This weekend, alongside Crufts, Channel 4 aired a program called Dog’s Behaving Badly which was hosted by a self proclaimed ‘leading UK dog trainer’. It was immediately obvious that the man does not appear to be qualified and I myself have never heard of him. He offered very poor and highly dangerous advice for a range of dogs with behavioural issues involving aggression and fear. His moto is reward the good and punish the bad. Unfortunately punishment is a method that has been scientifically proven inefficient years ago. Not only does aggression used against aggression equal more aggression but it doesn’t give the dog a clear understanding of what you would prefer them to do instead! My own personal moto is to reward the good, prevent the bad (without force; such as ignoring or removing the dog using leads, distracting them, moving them away or separating with the use of baby gates).
So how did he get a prime time spot hosting a show on Channel 4? After delving deeper it appears that it is because he is a people person, he’s likeable, a good speaker and good at selling himself. However there does not appear to be any sign of qualifications either listed on his website or going by the types of methods he choses to use. He states that he got into dog training after 20 years of managing food processing factories, when his own dog trainer said he should, because he was good with people. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a very important part of being a dog trainer. Most of our job requires adjusting our advice to help motivate all types of people to be able to understand how to influence their dogs behaviour. However, a sound understanding of dog behaviour and learning theory is a must. You cannot be a good dog trainer if you do not know how dogs behave and are motivated.
Within a day of the program airing a campaign to get the show removed from Channel 4 has received the full amount of votes required. The man in questions Facebook page ratings have dropped from a clean 5 to 2 in a matter of hours with people outraged by his outdated training methods. I shouldn’t imagine it will be long before the RSPCA and Dogs Trust step in to offer their concern about the welfare of the dogs he works with. I don’t wish this man’s career harm but I do hope he changes his ways and studies dog behaviour before he takes on any new cases. Jo Rosie and Nando Brown, from last years credible hit TV show Rescue Dogs to Super Dogs, have already offered him a place on one of their 5 day training courses which will be a fantastic start. This uproar to a TV show is much the same as that to Jordan Shelleys on The One Show back in 2011. He has now gone on to thrive after retraining with many of the world’s leading behaviourists who stepped in to help. Fingers crossed the same will happen for the man in question.
Not only does Channel 4’s airing of this show jeopardise the welfare of their viewers dogs, whose owners attempt to copy his methods, but it has also seriously pissed off all the dog trainers in the UK that have actually bothered to study and spent their hard earned money learning from other qualified behaviourists (not to mention having to undo all the damage he is doing to the dogs he trains). I myself invest a lot back into my company because I will never know it all and want to keep abreast of the latest findings in dog behaviour. Over the years I have spent over £30,000 training (if we include my three year degree in animal behaviour). This last year alone I have spent £2,000 on courses to improve my knowledge of dog training and behaviour as well has how to teach people (I can’t normally afford quite as much training as this but couldn’t let the amazing courses this year slip through my fingers).
In summary, don’t become a dog trainer just because you’re good with people or because you love dogs. You must study, train and learn about dog behaviour otherwise you are risking dogs lives with poor advice. Equally, when seeking a dog trainer please ensure that they have trained in the field, on courses that are reputable and are not just people who love dogs. A great website to visit for trainers is www.apdt.co.uk and behaviourists www.apbc.org.uk. After all you wouldn’t hire someone without qualifications to look after your children or to do gas or electrical repairs in your house, why is dog training any different?
Pro Dog School. Reward the good, prevent the bad.
About the Author: Holly Keeling. Dog Trainer in Sussex, England. Mother to furrbaby Leskie 5yrs and little humans Teddy 3yrs and Louie 1yr. Outdoor lover. A blog about raising kids and dogs and my life as a dog trainer. View more blogs here.