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Dog Whispering, Or Dog Abuse?

These days it seems that no matter how many times statements are put out by Humane Societies, the AVSAB, the SPCA, the Pet Professional Guild and other animal welfare bodies, there are still number of so called "dog trainers" such as the Dog Whisperer and those like him, which includes The Monks of New Skete, who continue to hold sway. Some of them even get TV shows.

The dog whisperer books and CDs are everywhere. His books are even at my local library.

In that regard, I have a confession to make. When I see one of his books at my local library (a place I visit often) I move it from the "dog" section to another section far away, usually among the fiction books, maybe the "Mysteries" section, for his books are surely fiction and it is certainly a mystery how he has such a following.

Sadly, it is more than evident that the Dog Whisperer (let’s refer to him as the DW from now on) and the others like him, have devotees who seem to suffer from cognitive dissonance - even as you point out to them exactly how these methods are abusing dogs, they cannot see it. You could hold the evidence up in front of their eyes and they would be blind to it. This is evident by a comment I saw from a fan who says that the DW is not abusive and trains using basic communication. Unfortunately, this is completely untrue. This is simply because the DW quite literally does not understand even the basics about dog body language or communication.

Other typical DW fans will make similar comments . They come out wholeheartedly in favour of the DW and clearly understand nothing about positive training or the science that backs it up. These fans always proclaim very loudly that his methods are right and science is wrong. They can also be quite aggressive in their language.

They make their claims despite the fact that they clearly do not understand the principles of using positive reinforcement, as it is applied to dog training. (or even to life in general). They do not understand about the four quadrants, or about classical or operant conditioning. They don't understand that using positive reinforcement to train dogs does not mean it is a permissive method. There are consequences to actions but causing a dog pain or fear is not involved.

Even if presented with the science that proves that positive training works they would be quite literally unable to see it. These people question all of the research and data of the scientists that we, as positive dog trainers (who have usually spent many, many hours and thousands of dollars in pursuit of learning force free ways to train dogs) study in order to be able to train dogs without fear or pain.

Herein lies the problem; DW fans are gullible. He manages by sheer force of personality to make them believe that what they actually see on the TV screen is what actually happens in real life. He fools them into believing that nothing has been happening off camera - it does not occur to them that the dog may have first been subjected to actions to provoke and cause the dog to react so it looks good on the screen. They cannot bring themselves to believe that he could possibly hang a dog, or kick it in the ribs, pin it to the ground until it goes into a state of learned helplessness. (This is despite the many you tube videos showing him doing all of those things. I watched a well -known You Tube video of him hanging a dog until it virtually passed out. Comments below the video talked about it and most commentors said they were appalled. His fans however, absolutely denied what was in front of their eyes on the screen for all to see. This is sometimes called "Cognitive Dissonance"

A DW fan would not understand what the term “learned helplessness” means. They would however, understand the gobbledegook phrase "calm submissive" but that phrase has no meaning in science based dog training terms. The DW likes to use that phrase a lot.

When he says a dog is being "calm submissive" and makes it seem like A Good Thing, it actually means the dog has gone into a state of shock and consequently is displaying learned helplessness. Quite simply the dog has learned that it cannot help itself and shuts down. It is a sign that the dog is traumatised.

This is abuse, plain and simple. No dog should suffer abuse in the name of training. It is completely unnecessary. No dog should suffer the use of shock, choke or prong collars when there are ways to train without them. I've never had the need to even consider a shock, choke or prong collar in the course of training a dog.

I, and other trainers who use positive reinforcement can only wait for the day when the likes of the DW will disappear beneath a wave of understanding that there is a better way to train dogs or any species for that matter, without using old fashioned, years out of date methods.

Wouldn’t that be something?


Brentwood Bay