Have you noticed that I get just a little nuts when I see or hear someone treating a dog in a less than positive way? Time and again, I tell myself to stay silent but, like an unneutered dog, I am driven by forces beyond my willpower to keep my mouth shut.  As I try to explain how positive training methods are preferable in order to preserve a happy relationship with the dog, I see that I am turning people off – but I can’t stop myself.  Friends have coached me about my approach, that I’m too direct.  I agree!  But I can’t stop.  I am so passionate about helping animals plus I have the education, experience and scientific research to back that up.  Will the price I have to pay for this passion be the loss of acquaintances?   Is that the sacrifice that anyone who takes a stand needs to pay?

In the animal sheltering world, there are a lot of opinions about how to train dogs or how to correct behaviors. Surprisingly, choke chains, prong collars and even shock collars are still prevalently used and promoted as well as a lot of yelling at the dogs. Many shelter workers have never had formal training but have learned by what has worked for them.  Quite a few dog trainers learned this way too. For instance, I recently heard of a trainer who recommends squirting dogs with a spray bottle when the dog misbehaves.  Can it work?  Of course it can, for some dogs. But there are dogs who will simply ignore the spray while others will be scared by it and become fearful. The trainer obviously has had success with this method; that’s why she advocates it.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t had the training to find better ways.

Shelter workers, of all people, should be tuned into best practices that create a happy dog and preserve the relationship with their families. After all, many dogs are surrendered to shelters just for the fact that the dogs have behavior problems, either due to lack of proper training or from the owners treating the dogs in ways that destroy the relationship.

I suppose it is human nature to stick with what works for you, especially if you have worked in a field for many years. But I am just as steadfast and will remain passionate – okay, pig-headed – about positive training methods for dogs. I love dogs so much and want what’s best for them. If I can educate just one person, then it’s worth turning a few people away.

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