The many faces of "training"

I recently read this article; and posted it to my business facebook page. It was very good timing for me because yesterday I spent about 2.5 hours at a park that has plentiful walking trails as well as a fenced in dog park. I was there hosting/teaching one of my group classes and then had a private session with a client and her reactive dog that is doing so awesome we needed to find a new location with more "eye-candy." During the time I spent at the park I noticed a lot of things in relation to dogs, that made me sad or angry. While there were a few things that made me smile, unfortunately, the bad weighed out the good.

It seems I may be in a small niche of people that hone in on these things. My husband doesn't ever notice the atrocities to do with dogs and their owners that I point out to him. Once I do point things out, it usually rolls off his back as no big deal, or not his problem. However, when out with a fellow dog trainer, dog buff friend, breeder friend or dog rescuer, usually this topic comes up.

What did I see that made me so upset? I saw dogs on prong collars, dogs on choke chains, dogs on flexi leads attached to choke chains! I saw a few owners walking too many dogs into the dog park and as such, unable to handle them all or supervise them all and one got in a scuffle while she was reprimanding the other for barking. I saw a man with a portly lab without a leash, bouncing and bobbing along on the path while his owner bribed him with his chuck-it ball thrower. I saw many overweight pets and pets that were overheated or stressed. The worst "error" I saw was a man with two ill behaved german shepherds running amok and barking at the park who let his 1 year old son run around in the dog park! Later, I saw the same man attach his dogs to a leash coupler and let them drag him and his son to their pick-up where the dogs rode in the back of the bed unteethered.

There was some good things sprinkled in with the bad. I noticed quite a few front-clip harnesses. Most people had their dogs on 4 foot leashes (the flexis were far and in between). Nearly all the dogs were friendly and I didn't witness any full blown dog fights at the park. Another thing to add is that these dogs are out and about because their owners love them. They want to spend time and do right by their dog. I'm afraid it is that fact that makes the negatives so upsetting. It is pure misinformation that is causing these loving, well-meaning pet owners to use inappropriate walking equipment, feed their dogs too much food and use improper training techniques and judgment.

Before he met me, my husband and many of my friends, did not know that certain dog training and walking equipment wasn't good for their dog. It seems many people don't. Choke chains and prong collars are not appropriate walking devices and recently, I decided that I didn't want to walk my dog on anything touching her neck. is a great article to read if you need convincing about the dangers of neck walking devices.

Flexi leashes are also one of those things that get under my skin. I will be honest, I own two flexi leashes! I didn't buy them myself (they were gifts) and I rarely use them. The most use they got was when my husband and I lived in a tiny apartment in Oregon and our dogs had to eliminate outside on a grass area next to our unit. It was much easier for us to have them go potty on a long line where we stood on the sidewalk rather than walk with them on the wet lawn, or into the brush or behind the dumpster. I never hooked those up to the dogs to take a real walk. I usually tell my clients the only use I can see for them is for people who don't trust their dogs off-leash and are in a potential off-leash situation (such as on a hike or at the beach). is an article with some examples of how flexis are misused.

The off-leash dog on the walking trail was only frustrating to me at the moment as I was working with a reactive dog who would not have been happy if the lab would have broken his bumbling ball trance and came over to us. It is one thing to have a well behaved dog heeling off-leash and under control, and quite another to have a dog that is being lured to walk with the owner. It is a respect issue as well because what if a jogger was running that had a mild fear of dogs had to pass that off-leash dog? A mother with small children in tow? Thankfully, the lab did not come charging at my client and I, though we were about 100 yards away off the path in the shade of a tree.

My hope is that if enough people speak out about improper training devices and techniques, that things will finally catch fire and drown out the "noise" generated by the general public that has little knowledge of how dogs learn and what devices are appropriate. The article cited in the first paragraph mentions some of the great dog trainers and behaviorists of our time. These people (Dunbar, Donaldson, McConnell) are active in teaching seminars, working with clients, writing books, e-books. They have facebook pages, they have blogs, these people are internationally recognized and have best sellers! Why is it that more people have heard of Milan than the people that really matter? The people that are scholars, have PhDs and can back up positive dog training with science! It is heartbreaking for me at times the sheer amount of ignorance that comes with raising a dog. The literature is out there, the TRUTH is out there. People just need to seek it out! I know I can't change everybody or inform every dog owner in my town even, but perhaps someone will take the time to read this and the articles cited in this and they will change their opinion of how they treat their dog. Perhaps that person or persons will tell their mother or their best friend to not use a choke chain or maybe that person will tell a stranger at the park that throwing their dog on their back after a fight isn't teaching that dog anything. Just maybe..........maybe I can help a few dogs and people have a better relationship.