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A Punishing Phone Call

January 29, 2009

I received an inquiry call this afternoon regarding training services for this persons brothers dog. The person that called is from out of state. She asked what type of training I offered, and what methods I use. I confirmed what my Web site says: positive reinforcement, reward based training. These are the highlights of the conversation:

  • Caller: “Oh, you use treats.”
  • Me:”I use whatever the animal finds rewarding, whether it be food, toys, attention, games etc… You can use anything the animal finds motivating as a reward.”
  • Caller: “So do you use those electric collars? The ones that shock the dog?”
  • Me: “No.” (I was perplexed, she said she read my Web site)
  • Caller: “Well, my brother has a pit bull who is getting more aggressive. And we’ve already tried the training with treats and that didn’t work. So now we’re going to go the other route. Do you know anyone who does that type of training in your area?” 
  • Me: “Uuhhh…  — No, I don’t.”
Okay, wow…wow. There were SO many words, statements, proclamations flying into my brain wanting to come out my mouth at one time, I didn’t know where to start…so I just bit my tongue and remained professional. After all, it would be hypocritical of me to use positive punishment, especially against someone I was trying to convince not to use herself.
I find it appalling that in this day and age humans still resort to this type of treatment of animals, expecting that they would actually learn something and learn it well. Allow me to make two remarks about this type of “training”:
  • Violence begets violence
  • There is nature vs nurture, but animals are a product of their environment. 
By the sound of her voice, she was in no mood to have any type of argument. She had made her decision, and that was that. She certainly didn’t want to get into some philosophical discussion on the humane treatment of animals, and the better way of training. Sure, it might take a little longer on our part, but in the long run it pays off really well. 
I can almost guarantee one hundred percent that reward-based training didn’t make this poorly misunderstood dog “aggressive”. I wanted to ask what the brother (or whomever has been with the dog) was doing in between training sessions? Or, if they were using other methods along with the treats… 
That’s a big misconception too…trainers that use “treats” but then alpha roll the dog or collar correct or squirt them with water…. Hello??? That’s like a spouse coming home, smacking their mate around, then buying them flowers! Talk about confusing… 
My only hope is that she didn’t find such a trainer…and that the next person she spoke with didn’t bit their tongue. 

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