As an organisation whose intention is the promotion of ethical and modern methods in dog training, we are often disappointed to see trainers on television programs using methods that fall far short of what we know to be the kindest and most effective.
As every member of our organisation knows, there is never a need to use aversive methods or equipment in training. We at The Dog Welfare Alliance reject the use of shock collars, prong collars, training discs, sprays, collar pops, tugs on the leash, verbal reprimands, bullying and shouting at or hurting a dog in any way. A good trainer or behaviourist will simply not need to resort to aversive methods.
When a trainer or behaviourist, on TV or otherwise, talks about being a “leader”, or the need to “show a dog who is in charge”, or attempts to “dominate” a dog in any way, then alarm bells should be ringing as these ideas have been long debunked, even by the scientists who came up with the ideas in the first place, who realised their studies were badly flawed. If a trainer is still teaching these methods, then their advice is simply outdated and, in some cases, dangerous.
A big problem with these kinds of programs on TV, is that people will follow the glossed over “training” shown on screen for a matter of minutes, without seeing the behind the scenes “training” that goes on, or the aftermath once the TV trainer has been gone a few months and expect it to work for their problems. The owners will copy the TV trainer while he attempts to dominate the dog, popping collars and generally bullying the dog into behaviour for the camera, and without an understanding of dog training and behaviour, when the aversive methods lose effectiveness, the harshness of punishment of the behaviour escalates.
The featured animals are also placed into situations where they are clearly stressed and unhappy in order to create footage of the problem behaviours for the program. These animals are not aware they are being asked to perform for a TV show and are often very distressed and/or afraid. While we understand that reward-based training might not make for the exciting or sensationalist TV, that these channels aim for, using dogs, or any animals, in this way for entertainment is plainly cruel.
We understand that people love their dogs and would like to know how to manage or even help their dogs with behavioural and training issues; we feel that instead of making animals suffer in the name of entertainment, while teaching their owners unethical and dangerous methods of training, making more factual and helpful programs using reward-based methods would be far more beneficial to those people who actually want to help their dogs with issues.
(We recognise that there has occasionally been reward based trainers given a platform on TV, such as Craig Ogilvie or Sarah Fisher, but these times are few and far between, sadly.)
We also recommend getting in touch with a positive, reward-based trainer or behaviourist who will be able to help them with their dog properly.