The Reader received numerous responses to the April 6 cover story "Who Should You Trust to Train Your Dog?" about the arrest of dog trainer Ami Moore. The following are excerpts from some of them.
In my experience, dogs have one of three reactions to use of force: compliance, fear, or aggression (for which the dog will often be euthanized). What many owners don't realize is that the use of force is not only unnecessary; it is counterproductive to training and damaging to the relationship. Pain and fear simply are not conducive to learning.
Mary Lynne Doleys
Peaceful Paws LLC
It should be recognized that the vast majority of trainers, whatever their methods, are at worst ineffective. That said, harm can be done, and an inexperienced or temperamentally unstable trainer wielding an electric collar is more likely to do harm than an equally unskilled trainer training on-leash. Whereas a trainer who persists in making unfair leash corrections will eventually get bitten (the dog may be confused as to why it is being corrected, but it will have no trouble identifying who is doing it), a trainer armed with an e-collar may dish out unfair corrections all day without consequence.
Ruth Anne Crisler
See Spot Run
It is not an easy task to work with really bad dogs. I have never met Ami, but I train the same way that she does and have trained with Fred Hassen too. Thousands of us train dogs that have washed out of the positive-only schools, saving more and more dogs each year.
We have used a collar on our last standard [poodle] for uncontrolled barking in the car, which was very distracting to the driver. We only had to use it twice and then all I had to say to Chadwick was, One bark and the collar goes on, and then I would show it to him, he would go and lay down in his seat and that was that. It was like a miracle. It made life easier for the dog and for us.
Most shock-collar trainers that I know use the collar as negative reinforcement. And the initial levels might be very low. Barely noticeable even. But buyer beware: a dog that is not faced with distractions will work to shut off a barely there sensation. But when highly aroused in a distracting environment, don't bet on it. That's why the collars have many levels.
I still remember the words of my dog trainer from many years ago: Anyone can control a dog when it's on a leash or an electric collar. The real test, and the only one that counts, is whether you can control them when they are unrestrained and unafraid.
There are many self-styled "dog whisperers" these days, but only one Cesar Millan, an effective Alpha leader. True Alpha leaders remain calm and assertive, always in control first of themselves and then of their environment; their assertive energy is transmitted and acknowledged. They don't need an "attitude."
At Dogone Fun! we use only positive reinforcement techniques and are able to achieve great success with almost every dog. Our concern is the paragraph in your article that compares Dogone Fun's training services and fees with correction-based trainers, which may mislead readers as to our training style. We believe that dogs, just like people, want to do well!
Laura Monaco Torelli, CPDT
Training Manager & Behavior Consultant
Dogone Fun Chicago