After video surfaced of trainer Jeffrey Schultz hitting and making a dog scream, Schultz defended his actions by saying that the context (the dog snapping at him) was omitted in the video. In a follow-up story on CBS by Jeff Paul, a past client of Schultz, Gary (who did not want his last name used) suggested that such measures were the thin line protecting children from being bitten and dogs from euthanasia. His reply when asked by the reporter if it’d be concerning if his own dog were so treated:
“Absolutely it’d bother me. But what would bother me more is if my dog bit some child at a park and then at some point it’s euthanized,” said Gary.
This logic has been completely debunked by all available research, such as here, here, here, here and here, position statements by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the American Animal Hospital Association behavior management guidelines, and the clinical experience of thousands of practitioners who treat the most serious cases and explicitly warn owners away from people such as Jeffrey Schultz. Because what he does actually increases the likelihood of aggression in dogs.
There is no context, circumstance or back-story that makes this stuff appropriate.
A superb blog post by Jess Miller that deconstructs the contention that “respect” can function as a motivator in dog training, along with why it’s appealing to people to wish for it to be so.
Housesoiling is always near the top of the list of behavior problems associated with relinquishment. Dogs also take a fair amount of abuse in the name of pottying. I have a current advanced student in Fort Lauderdale, Helen Verte, who is dazzling in many ways, but who has outdone everything I’ve ever seen on the topic of housetraining. It’s a one-hour, twenty-buck webinar, with the two great virtues of dead-on accurate, field-tested, can’t-fail information and engaging, client-friendly language and examples. Cherry on the sundae is it carries a CPDT CEU credit for trainers. She’s making noises about making it available as a lunch & learn for vet practices locally and I so hope she does that. Muah to her for this contribution.
MARKET RESEARCH ON PET DOG TRAINING
The Academy has enlisted the services of a marketing expert to find out what dog guardians want in pet dog trainers.
If you are a trainer, please share the survey link below with your clients.
If you are a dog owner, we would love if you could spare the time to get involved by completing the online survey. It should only take about 10 minutes. Your responses will be collated centrally and independently – they won’t be attributed to you personally. The link to the survey below – just click and you’re there.
Proponents of the use of pain and avoidance in training like to place themselves in the middle ground, using words like “balanced” to describe themselves and “extremist” to describe trainers who get the job done without hurting dogs. The most cursory examination of this framing, however, reveals that the underlying assumption – the reasonable, middle position is to employ pain and fear along with rewards – is faulty.
It’s basically a rhetorical trick. For instance, the force free could claim the middle ground by saying, “I’m a balanced trainer because I use a judicious blend of prompting, shaping via approximation, capturing and reward removal. I used to be more of an extremist, using and defending the use of motivators such as pain, startle and fear, but started migrating in the 1980’s toward this more reasonable approach.”
This 2009 piece is from a now-defunct previous blog.
When I first got into dog training, the mantra was “dogs are pack animals.” It was never questioned: dogs were strong bonding animals and fit into human families so well, sometimes to the point of developing bona fide disorders like separation anxiety. And a lot of behavior was deconstructed with social hierarchies in mind. Nobody examined what dogs do when they are not inserted into human families, i.e. are free-ranging. So a while ago I took a look at what is known about feral or semi-feral populations of dogs around the world. It turns out there are many such populations.