Sunday, August 14, 2011

Always Get a Second Opinion

Yesterday I was perusing the internet, looking for different dog training websites. I like to see what other trainers are suggesting and see if I can learn something from them; whether good or bad. I came across one website that boasted "1600 pages of dog training" information. It also had free podcasts and so I thought I'd check it out. When browsing the list of article topics I happened across one entitled "training with E-collars." I am not a supporter of E-collars and would never tell someone with a pet dog to use one. I was a little put off, but continued looking, thinking that perhaps this guy had something worthwhile to say since he declared that he had over 45 years of training experience. I'm a newbie; I could definitely learn a thing or two from someone with so much knowledge; or so I thought.
I found the list of his podcasts and clicked on the one titled "Marker Training." I do agree with "marker training," which basically means you are clicker training your dog. He suggests that you don't necessarily have to use a clicker, but rather a specific word. There were a few reasons for this, one of them being that most average dog owners do not wander around with clickers in their pockets. I agreed to some extent and also felt that he made a valid point since Glacier and Roscoe work just fine without the clicker. That said, I'm not here to debate the helpfulness of the clicker because I think it is a good tool, it just may not be practical for some people. Listening to this part, I thought that perhaps he did have something valuable to say, but as the podcast progressed, I became more and more horrified.
The trainer with 45 years of experience, started discussing food motivation and how to get your dog more motivated if they are not so interested in treat rewards. He pointed out that perhaps the food reward is not valuable enough for them. If that is the case, find one that is.
Okay, that makes sense to me.
He then said that if your dog is not food motivated there are two ways to increase that drive.
1. Put your dog in its crate, show it its food and then feed it to another dog. withhold your dogg's food...for the whole day!
2. Don't feed your dog for at least a day. According to this trainer/breeder, two days is okay as well. He says not to deprive them of water, but letting them go without food for two days is fine.
Whoa. Wait! What?!
If my dog is not food motivated, you want me to starve him? Pardon me? He didn't use the word  "starve," but that is what is happening. This is, in my books, abuse. Sure sometimes your dog has to fast due to a stomach bug or a surgery, but you are not teasing it by feeding another dog in front of it, all in the name of teaching it to sit. Not only is this abuse, but this causes competition amongst dogs and aggression issues. It could also cause food aggression issues. Also, how is your dog supposed to focus on training when you have food in your hand and it is starving? This technique/suggestion is completely inhumane and disgusts me. Why not find something that does motivate your dog? Toys work for some dogs just as well as food for others. Why I kept listening I'm not sure, but I clicked on one more podcast and it was after listening to half of the nine minute rant that I couldn't stomach anymore.
The next podcast I selected was called "Who Can Pet your Puppy." I have been reading a lot of dog behavioral/psychology books, so I thought this could be interesting. It was interesting all right, but not in a good way.
First of all, he says that no strangers should pet your puppy. He says that this keeps the dog from being distracted by other people and looks only to you. Okay, I guess this doesn't bother me as much as starving your dog, but it still bugs me. Never ever letting another person pet your dog can be problematic. Dogs will become suspicious and aggressive towards strangers if not socialised properly. There are so many examples of dogs who have to be focused on one person-hello, service dogs-but when they are puppies they are allowed to be pet by people. Sure, there are times when the puppy/dog may not be interacted with and if you are granted permission to pet the dog/puppy must be behaving in a certain way, but exposing these dogs to as many people and experiences make them who they are. Many of the studies I have read recently talk about how isolation and/or neglect causes damage that cannot be reversed. He said that even people within the family cannot pet the puppy, except for the person who owns the dog. Um, how are you supposed to tell your four year old daughter that she may not play with/pet the family dog? Why even have a family pet then? He says other family members can feed the dog, but cannot give commands. They can even bring the dog for a walk, but again cannot issue a command or play with the dog. apparently in his family, each member has their own dog and they only interact with that dog. What family can have a dog for every single family member? What if you have four kids? That is absolutely ridiculous. All of this advice is extremely counter-intuitive to me, but this is not what made my blood boil.
Further into this wonderful podcast he started talking about ways to ensure no one touches your dog. He tells his clients to make service dog vests for their puppies so that when they're out in public, no one will pet them.
*Takes a deep breath*.
This makes me so furious that I don't know if I can write very eloquently  about it.
What he is doing is not illegal, but it should be. It is because of people like this that Assistant dog handlers have  so many problems in public. He says that he tells his clients not to take their puppies in anywhere with the fake vest on, but how the hell can he guarantee that no one does that?! He is extremely ignorant of the working dog world, even though he claims he trains working dogs, and his ignorance makes other people's lives more difficult. Of course we are not informed of what kind of working dog he trains. Perhaps somewhere else on his site he states it, but I am not willing to go back there to find out. Apparently a disabled lawyer emailed him and expressed her anger about his advice. How do I know this? Because he states in his podcast, quite aggressively I might add, that he told her "to go pound sand" because she obviously "could not see that she was wrong." She's wrong? How does that work? She has a wright to be angry. Owning/working with a service dog is a privilege, as I've mentioned a million times before, and if some moron wants to falsely impersonate a puppy in training we have every wright to be angry. I think what makes me  the most mad is that he tells people to do this. It's not just something he does on his own, but he tells the average dog owner to make a vest and take their puppy out under the guise of it being a puppy in training so that no one pets it. This in itself illustrates how ignorant he is because if he really knew anything about service dogs, in training or working, he would know that they get pet anyway.
What happened to his mouth? It seemed to work well on his podcast. Can't he just tell people to speak up and ask the public not to touch their puppies and explain why?
I am sure there are more training abominations on that website that I don't know, or want to know about. I stopped listening after the "dress your puppy up as a service dog in training to get people not to pet it." Oh, and the extremely rude response to the lawyer's concerns. I didn't want his site to benefit from me being on it and watching the rest of his podcasts. Plus, I'm not sure I could have handled listening to anything else by him.
I had set out yesterday to learn something and at first I thought I hadn't, but in reality I did: I learned that there is a definite need for public education about service dogs and that there is a definite need for dog trainers who do not use cruel and inhumane training methods. I also learned that there is not any legal action that can be taken against this idiot, despite him defrauding the service dog system. So, I wrote this post instead in the hopes that someone else will read it and research their options before selecting a dog trainer. Ask questions about their training methods and if they seem shady, get a second opinion.

5 comments: said...

What makes me angry is that anyone can call themselves a trainer. Of course, our actual guide dog trainers are state certified. However, the average person goes to a class or finds someone on the internet that may or many not have any good experience. Clicker training can be a great training tool. I trained my Golden with snapping instead of clicking. I use this snapping for come, down, sit, stay, etc. As for E collars, the only time I see them necessary is for hunting training and field trials. As for not petting a dog, I'm sorry but even law enforcement dogs can be pet in their off time. I'm grrr right along with you!

K-Koira said...

Wow, I'm not sure if I'm more surprised by this trainer's stupid inhumane methods, or by the fact that I can still be surprised at people being stupid.

Jess and Glacier said...

Can you guys feel my rage? LOL
I'm right with you-I wasn't sure if I should be surprised because someone was such an idiot, or if I was surprised that I was surprised that someone was being an idiot...did that make sense? :)
I use snapping with Glacier as well. Most of the time it is to get his attention back on me, but it would be an excellent replacement to the clicker.
Thanks for reading. :)

browndogcbr said...

Hi Jess,

There are so many people on the Internet who want to con people and take their money under the guise of being professionals that they are not!

I'm very familiar with e-collars. They do not work for all dogs and are only for dogs working at a distance from the handler. It isn't magic and requires long training BEFORE using one. I've been around them since...I won't would give my age away.

The first time I ever saw an e-collar I was working with a trainer with field trial Labs. There were ten dogs with live birds. Only one was wearing an e-collar. Asking about it, I was told that one dog just got out there and ignored the whistle and the birds, swam around and had a jolly old time. So when the whistle blew the dog was given an instant to respond, then given a "nick". It only took a couple of retrieves for the dog to be working perfectly to the whistle again.

Most of the time if you see a hunting dog wearing an e-collar it is never used, but it’s there in case he fails to respond to you, especially if his life could be endangered.

Sorry to be so wordy, but I thought you might like to know the intended use of the e-collar. It should NEVER be used on a dog that is not fully trained.

Like many things in this world, there are people who use and abuse its use. If the dog doesn't understand what he is being asked to do, no amount of correction will help. You're just ruining a good dog.

As always I enjoyed your post.

BrownDog's Momma

P.S. You know you inspired my post today. It continues tomorrow on another tangent.

Jess and Glacier said...

Hi Brown Dog's Mama: I completely agree. That is why I don't think Ecollars should be suggested for the average pet owner. They are just that, pets and probably aren't trained yet...and most people don't know what they are doing with them. LOL
PS: Thanks. :) I was very excited to see your post. I'll check out the new one for sure. :)