I recently had perhaps one of the most heartbreaking consultations that I’ve had in a while. Wonderful people came in with a dog whose reactivity they’re struggling with. They had a story almost identical to dozens of students that I’ve worked with that have come out of the same dog training, (I use that term loosely), academy. I literally get dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog….ok you get the point…that fall out the back door of this place and they all have been told the same things about their dog and it’s behavior:
“You need to lower your expectations.”
“Maybe your dog has a learning disability and that’s just something you need to accept.”
“You’re just not trying hard enough.”
“You know, we may need to consider that the dog’s quality of life isn’t good and euthanizing the dog may be the best option.”
“This dog is too much of a risk to society, you need to do what’s best for humanity and consider euthanizing.”
“Medication is necessary if we are going to get anywhere here.”
These dog owners have also always been subject to incredible indoctrination and propaganda, although that’s true of any student coming out of a positive only training school not specifically unique to this place. While they would never dare to question the positive only “science” based training or as I have coined it, “limited science training,” they all have the same questions for me almost verbatim:
“If I correct my dog for reacting, how will that not make them afraid?”
“If I correct my dog for barking or growling, they’ll stop showing warning signs and then won’t we really be in trouble?”
All the students coming out of these schools have been just drilled with the same garbage over and over and over until they become little positive only robots out there in society propagating the same nonsense and not getting anywhere with their dog’s behavior. You can’t correct your dog, they’re told. Correcting your dog will cause it to be afraid. Correcting your dog will only suppress the behaviors not change them. Correcting your dog will cause your dog to hide their warning signs. Correcting your dog is abuse.
Well how about this you positive reinforcement only dog trainers, you who use shotty research, and you who deceive, the omission of correction that could eliminate these behaviors is abuse of the dog. You are dog abusers by omission. The taking of money by hard working people and having them attend class after class after class for not weeks but years without getting any results is human abuse. It’s outrageous, it’s thievery and it needs to stop.
So quickly, let’s break down some of the lies starting with the biggest one;
Will correcting my dog for reacting cause them to be afraid? No. For starters, the dog is already afraid. If they weren’t reacting and barking and lunging, they’d be cowering, hiding behind you or trying to flee. Typically, the early signs of fear are missed, overlooked or ignored. The dog is then forced into these scary situations repeatedly until they finally figure out that if they react, they feel better and the stimulus moves away.
When we correct these behaviors, what happens?
The dog will stop the reaction and initially may act fearful around the stimulus. Enter the limited science trainer (screaming, arms flailing and finger pointing), “See!!! See!!! You corrected the dog and now they’re cowering or hesitating every time you walk by that cat. Abuse! Abuse! Monster, stop the abuse! Oh the poor animals!”
But this is where you’re being deceived.
Whether the deception is intentional or the result of your trainer lacking intelligence and the ability to think logically, deception it still is.
The positive trainers are lying when they say correction will cause fear or they’re just not smart enough to realize the dog was always afraid. Once we inhibit the reaction, we see the real dog. The true dog. The dog that is afraid.
The dog’s response to stimulus is not a result of the correction, the correction is not the causal agent of the fear, again, the dog has always been afraid of the stimulus. The behavior and coping mechanism has now changed and we have inhibited the reactivity through proper correction.
This takes us to our next piece of propaganda. When you correct the dog, you simply supress the behavior. Well, this is true and you’re correct that we are supressing the dog’s outrageous behaviors of barking, lunging, screaming and generally acting a fool in public.
The piece they leave out is that suppression overtime does allow for a change in the dog’s mind.
When the dog is actually calm and in low drive, they have the ability to learn other behaviors. They also are given the opportunity to be worked through these “scary” situations in a calm state of mind which allows them to build lasting confidence and the development of productive coping skills.
Enter the limited science trainer (screaming, arms flailing, finger pointing and now likely foaming at the mouth), “Not true. Science doesn’t say this. You can only change the brain through classical conditioning and positive reinforcement. Monster. Abuser….Da-Da…Dummy...L-La…Loser.”
Well, nothing we haven’t heard before. Quite nasty these “positive” people get when you call out their lies.
Limited Science trainers always say the same thing.
Science says you have too….
Science says you can’t do…blah…blah…blah…always talking and very seldom actually producing any sort of lasting result as it applies to behavior modification, but talk they will. Louder they get. All the while, the students keep tumbling.
I know I’m being harder than I usually am, but this stuff is important and it needs to be called out because dogs are dying here and I mean that literally. Dogs are dying in this training academy and similar academies across North America. Every student who falls out their back door tells me stories of other dogs in the class not making progress that have been euthanized.
These positive reinforcement “trainers” are suggesting owners kill their dogs before they will correct them.
This is not a joke.
This is real.
This is happening. Every. Single. Day.
Dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog after dog, is given up on first by the trainer and then by the dog owner who is left feeling completely hopeless.
And while it’s true that sometimes a dog may need to be euthanized, I plead with you dog owners to exhaust all options first.
You don’t need to lower your expectations, you need to raise them.
Expect more from your dog. Expect more from your trainer.
If your trainer has actually recommended that you medicate a dog or euthanize a dog before they’ll recommend trying an e collar or prong collar, you need to think really hard about what kind of person they are and then ask yourself what kind of person are you?
Are you really going to kill your own dog before you’ll correct a behavior?
Has your thinking been that poisoned by these people masquerading under the guise of “science-based” training?
You will kill your own dog who you adopted, or who you raised from puppyhood?
The animal who relies on you for everything they need. The animal who has bonded with you and loves you and is a direct result of the training (or lack of) that you chose to engage in?
Are you really going to sentence that animal to death because a correction is “just too stressful for them?” Are we that pathetic as a people that we think it’s better to kill something than to correct it?
Is this what science is telling us? Obviously not and there are four quadrants in learning theory, after all.
While I am aware that there is extra emotion in this piece, I think sometimes it's ok to get a little fired up when we're talking about the life and death of an animal. Our choices and our convictions matter. They have consequences on dog owners and on the dogs we love. Whatever the ideology, if you're holding fast to something that isn't working, I think exploring another training option- no matter what that may be- makes a whole lot of sense.
Meagan is the founder and owner of Mayrich Kennels Inc. and is one of the leading dog trainers working in behavior modification, today. With over 12 years of professional experience in this area specifically, she has spent her entire lifetime and professional career working with aggressive dogs and dogs with severe behavioral issues. This work has led to the development of the widely successful programs offered at Mayrich Kennels Inc.
Meagan coined the phrase "positively abusive" dog training and is adamant in speaking out against the dangers of purely positive dog training and the consequences and negative impact that limited science and closed mindedness is having on dogs, today. She is an outspoken advocate for the most pervasive, gentle, humane, lifesaving and effective training tools we have in the industry today; the Prong & Electronic Collar.