ABUSIVE TRAINING

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]

I warn people all the time about bad dog trainers. There is a difference between giving a dog a fair correction, and abusing a dog. Good training involves teaching the dog what to do, and giving the dog proper positive reinforcements for correct behaviors, and sometimes negative (or no) reinforcements for incorrect behaviors. Bad training goes all the way from just being incompetent to being criminal. I have had 2 personal experiences with bad training with my dogs over the years. In both instances, I quit the training. The first instance was with my dog, Kate. We were teaching the dog a “send away” command. Once the dog reached the other side of the room, if the dog wouldn’t turn around and face you, we were instructed to jab our thumbs into our dog’s thighs, until it hurt if necessary, to force them to turn around. I wasn’t going to do that to my dog, so I quit (after being in these classes for nearly 1 1/2 years). In the second instance, another trainer decided to whack my dog near the head for not letting go of a toy. That was the first correction he ever gave my dog, and the last. That is NOT how you teach a dog to let go of a toy.

I warn prospective customers to NOT shop for a trainer just based upon price or location, but instead to find a very good trainer like myself. Maybe that costs a little more, but at least you know your dog will be treated right. I also warn people NOT to enroll their dogs in any kind of “BOARD AND TRAIN” type of facility UNLESS YOU HAVE CHECKED OUT THE TRAINER. You need to be there to see what is going on with your dog, and to stop things if the trainer is being abusive. Not all dog trainers are good with dogs or people. Here are REAL letters I received from a past customer. I helped them with one issue, but then they decided to hire another trainer for Basic Obedience training, since the guy lived closer to them and was supposedly a “retriever trainer.” Afterward, they sorely regretted their decision, and called me to see what they could do. There are abusive trainers out there. You have to be careful and you have to be involved in the training of your dog.

What a dog needs is either good obedience training or thoughtful behavior modification, not abuse.

Just take a look at this:

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Hello

We need your help. There is a kennel in __________ by the name of __________ Kennels – owned by __________. We have boarded our two Black Labs there a couple of times in the past. I had mentioned to __________ that we were looking for something for our two dogs to do a couple of days a week; something to stimulate their minds and give them some exercise and fun. She let me know that they would be happy to “work” with them; this would consist of some obedience training initially and then exercise and fun thereafter. __________ is the trainer. We dropped both dogs off on Tuesday morning and picked them up that evening. Later that night at home, I went in to kiss the dogs good night and my one lab flinched. I thought it was very odd; but dismissed it. I called __________ on Wednesday and asked that they meet with us so that we could see the kind of training that was being performed. We wanted to keep things consistent at home and see how our dogs were spending their time during their stay. On Thursday morning, my husband had a very hard time getting the two dogs to go into the kennel when he dropped them off at __________. Our dogs showed great reluctance and dread. When he called and told me this; I became concerned. When my husband picked the labs up on Thursday night, __________ showed him the type of “training” they were receiving. __________ used a small whip to beat our dogs as part of their training. The whole inside of his office is full of them, as well as, paddles. He told my husband he had to take a rake handle to my youngest one. Bizarrely, he also complained about the idiots at the humane Society, SPCA, etc. and that people don’ know how to train dogs. Appalled, my husband left and called me immediately.I phoned __________ immediately thereafter and called him on his “training”. __________ is a VERY defensive, irrational, and off-kilter man. When I inquired as to the type of training he did and asked him to personally show me, he got very defensive and told me that he would no longer with work my dogs or people such as myself and my husband?? He told me that his type of training is very humane and used by kennels all across American and Canada. He told me that he “is Retriever trainer; that is what he does.” He also told me that he would not show me how he was training our dogs because he did not want to give away his “trade secrets”. I knew at that point he abuses dogs.

We had to take our youngest lab to the vet as he had a “whip-mark”on his nose and was sore. He is more of a handful so he took the biggest beating. Our older lab cried when we wiped his feet as this is another prime area __________ uses when he beats them. No part of the dogs body is spared from the whip. The veterinarian that checked our youngest lab said that he was not legally able to mention any specific information, however, there have been other cases from this same kennel. He suggested we file a police report. And the police could legally request the information the veterinarian clinic had on file.

We plan on contacting other organizations as well as filing a report with the police. We may also contact the media. I am not sure what you can do, however, we would appreciate any help in spreading the word about this kennel. The beatings that go on here are inexcusable and must be stopped.

You can reach me at the following numbers:

425-___-____ work

425-___-____ home

206-___-____

Kind Regards,

N_________

Hello ______

We did take photos of the whip marks on his nose. I hope they turn out because it was dark. The mark is filling in with shiny short-hair very fast. The veterinarian said it looked to him like a hair line but that we know our dog better than him. This confused me because it was so obvious. I can request copies of the chart notes and see what he wrote. We do know our dog very well and the whip mark is healing and healing very fast; it is almost gone now.

__________ beat our dog(s) with one of the many whips he has hanging on the wall along with paddles. He did this right in front of my husband. I have no doubt that he will welcome new customers; this is his business. He is very cautious, however, as I asked him to show me exactly how he was training and the techniques he used. I told him I wanted to come up and have him show me his training so that we kept it consistent at home (typically, this is what most trainers do as the “parents” need to make sure they are using the same techniques) I think he knew what I was up to, however. He is very gun-shy as he has run into trouble before it seems.

If someone went in there and asked for stern training, he would definitely provide it. He would probably be elated that he could show them what a tough guy he is and how he can get the “SOBs” to listen to him (he had a lot of choice words for our dogs). My fear is that you would have to leave the dog there for the day, and while he would give you a “lesson” afterwards, as he did with my husband, I highly doubt you could video tape it. You could sure see it in person though. Videotaping would be hard because it seems

as though he has had a lot of criticism from other agencies and people with regard to his training techniques and his fear is getting in trouble [again]. This was indicated in the types of things he said.

By the way, I filed a complaint with _____ Animal Control and they will be paying him a visit on Monday. ______ Animal Control said they have not received a prior complaint, however, __________ went on and on about those idiots at the Humane Society, those idiots in _________, etc. etc. Obviously, he has had some confrontations with others that disapprove of this inhumane way of training the dogs.

Please let me know how else I can help. I can’t stand the thought of him doing this to other dogs. Again, you can definitely see for yourself his type of training, but videotaping would be difficult I fear.

Feel free to call me anytime, anywhere

Sincerely,

N________

Dear Sam,

Last week I took my Aussie mix to a dog obedience class. This pup is 6 months old, a very loving dog, he loves everyone and all other dogs.. His biggest problem is being restrained and threw a fit at the vet’s when he was about to be x-rayed So, anyway the first thing the trainer asked everyone to do was to lay their dog down and hold him down. I was having a problem getting Luke down and suddenly the trainer was there, roughly trying to hold down Luke. Luke nipped him, he did draw some blood, but in a second the trainer had him in the air on a choke collar, till he went limp, almost passed out, pooped himself and his lips were blue. I was SICK!!! And in shock, because I couldn’t move, I just kept looking at Luke who was drooling like crazy. And was scared to death of the trainer and tryed to get up on the seat with me. Oh, and for the next 2 days, all Luke did was lay around.

I did take him to the vet, she said, his neck was tight and probably very stiff. Some people have told me hanging a dog is an accepted way of training, I DO NOT feel this is correct, am I wrong? And if the trainer is wrong, is there anything I can do about it? I am not taking him back to that class, many of the people there were also shocked at what happened, and one of them even said she won’t bring her dog back. Well, anyway, thank you for your time, XXXXX

Hi XXXXX

I think it is animal abuse. The dog was cornered by a stranger and reacted by defending itself. Then the dog strung up. Don’t go back to that class.

This kind of garbage still happens in classes, as your letter demonstrates. The problem with going to the police is if a.) your dog isn’t materially injured; b.) the trainer fights you back in court with a defamation / libel / slander lawsuit, YOU could be the one that ends up losing here. If you decide to proceed with making a complaint to law enforcement, you need to talk to your attorney first. “Hanging” would only be justified if the dog was actively trying to attack a human and there was no way of defending oneself except to hold onto the leash for dear life. Hanging is not a training method, and the dog learns nothing from it. It is solely a last resort way of defending yourself from being mauled. This clearly doesn’t qualify. Your dog was afraid. The solution would have been to slow things down and build the trust between you and your dog. That has to come before you consider dominating a dog, especially one that was already showing signs of fighting restraint at the vet’s office. Even the vets were wrong to pin the dog down for x-rays, unless it was a life or death type of procedure. I always attend to x-rays with my dog, if at all possible, and if I suspect my dog wouldn’t take to being pinned down by a stranger — not an unlikely scenario when you get the types of dogs that I prefer such as a Bouvier, Doberman, etc. In your case, a typical Aussie would normally allow x-rays by strangers, but if the dog is worried about the procedure, then it would have been better to stop the x-rays, go home and work on getting your dog comfortable being placed on its back, and then going to the vet at a later date and helping them do the x-rays. A good vet would work with you and your dog to make sure the experience was a positive one. Now, this dog has twice been pinned down by strangers, which is going to make it harder and harder in the future to get this dog to trust certain procedures. I have no idea if the hanging your dog experienced will cause brain damage or lasting behavioral problems, but it is a concern.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot “correct” aggression this way. The “correction” your dog received isn’t a behaviorally sound way of dealing with biting. It won’t prevent a repeat of the same situation in the future.

I wish you and your dog well. Find another trainer. Get references!

Sam Basso

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.