Written by: Robert Vaughn
Daniel Audet: Robert Vaugh is an appreciated member of the the Balanced Trainers Forum. Robert brings with him extensive training experience in the areas of Scent Detection and Search & Rescue dogs.
I know that this post is bound to bring a fair amount of criticism from those involved in the world of rescue dogs from bad situations. My advice is that if the shoe doesn't fit, don't attempt to wear it. You can read this post and then be honest with yourself whether this applies to your resuce or not. If the shoe fits you won't get any apologies out of me or Robert.
To make matters worse Shelters have now gone on the offensive ... http://www.balancedtrainers.com/bloggers/entry/loving-a-dog-to-death
They are now intentionally trying to damage businesses that have a good track record of saving dogs from being euthanized. How wrong is that?!
I am not a person that adopts dogs from a shelter. My dogs are acquired from a responsible, knowledgable Breeder. In some places that confession is comparable to confessing to any number of heinous crimes involving livestock, Meth labs, or eating kittens. Don’t know what else to tell you about that…But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the industry, OR the animals. I DO volunteer time to keeping the homeward looking dogs happy and exercised.
I’ve worked with behavior problems successfully, and if I do say so myself, made a couple of them adoptable. It can be satisfying, and fulfilling work, watching a formerly “Reactive” dog walking out with his new family on a loose leash right past 40 people without so much as a sneeze. But that’s all behind me as of today, until such time that the dog shelter organizations put political correctness and the cult of personality behind it. (Uh Oh…He sounds TICKED!)
Actually, I’m more Saddened than angry…I like helping dogs. But the cult of the Positive Only trainers has managed to usurp the Shelter industry. And they mean to make everyone submit to a method that damages dogs more than they will ever admit…
Arriving at my voluntary time for exercising the dogs today at a local county shelter, a sign was posted saying to all that walked in, “Dogs within this facility are handled in Positive, Reward based Methods Exclusively. Our clients and volunteers are obliged to follow these methods before, during, and after adoption, Training is available for anyone interested.”
In the immortal words of one Scooby Doo, “Ahh-Roooo?? Ruht Roh, Raggy”… Under my breath I asked ,” When have I ever been anything but positive with any dog? Even the crazy mutt that tried to eat my face?” A week later I walked that dog around the campus here…Others would have killed that dog…
Later in morning, a small meeting was held with the volunteers, conducted by the Director of the facility. A nice, well meaning lady in her ’50′s, and an enthusiastic dog-lover, she began with the greeting of someone recently indoctrinated into a cult.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you volunteers here that work with our dogs! I want you all to know that we have something special for you all that we want you to embrace! We have invited a wonderful professional Dog Behaviorist here to give you all training that you NEED!” Her name is **************, and she’s an expert on Clicker-Training and Non Aversive Training. All of us will be better able to help our resident dogs prepare well for their going home…” (I’m not giving her name, as this is not meant to personally bash anyone. ( You’d know of her.) “I was privileged to hear her speak and teach for 2 full days recently, and I must say, never having any formal dog training education myself, I was very impressed!! She’s so kind to the dogs, and there’s never any punishment of any type to the dogs. When they misbehave, you simply IGNORE the behavior until they stop. When they do something right, they get a nice treat! By the way, I’ve brought back a nice gift for all of you…
She produced a shopping bag filled with small, belt worn treat bags. She passed them out, sliding one under my lower jaw which was pressed firmly against the table top, resting in a puddle of drool and disappointment.
“Each of us will be trained to help our adopters use this method as well. I think you will all find this very exciting, as it is the latest in behavioral science…Most all of the better, most qualified facilities around the country will be getting this program over time. I think that you volunteers with dog-training experience will especially benefit from this new training. We’ll have no more hanging dogs from a leash here again…You’ll find it unnecessary going forward.”
One of the volunteers raised her hand slowly…“When did someone here hang a dog from a leash?” she sounded almost conspiratorial.
The Director answered in a slow, rehearsed voice. “Well, never to my knowledge, but she showed us a compilation of punishments that different trainers have used. It was awful….and we won’t have it here in any way shape or form. The seminar will be next Saturday from 1 until 5 pm. This is a mandatory meeting.”
As the meeting ended, most of the volunteers filed out, thinking that something great had just happened. I, and one other volunteer stayed seated. The Director looked at us confused, “Is there something more?” she asked, genuinely interested. That’s her greatest strength by the way. Wholly Dedicated, but with little knowledge of dogs.
“Well, I guess there is a question or two…” I began. ” Has there been a problem with the way that we’ve been working with the dogs? Has there been a complaint or a dog that went crazy on somebody?”
“Oh No, No!!! You’ve both been great with the dogs! Even ones that we thought were headed for euth services…But this is the future of dog training, the latest science. (She had zero knowledge of how long OC has been around) I thought you’d jump at the chance to learn from ***************. She’s written books and made DVD’s…apparently she’s quite well-known.”
“Oh we know about her…and her method. But we’ve also tried the method, and found that it just doesn’t solve the needs of the dogs. It’s an incomplete way of training, and doesn’t do anything to solve behavior problems in any dog. Clickers have a small place in a trainers bag of tricks, but there are also other ways. You know yourself that every dog is unique and has different needs…What ********** does just doesn’t cover them all. A more Balanced Approach is the what helps the dogs…not plastic toys. And the other consideration is this in regard to Clicker training…It can’t be taught over the course of two days! Once ********** leaves here, you’ll have an entire volunteer group doing it wrong anyway. Confusion will reign, as you have bad science being used by poor performers. Most of the dogs that pass thru here either arrive with issues, or develop them while here. Non-Aversive training will only create more issues that will create behavior problems. You, more than all of us, must know how many shelter dogs are euthanized each year because someone ”In the Know” says, “ that dog can’t be helped, so killing it is the only safe option .”
She looked at us like she knew a secret kept from us. “Well, I think this is the right thing to do for the shelter…Are you aware that in Europe, Wales I think she said, and in a couple of states here in the US, there is already legislation to ban certain training tools and regulate the dog training industry based on training methods? This is coming, whether anybody likes it or not…You have to keep up with the science.”
The rest of that conversation was short and concise, ending with myself and one other talented dog trainer resigning from volunteering at the Rescue. Political Correctness has come home to roost in Ohio. And it’s probably headed for your home as well, under the guidance of the local political correctness squad. Over something that ”correctness” doesn’t begin to fathom….Our ability to train our dogs in the best methods for them…Balanced, kind, and uniquely suited to each dog, has been, and will be, under fire by these groups until we, as balanced trainers/handlers begin to defend what’s right.
This is why I’ve begun looking for other trainers/handlers and Dog Writers that truly understand dog learning and training. balanced trainers that become experts at understanding which method(s) works best for the dog. Not Non-stop treat dispensers, like some sort of Human Pez Dispenser filled with kibble. Not brutal in any way, but capable of understanding and utilizing the power of aversion. Or before you go there, punishment of a proper degree. I’m happy to see a few of them out there now beginning to stir the pot and educate about Balanced, natural training. People like Wade Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Kevin Kinker, Kevin and Cheryl Goedes, and others I’ll mention in another post. I don’t mean to leave any other talented trainers off this list, but know that I see and support you on this blog as best I can, and will continue to do…It’s time to stand up and take back the dog training world before legislation DOES suddenly oozes into our local government.
We need to work together against a small but media savvy machine that’s been operating for several years while we were busy training, competing, and correcting bad behaviors, thinking that we were not in danger from the sources of self-proclaimed experts. If you train in a balanced way, if you can write or make video of balanced training, get your stuff out there. Make kind, instructive, comments on Facebook and the chat rooms. Explain why Natural, Balanced training is the best way in calm, Professional tones and terms.
We have a lot to lose if we don’t get serious and SOON…If it takes a few minutes away from working in the field with the dogs, use your communication time to teach the dogs a good long “Stay”. YOUR help is needed, along with your skills, talents, and determination to train well!