About 6-7 months ago I got an inquiry from a guy who had a puppy who was “boisterous” and he wanted “it” trained. He asked if I could I come for 2-3 days in a row and teach him basic manners and how to walk on a leash.
It was clear to me that he had no idea how dogs learn, but his request sounded so urgent that I agreed to those terms, hoping that I could explain some things to him and him on a path to understanding.
The evening before the first lesson he texted, apologized and said that his mother had offered to help and that he wanted to cancel. Fine.
To me this has turned into a very sad story. I see that pup almost every morning. I don’t know if the guy knows who I am. But here is what happened:
He talked to ALL THESE PEOPLE in the neighborhood who were “experts”.
In her book “Beware the Straw Man: The Science Dog Explores Dog Training Fact & Fiction” author Linda Chase calls these people “Joe, a guy next door who really knows dogs and has a lot of experience”.
The puppy continues to pull on the leash, jump all over the place, and the guy continues to be frustrated. I keep seeing neighbors giving him all these “tips”. One day not long ago, I overheard him boasting to a group that he hired a trainer who had told him to get this special collar and he was now confident that all his problems would be solved.
This dog was a perfectly sweet, happy enthusiastic puppy. Now he “finally” hired a trainer who has advised him to use a choke collar. Every time they encounter a dog (just like me and Snorri) the puppy jumps and wants to play after which the guy chokes the dog to the point where I can hear the puppy gag. It hurts me to see such stupidity and uselessness in these terribly timed, punishing actions.
It makes me worried about this dog’s future and it makes me wonder how much this guy enjoys his walks with his puppy and what kind of a relationship they have. Also, I wonder if all of his relationships are framed by the things that are wrong with the other person just like the critical way he sees his dog.
But mostly I feel bad for the puppy. Sadly our entire society seems to be driven by the reigning in of behaviors that are deemed unacceptable rather than increasing the motivation for “good” behaviors.