Go with your gut

This image is one of my students who has never seen and never will see a choke collar. He is a star student in every way.

GO WITH YOUR GUT INSTINCT"So is it bad that she peed when he yanked and yelled at her?" This is what a woman asked me after talking to her about her experience with a trainer. I cringed as I pictured a sweet honey colored lab puppy being so afraid of the human on the other end of her leash that she peed. I was in a local furniture store and after reading the back of my xterra the sales asked me about the dogs. She told me about a wonderful young lab she had; sweet as can be and the horrible memories she had from the few training classes that they had taken her to. I explained further that I was a positive trainer and had no use for choke collars. The story was as follows:

The couple took their dog to a local "conventional" trainer. After the trainer told them what to do; they were told that they were going to ruin her and he took the dog; yanking and yelling her into submission. The sweet young lab then proceeded to pee on the floor. She had no doubt given all the signs of submitting to this horrible human but he did not stop in his abuse to her. This is sadly and far too often a reality for many. New owners feeling like they should trust the trainer hand their dogs over.

I have worked with many dogs; undoing what these harsh type trainers have done. Their answer for all dogs is to literally yank them into submission. And many use the psychological tactics; undermining the owners confidence. "You are going to ruin that dog." This is the same phrase told over and over to many new owners. One young Golden who was as sweet and amazingly smart as can be went through this exact situation. Unfortunately the owners turned this dog completely over to the trainer, only returning weeks later to find that their once bubbly and happy Golden was now a shell of what once was. They were mortified and explained to me; "we didn't know." Together we worked with the dog; lots of positive confidence building and he recovered nicely and is the amazing dog that he always was.

A dog trainers job is to build the guardians confidence; creating a sense of "I can do it" for the guardian. Afterall when the training is over; you are going to be alone with your dog so you have to have the knowledge to do it yourself. The training is mostly the owner; teaching the owner how to teach their dog.

Most recently I talked to a guardian who told me of the horror stories she experienced with a trainer. She said "they were so mean to her." She hated it and can't believe her dog had to go through this experience. So stop right here.

If you go into a situation and your gut tells you "NO." Then leave. Do not put blind faith in someone who is doing an unjust to your dog. Even if someone has been a trainer for 25-30 years; they could possibly be the worst there is. It was the "there has to be a better way" feeling that lead me to find positive training so many years ago. I started my training with one of the worst; harsh and demanding woman trainers there is. My experiences from this fuel my passionate about spreading the positive word. Our dogs deserve better.

There are so many people out there who are looking to make a buck anyway they can. They have no conscience; no passion for animals. These type people are driven by greed and power. I have met many trainers who are power hungry and use their physical power over innocent animals to fuel their pathetic thirst. I'm sick of it; but still today there are so many people who just don't know that there is a better way. So tell your friends; throw the word around as much as you can, positive reinforcement. With these two words alone; typed in to surf the web can bring a wealth of information for anyone who is interested.

There will hopefully be a day when we look back shaking our heads stating "we use to yank dogs around with a chain around their neck?"


  1. I have been a trainer for many years. I do use choke collars for very large (85+ lbs who are totally untrained) with the goal of moving off them asap.

    I think it is wrong to say they are ALWAYS bad....without one a downward spiral can begin----owner cannot control dog---and they wait until the dog is 1+ years to go to training----owner finally gives up walking the dog---dog does not get exercised and behaviors become worse---to the point they are given up or tied outside.

    I would NEVER use a choke on a puppy. I show the owners the quick pull and release---lots of praise.

    We use treats and praise. We look for small advances. No hitting, no yelling, nothing more than one pull/release, no prong/German collars.

    I think it is wrong not to take each dog on an individual basis. I have seen people dragged in to class---on the ground--by adult dogs they just adopted. They NEED an immediate solution. From there we can work on getting them under control and that collar off.

    Just as you say there is a better way, sometimes the better way IS A DIFFERENT COLLAR. Puppies are, of course, a different story.

    I agree, it concerns me when a trainer recommends something for every dog. I went to a fair---lots of rescues there---and the greyhound rescue dogs all were wearing the German collars. I was angry and spoke with the person in charge. One trainer. One way. So wrong.

    Puppies? Never. All dogs? Positive positive positive.

    I allow extremely large and aggressive dogs to come to my classes. Would you have a 125 person holding them with a harness or regular collar? Sometimes, they have to wear the basket muzzles....positive positive positive getting them on and used to wearing them....I go to their homes first (for free) to do this.

    I am simply upset with your article stating something as if it is a 'given'. Every dog is different. Cesar annoys me, too...all the same....they are NOT ALL THE SAME.

    Please post this.

  2. Dear Anonymous; this is my blog and this is where I share MY opinion. I used choke collars way back when I started training, now over 35 years ago. And because of my experience with them I will never use them again. It takes more of a thought process but in the end everyone is educated for the better.

  3. Ron (and dog 'Charley')Sunday, March 28, 2010

    I'm feeling very badly and confused at the moment my wonderful loving standard (6mos) has had a rough beginning. He's been yelled at, yanked on a 'chain collar' (lots). Example of the 'come' training: trainer teases dog with cheeze close to her then has the owner call and if no imediate response from the dog give a hand yank on the leash. When demonstrating with one dog broke the collar right off. I love my dog so much! I want him to be a obedient dog and be well trained but so many errors have been made. He has forgiven all of them and is still very very loving.

  4. Ron; many of us have done this to our dogs not knowing that there was another better way. Don't beat yourself up about it; learn and move on. Training should always be fun and there is NEVER a need in training to hit, yank or yell at our dogs.


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