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This was a question asked of me this week and it struck a chord. I can rant all day about the dangers of using leash-corrections, alpha-rolling a dog, hissing and jabbing a dog in the neck or the haunches, or forcing a dog into submission in a fearful situation...but will my words make a difference if people don't know why they do what they do? Likely not.
This is that hardest part of my job – watching people do the above to their so-called "best friend". Would you put a prong collar or choke chain on your best friend and yank it when you felt he/she was acting inappropriately or not being "obedient"? I surely hope not; otherwise you'll have an empty phonebook in no time. Unfortunately our dogs don't have the freedom to choose their best friend – they're stuck with us for better or for worse or until we decide the relationship is severed.
The truth is, the TV/Media plays a HUGE role in our treatment of animals and I wish that Cesar's producers had listened to Dr. Andrew Luescher when it counted.
I think the biggest reason is that we are an impatient species and as time goes on and technology becomes more advanced, we are used to (therefore learn to expect) faster results every time, without question. We want our dogs to behave as humans and we want it NOW.
No thought is given to the fact that these are still animals who are in a domestication *process* that will never end. They'll never be human, yet we expect them to behave as we tell them to.
The other reason is that (thanks to popular TV shows) people don't know how to accurately read a dog. We think that a dog who lays down during flooding is a "calm submissive dog" when really it's a "emotionally shut down and traumatized dog". We misread all these cues; we call a dog stubborn when it's stressed and offering displacement behaviours or calming signals and we assume a dog is not trainable when we cannot be creative about finding his/her personal motivators. We punish warning signals (growling, snarling, barking) instead of listening to their communication and trying to learn their language.
We're becoming a lazy species and that's only going to get worse as technology gets better, I'm afraid. We are more focused on results than process, short-term rather than long-term effects, faster results and less "work", obedience rather than relationship.
Our expectations are way out of whack and we need to work harder to keep them in check. Here, we have animals who are genetically prone to aggression as a means of survival and yet we're asking them to live in *our* world and never raise a lip to protect a resource or bark in fear. We expect them to be okay with people practically molesting them on every street corner during our daily walks where we make them walk slowly and in an almost robotic manner. When a dog acts like a dog, we say he's misbehaving out of spite, as if dogs have it *in for us* and are conniving and evil creatures.
In the I.T. world, we have something called PEBKAC - Problem Exists Between the Keyboard and the Chair. In the dog training world, I call it PEAHOL - Problem Exists At Handle of Leash. (Yes, I'm aware that when you say it out loud it's "pee hole" and it's quite hysterical.)
The best feedback I got this week was:
"I really enjoyed the approach of working within the dogs' reality. None of our past trainers worked that way."
We all learn differently and so do dogs, so let's pay them the respect they deserve as they learn ESL (English as a Second Language) and be patient. The bottom line is this: would you prefer to learn at the hand of fear and punishment? Or would you rather learn while having fun?
Date: September 13th, 2011
Author: Caryn Charlie Liles
Copyright, Whatta Pup!
Whatta Pup! is a Toronto-based company that provides force-free, humane training for people and their dogs through behaviour modification, private lessons, group classes, seminars, workshops, and bite prevention education. We focus on setting our clients and their dogs up for success by teaching rather than using fear, pain, and punishment. Caryn Charlie Liles is Toronto's Regional Director for the International Positive Dog Training Association (IPDTA), Regional Coordinator for Doggone Safe, a member of various associations including CAPPDT, Truly Dog-Friendly, and more. Contact us today to find out how we can make your pup a happy one! www.whattapup.ca