitable for that dog’s personality.
If a groomer muzzles your dog and “takes no messing”
If a Vet gives behavioural advice when not trained in that field and tells you to leave your puppy to cry it out at night and you now have a dog with Separation Anxiety.
None of this is a bad dog or a bad owner, that was bad advice and a bad service!!
Unethical and uneducated advice can have huge consequences for the dog, and dog to human relationship and should have no place in modern society and even less place when people are being charged for it under the guise of professional advice.
I do however want to point out that no matter how reputable the professional is, YOU must put in the effort if you want to see change. You can’t buy a gym membership, not go, eat cake and then moan you have gained weight, that is not fair, but effort on your part and sound guidance from a professional will be a recipe for success and success comes on many levels.
Punitive approaches to behaviour have not only been scientifically proven to be less effective, but it also produces many side effects, aggression, generalised fear, escape/avoidance behaviours, shut down behaviour, and learnt helplessness are just a few of the soul-destroying ways dogs deal with abuse.
Your professional should encourage you to communicate kindly, compassionately and effectively so your dog can feel safe and happy to learn, you should be encouraged to work as a team.
That goes for every professional who works with you and your dog, from your Trainer or Behaviourist to your Groomer, Home Boarder, Dog Walker and Vet.
If ANY professional offers advice and it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and your gut feeling is usually worth listening to.
The basics you should seek when working with a professional
1) You feel comfortable implementing what was suggested
2) You feel comfortable asking the professional questions
3) Your dog sees learning with you as a good option, they are set up to succeed not to fail.
4) You and your dog feel safe and supported
If you are advised to reprimand your puppy or dog, spray them with something, shout, make them realise they have done wrong, stop them from sniffing, stop them from engaging in natural dog behaviours, intimidating them by being alpha or using dominant behaviour, confining them in crates unless you are engaging with them, not supporting them when they are scared, leaving them to cry it out, removing food and water, use unsuitable equipment, and control seems to be the focus, then I would suggest you walk, no run for the hills as fast as you can.
An ethical and reputable professional will encourage their clients to support the dog, allowing them to think and offer behaviours without fear of being corrected for showing initiative.
If you are working with someone and it doesn’t feel right then don’t be embarrassed to speak up, sadly not everyone is ethical and knowledgeable and not everyone will change your dog’s behaviour for the better.