Recently, here in Austin, Texas, a self proclaimed “dog whisperer” was arrested for animal cruelty charges. In my own experience in the ATX dog training/behaviorist world, I have had many clients that have used the services of said self-proclaimed “dog whisperer”. Some of the horror stories I have heard were very pale in comparison to what she was actually arrested for. I would like to address a few things in the article, and I would like to give some advice when choosing a trainer/behaviorist in order to avoid putting your dog through a traumatizing experience.
Here is the link: Austin Dog Whisperer Charged with Animal Cruelty
Here is a second link: Article 2
The article states that the puppy was wearing a prong collar and describes the tool as controversial. Well, as my clients know that I am strong advocate of these collars in a simple light pressure system that does not and will never require lifting the dog off of the ground and intentionally causing pain. In fact, the way she is using this collar here is by no means a proper means, and this clearly demonstrates her not knowing what she is doing whatsoever. Coming from the rescue world, I have been quickly able to rehabilitate dogs with a light pressure system far more efficiently and effectively than with treats, but this is not an article that pits balanced training vs pure positive training. This is to help you defend your own dog against con-artists like this woman.
When looking at her website, we clearly see a mess. A total influx of overwhelming disorganized information. This should be warning sign number 1 to people. Sending a clear and concise message is the goal in dog training, so if someone is not even able to convey that on their own advertising I would highly suggest that we run for the hills! This is a clear case of having watched one too many episodes of Cesar Milan.
When deciding on your trainer/behaviorist make sure you take the time to interview them. I personally will not start training with clients until we have sat down in person and have a conversation regarding their needs and my own philosophies and how we can reach symbiosis in bringing the two together. Never just hire someone, pay the consultation fee to interview the person, it may end up saving you money in the end AND most importantly save your canine from abuse. A good trainer/behaviorist will have a good understanding of Pavlovian concepts and operant conditioning while being intuitive to your own standings as a human. If nothing is mentioned about conditioning and how we achieve proper conditioning in canines, ask. If there still isn’t a clear answer, again, run for the hills. Working with people is just as important as working with the dogs themselves! If the trainer recommends a board and train program immediately then I would also be very hesitant to hire this person as one does not know what is truly happening behind closed doors. My clients and I work hand in hand to accomplish our goals with their dogs to the point that sometimes it is hard to say good-bye. If this is not the type of personal experience that you feel is offered then do not hire this person. Training your dog, should be, an intimate and special experience that should only be shared with someone you can relate with and trust. If your gut says,”no” then do not, by any means, roll with that person.
If a board and train is what is needed… let me actually go into this a little deeper. If you have grown tired of your dog, but love you dog, and just need this to get done and you have no interest in doing the training yourself then by all means this option is for you, but also be aware that this attitude and mindset is probably what caused the issues in the first place so when the canine returns home, LISTEN to the trainer/behaviorist that worked with your dog in order to maintain the training, follow directions.
So once again, if a board and train is what is needed, GO CHECK OUT WHERE THE TRAINING WILL HAPPEN. I am going to say this once and only once, DO NOT LET SOMEONE JUST TAKE YOUR DOG TO AN UNKNOWN PLACE! Everyday reputable training facilities are caught not upholding their standards, and it is truly sickening that people who make their living off of canines can not even give them respect and honor them for that. This is why I do tons of volunteer work. I make a great living working with dogs, and it is my duty to help as many of them as possible because of that. This profession is a long lost art that has been clouded with “dog whisperers” and “quick fixes” that only hurt our dogs.
Also, before sending your dog off to a board and train, I would recommend doing a one on one session with a trainer, and with that evaluate them. Look at their body language, are they tense? Are they quick to get flustered? if yes, then move on. If they are not smiling because of “minor” victories that happens in training then I would suggest you move on from them. It is so important that the person you hire to help you with your canine is balanced themselves while working with your dog, otherwise we are only going to end up with a train wreck.
As far as tools go, I am a strong advocate of prong and eCollars, when they are used properly that is. We have too many idiots in training world using high level corrections that aren’t needed. Listen, if a trainer goes directly to correcting without teaching these collars to a dog, then they are posers. Low level corrections, and low level stimulations are what we shoot for when dealing with corrections in general, unless the trainer is pure positive, but that is another topic of discussion. Personally, I label myself as a balanced approach trainer, we correct (PROPERLY!), redirect, and reward.
No one should be hurting your dog with malicious intent, ever. No one should take your dog without you knowing exactly what will be happening, and no one should ever tell you that swinging a dog by a prong collar and leash is acceptable. Let’s take care of our dogs, and if you have problems consult with a real professional. Many of my clients have said,”Wow, you are like a dog whisperer”. I am quick to refute that term and compliment because I have spent years learning how to do this. I have spent so much time learning from the greats, from my own dogs, and the countless rescues I have proudly kept in homes. I make no claims of extraordinary canine whispering abilities, as I honor my own learning process, and I honor the trials and errors that I have faced. True passion, regarding canines, comes not from humanizing them or acknowledging ourselves as one of them, it is a direct reflection of the work we have put in and the acknowledgement that the inter-speci relationship between Homosapien and Canis lupis familiaris is fucking special.