Friday, May 18, 2012

Wanna Hear A Story?

Yesterday afternoon I took the dogs to Stratham Hill Park, one of our favorite fun spots.  When I pulled in I could see a woman halfway down the first field.  She was taking pictures of her German Shepherd sitting in the tall field grass and wildflowers.  I could tell she had a treat pouch and a leash around her neck, which made me automatically at ease.  In about 5 minutes, that will be me.  Taking pictures of my dogs obsessively, rewarding them for doing well off leash, etc.

All photos credit: Meghan Taylor Photography

As we walk toward the woman, she turns and sees us coming.  I'm ahead of Parker and Skye, since they have to sniff every blade of grass upon arrival.  After noticing us, the woman tells her dog to sit and stay in the tall grass, and walks about 15 ft up the path away from us.  At this point I'm within 10 feet of her dog, when Parker finally notices her sitting in the field and runs over.  He stops 5 feet from the dog waiting for her next move, when the dog charges him.

I don't use aggressive terms lightly- I know that play behavior can look scary to the untrained eye.  Skye is the queen of it.  So when I say that this dog chased Parker, snarling and snapping over his back, I am not exaggerating.  I honestly thought I'd be removing Parker from her mouth.  So, Momma Bear that I am, I didn't hesitate.  Parker was running to me anyway and I marched right into that dog's face with my scariest "uh-uh" that you can hear for miles.  At that point the owner called her dog to her as she walked over.  Walked.  While Parker, who works with aggressive dogs on a regular basis, sat at my side shaking.  It was not his proudest moment.

This was about the point I had to catch Skye, who was running full tilt up the path.  She is a social dog and I don't have to worry about her causing trouble with other dogs.  But if trouble finds Parker, Skye is very quick to defend him.  So I stopped her and had both my dogs sitting and focused, waiting for the lady to pick a direction so I can go the opposite way.  But instead, she told me in a very knowledgeable voice that I 'don't have to worry.  That was all body language and posturing, but her dog doesn't fight or bite.  I can trust her.'

Now, I am not a level headed person, but I also don't like confrontation.  As a dog trainer, I should be able to educate people in every situation.  But all I could think to say was, "I really don't care.  You're just lucky she didn't do that to my other dog, because she would not have reacted well."

When I turned to walk away, I saw her following me about 10 feet behind, with her dog in a perfect heel as if to show me how wrong I was.  And when that dog broke it's heel to sniff a tree, I saw her shock it.

After our walk (I was convinced I'd run into her again) I saw the woman and dog with another woman.  It was her trainer.  I couldn't hear them, but the trainer was showing the woman how far to allow the dog before shocking it.

Shock collars are very popular in this area.  It is truly sad to see a dog want to run and have fun, but cannot stop worrying about the next shock.  It is worse to see an unstable, insecure German Shepherd that has obviously been punished for showing it's insecurity.  Now it shows no signs of being uncomfortable, instead it just waits until it can't take it anymore, and shows actual aggression.  Soon, it will simply bite with no warning.  That owner believes she is controlling her dog.  Maybe she is in certain situations, but she isn't teaching her dog anything except that it can't trust it's owner.  She isn't addressing the underlying problem and eventually, that dog won't be able to take any more.

I'd rather have dogs that trust me, that I understand, and that use their own brains to make their own decisions.  Will they always make the right choice?  Maybe not.  Who does?  At least I know that our relationship is solid and at the end of the day, their lives are better for knowing me.

And mine is better for knowing them.


  1. love your pictures, those last 2 are so cute xxx i had a similar thing happen to me once, this man who was an actual dog trainer in my town and his collie dog were walking near us in the woods once and i just had this horrible feeling his dog wasnt friendly and yeh it suddenly burst thru the bushes and tried to go for my dog so i stood inbetween them and swore right in its face and managed to get it to go back to the owner who was no where to be seen at the time.
    luckily that was the only time i ever had contact with them but my husband spotted them several times while out with my dog and the stupid man would tell my dog to sit and other things and when my dog did it just like we had trained him to the man thought it was because he himself had got our dog to do it. stupid bloody man! he would always say to my husband god i could do wonders with your dog. i told my husband why didnt you tell him! "yeh right, have you seen your dog!"
    some people are not right in the head.

  2. I just have to shake my head and sigh at some people. Hopefully, someday the human race will evolve enough to understand violence begets violence.

  3. This happens way too often here, too: mixing training methods. And the trainers who call themselves "balanced". I can't imagine how a dog would learn to trust anyone, including the presence of other dogs, let alone his guardian, if he's being given such unbelievably conflicting information. Shock here, no shock here, treat here, oh, wait, get shocked again, yum treat, shock, treat, treat, treat, shock... And with such a powerful dog, could anything be more dangerous?

  4. Completely agree with you... I would much rather have a dog live life with joy and confidence than one who is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Loved this post and the wonderful photos. :)

  5. I hate those damn shock collars ... they make me sick! That sounds like a truly scary situation, not just for you, but for the woman who has no idea what a time bomb she's sitting on, not to mention all this "trainer's" other clients who are being "educated" in the same or a similar way. And how sad for this poor dog!

    LOVE the pictures of you with the pups, BTW!

  6. Oh my gosh. I actually got anxiety reading this - don't you hate when people's stupidity shocks you so much that you can't even bring yourself to help them learn differently? That poor dog.

  7. Wow that's scary. It's tough when other people do not know there dog and it's body language. I can understand Trinity's very well and know when she's scared and no longer playing with a dog. Then I get into protective momma mode to and start yelling at the other dog. Understanding & trust is the best way to train. I wouldn't want to be near someone who is mean & dominant, which means dogs don't either. People are stupid sometimes and it doesn't help when another person agrees with that type of training.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I see a lot of the shock collar stuff here, and I've always just HATED it but not had any facts to back up my hatred than just instinctually knowing that it wasn't right. Now at least I can make an argument against if if it comes up.

    I feel bad for that German Shepherd. And it makes me so sad that they're taking what is likely a smart, responsive dog and using those training methods on her.

  9. What a perfect day. We really don' t like to see people with their dogs off leash. Twice a large dog charged at us and scared my Lily half to death. Now she gets scared of some big dogs and screams. Mom is trying everything
    Benny & Lily

  10. These pictures are by far some of my favorites you have posted, and that says a lot because you always post fantastic pictures. Your bond with your dogs is amazing. I know my pups adore me beyond reason but we don't have that same relationship that someone who is as qualified as you does.

  11. Ugh, well that story sucked. Not the way you told it, I mean it was as well written as all your posts, but the actual content sucked. My heart always breaks a little when I hear about stuff like that: for the dog that will never understand any different and for the owner that will never truly know the joy of a dog that is fully bonded and behaves because you've taught them what works. **sigh** At least I can say that the pictures were incredibly lovely!

  12. wow, I feel for that poor GSD... :(

  13. That is so scary! I'm so glad that little Parker was okay. I HATEEE shock collars. I try not to judge other people's training choices, but I just can't get behind those. Yikes. On a happier note, I love those photos! Your dogs and you (!) look beautiful! :)

  14. Your pictures are fantastic, and your story is a sad one. Far too many people are utilizing shock collars, I feel, for issues that they don't care to understand or even properly acknowledge.

  15. I think that there are times when a shock collar is appropriate but those times are few and far between

    Stop on by for a visit

  16. Oh, I'm so sorry. But glad no one was hurt. Shock collars need to be outlawed.

  17. Beautiful pictures!

    Those shock collars are cruel. We were waiting at the vet's office and saw a dog come in with the front of it's neck all burned and hairless. It looked very painful. We inquired as to what happened. A shock collar/invisible fence collar. It was constantly shocking the dog and no one knew it. Shock collars are for lazy people that do not want to invest in the relationship, bond and responsibility of caring for another living being.


  18. That poor dog! (And poor Parker, by extension.) When we were searching for a trainer for Badger and Mushroom, we knew we didn't want to work with anyone who uses shock collars or physical punishment. After reading your story, I'm even more sure that we made the right decision.

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