I could hear my Mom’s voice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Easy for her, she was on her way to becoming a Catholic nun before she met my Pop on a beach in Connecticut. She is hard wired to always be nice. Anyhow… I was sitting at a round table discussion with some other pet professionals discussing dog behavior and care. There was a vet, a couple of groomers, a shelter manager, another dog trainer, and me. The round table was an informational event open to the public. Dog owners were encouraged to attend and ask questions. There were a lot of training and behavior questions that the vet and the other trainer answered. I was keeping my mouth shut and I could feel my face becoming red and knew that my blood pressure was rising. As I was sitting there, I was listening to advice that I completely, 100% disagreed with. The other round table attendees all agreed with each other and I was keeping my mouth shut. I guess everyone noticed because I was asked if I had anything to share. I sat there and thought about my choices. I could: 1. Get up and leave.
2. Agree with the bad advice and keep things friendly. 3. Voice my thoughts. I work hard at not being confrontational, but this was too much. With my Mom’s voice echoing in my head I opted for choice number three and spoke up: “I disagree with a most of what’s been said here today.” “Would you like to tell us what you disagree with.” “Sure,” I said and then went on to contradict just about everyone at the table. The other “experts” were advising that training a dog should not be done until the dog is six months old. The other dog trainer and the vet completely agreed on this point. They were also telling the attendees that they should use a choke chain for training and that treats should avoided at all costs. They also said that a puppy should be kept in the house and have limited exposure to the outside world until after the vaccinations are complete. I almost literally had to put my hand over my mouth when I heard that one. I went on to explain that puppies should start training as young as eight weeks old. That a puppy can start to learn basic commands such as sit, down, stay, come, and walking on leash. I also added that keeping a puppy in the house and not socializing him can turn into a nightmare situation for the puppy’s owners. A puppy has a socialization period that has to be taken advantage of. The more the puppy is exposed to; up to between eight weeks and four months, the more stable she will be as an adult dog. The veterinarian was none to pleased with my comments and made it clear. “You are putting the puppy at risk by exposing him without proper inoculations.” I knew that was coming and was ready with my reply: “Do you know what the number one reason for dogs dying in the United States Is? ?” Before he could answer I followed up with, “Do you know the number reason for euthanasia?” I was hot now and still did not let him answer. “Behavior problems.” More dogs are put to sleep for behavior problems than for any other reason. We don’t properly socialize our puppies, we wait until the pup is six months old before we start training, then to top it off, we use negative, outdated, harsh and sometimes cruel training methods. When the dog becomes aggressive, fearful, or unruly to the point where we can’t control the dog, the dog ends up in a shelter, abandoned, or put to sleep. I added that the chances of a puppy dying from rabies, parvo, distemper etc. couldn’t compare to the numbers of dogs that were being put to sleep for behavior problems. The round table ended shortly after and I was never invited back. When I think back on the whole situation I guess I may have been a little out of line. BUT… I don’t apologize for what I said or did. I stand by what I said then and still do today. I not going to sit there and listen to advice that can potentially be harmful to a dog. As a result of this incident I wrote down what I think are the four biggest dog training disasters: 1. Waiting 2. Harsh methods 3. Giving up 4. Follow through With the advice given at the roundtable a lot of dog owners wait to start training. By that time their dog has developed some behavior problems. The dog training “experts” recommend harsh methods which often backfire. Because using harsh methods is not fun most people don’t follow through with the training. In the end they give up. They give up on the training and sometimes on the dog. Conclusion: Start training early, use lots of positive reinforcement, don’t give up and keep on learning about dog training so you can follow through and have a dog that is well behaved and fun to be around.