I recently watched the first episode of the new television program Dogs in the City and I loved it. I’m a sucker for dogs and I got a kick out of this soft show depicting “dog trainer” Justin Silver going from home to home to office helping dog families deal with training dilemmas.
I didn’t see much training. Justin lay on the floor to watch a dog owner try and manage her aggressive dog as visitors walked into her office. He accompanied a father and daughter with their dog to the vet to discuss proper diet. And he helped a girlfriend bond with her husband’s dog.
As a lover of reality television, I take these shows with a grain of salt. They’re “for entertainment purposes only.” But I can see why some people would turn to these shows for guidance, thinking that the attractive dog trainer must know what they’re talking about or else they wouldn’t be on television.
Recently, a professional dog trainer shared with me that these shows are offensive to professional dog trainers and my first thought was – no they’re not – then I reminded myself that I’m not a professional dog trainer. I did a little research and found that there are mixed feelings about these programs.
Let’s start with the positives of TV dog trainers.
It’s not just me! Have you experienced this moment? The moment when you realize that you’re not on an island with your problem. Rachel Sentes, a publicist with a back ground in dog training and agility training, brought up the solid point that these a show like Dogs in the City or Dog Whisperer “unites dog owners and gives them a feeling that they aren’t the only ones who have issues with their dogs.”
One of the reasons I go to the dog park is to compare notes and pick up tips. But it’s important for us to know which tips to follow. I’ve mentioned on a previous post that I don’t believe in rolling our dogs* – when a fellow dog owner suggested that I do this to Rodrigo to improve his behavior, I disregarded the advice, because (1) the dog owner didn’t know how to roll a dog and was constantly hurting his dog in the process and (2) Rodrigo’s behavior was resolved with patience and consistency.
* When I mentioned to rolling your dog above, I’m referring to the practice of forcing your dog onto the ground, rolling him onto his side, pinning his neck down and forcing him to submit. I’m aware that there are professional dog trainers who use an “alpha roll” and it’s not as I describe here. My description is based on what I see dog owners doing, which I believe is dangerous for both the dog and the owner.
These TV dog trainer programs also show that dog training is important. When we adopted our dogs, my boyfriend wasn’t convinced that we would need a trainer and after a few weeks of watching these shows (before the dogs came home) he was sold on the process.
“The popular TV trainers do bring some positive to the dog community in that it does encourage families to seek help and support with their companion dogs.” ~ Jennifer Shryock, Founder of Family Paws Parent Education.
Why the backlash against TV dog trainers?
Not all viewers see these shows as “for entertainment purposes only.” And not all behavioral issues can be resolved in the span of a television show. So what’s left on the cutting room floor?
“Some of the methods I’ve seen used [on shows about dog training] are wonderful – they are simple, easy to replicate, and do not risk harming the dog. On the flip-side, some of the methods I’ve seen I would consider to be aversive to the dogs, and possibly difficult for the dog parents to replicate. Using punishment training methods can result in behaviors getting worse – because improper timing can actually reward the behavior – or they can create additional problems such as fear and aggression”. ~ Joan Hunt, Inquisitive Canine
Lori Cooper, Owner of Call-Away Canine Control shared an interesting point. ”You cannot get proper information about this subject in an hour show, especially with severe behavior issues.”
That being said…
Amy Robinson, DroolSchool.com Dog Training, believes that “dog owners can benefit from the broad concepts presented by TV trainers, like the need for human leadership in the canine/human relationship. The bond is greater once the owner embraces his or her role as instructor and guide. Dogs thrive on a sense of accomplishment, and owners feel good once they can enjoy time with their dog. Another benefit is the trainer showing people that they can get out in the world and open social doors accompanied by their well-behaved dog.”
The important point that many of the dog trainers I spoke with want to get across is that dealing with behavioral issues takes time, patience and consistency. Although these programs can be entertaining, it’s important for dog owners to seek out a professional dog trainer who can give them the foundation they’ll need to raise happy, healthy dogs. Speak with your veterinarian, your rescue group or dog breeder, or speak with other people in the pet industry to get recommendations for quality dog trainers.
So share! What do you think about Dogs in the City and the other TV dog trainer programs? Do you have a favorite?
Kimberly Gauthier, a perpetually happy person, lives with her amazing guy, their spoiled dogs and cats, and loves dog rescue, photography, reading, and laughing. She’s the author of Keep the Tail Wagging where she shares tips on raising happy, healthy dogs and promotes dog rescue and reputable breeding. You can also find her at Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom