Tasneem Paghdiwala's April 6 Reader article about Doggie Do Right and my approach to dog training ["Who Should You Trust to Train Your Dog?"] was slanted, biased, poorly researched, and amateurish. In my 10 years as a professional dog trainer, not 12 as reported by Tasneem, which illustrates her inability to report real facts accurately, I have successfully helped thousands of dog owners and their pets. It is unfortunate that Tasneem did not interview any of these satisfied customers and chose instead to write a biased and untrue story based on a small, disgruntled, ignorant, group of animal rights sympathizers, who I will refer to henceforth as the West Loop Wackos.
Tasneem's article points out there is a debate in the dog training community between two widely practiced training philosophies: permissiveness and spoiling versus education and discipline. In my experience--consistent with the approach took by other successful dog professionals such as Cesar Millan, Barbara Woodhouse, Bill Koehler, Tony Ancheta, and Capt. Haggerty--discipline is the more effective, more humane, and long-lasting training method.
The tapper system equipment I use is akin to the feeling a cell phone makes when it vibrates. The electric stimulation is much like a tickle or tingle, not a shock. Shocks hurt; tickles or tingles feel good. The tickle or tingle gets your attention, but it causes no pain and no harm, it is a true dog-friendly training method. Indeed, there is ongoing research that seems to indicate that low levels of electric stimulation actually help the body heal (isrvma.org/article/57_1_7.htm).
Multiple-collar concepts of e-collar training are widely used by e-collar trainers with advanced dog training skills. Multiple collar and alternative collaring techniques are gentle, humane, and rapidly increase the dog's ability to learn. At Fred Hassen's Web site, you will see videos of dogs that are happily wearing multiple collars and collars on alternative body sites (sitmeanssit.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=2).
It is my practice to always offer any doubting human the opportunity to feel the collars on themselves so that they can experience the same feeling as does the dog. Tasneem's West Loop Wackos' histrionic accounts are wildly exaggerated, contradicting, deliberately misleading, and potentially libelous.
Doggie Do Right 911 is successful because our approach to dog training works. Hundreds of dog owners throughout Chicago who are clients and offer referrals are evidence. It's too bad Tasneem missed this obvious yet essential fact.
I will address several comments that were attributed to me in the article by two of the alleged eye witnesses. The first account by Heather Davis claims that I made this statement: "That dog has been nothing but a third tit on its owner, and I have to break it off and retrain it to be a dog." The statement that I always make in regard to small dogs that are overly codependent with their owners is this: "This dog is an armpit alligator, in order to be balanced, it must be removed from the owner's pit and allowed to live life on its own four feet."
The second comment [attributed to me] by Diane Opresnik: "I'm just making sure this Bichon will never run into the street and get hit by a car. A live Bichon is better than a dead Bichon." My comments that I share with the public about the benefits of training are along these lines: "Training is like insurance, you hope that you never need it, but if you do, it's there. Training is the difference between a live dog and a dead dog, and a live dog is better."
In regard to Marc Goldberg's comments: "Marc Goldberg says that although the same sensation he uses to get a dog's attention can be associated with a reward--a cookie, a kiss, a hug--he can't conceive of a scenario in which the sensation would be rewarding in and of itself." My response is that all dog-training methods: clicker training, traditional training, and e-collar training, require that the dog be conditioned to associate a meaning with your tools. Generally, the association is either one of pleasure or of pain, in my method it is pleasurable. In my method, the dog associates the "feeling" with pleasure, just as if I had a standard hand clicker and associated that "sound" with pleasure. The most basic elements of operant conditioning state that the sensation of the "tickle/click/tap" can be rewarding to the dog in and of itself due to proper prior conditioning. Remember Pavlov's bell?
And finally, in the state of Illinois, there is a gigantic underground cottage industry of dog trainers, dog sitters, and in-home doggie day care providers that operate out of their homes, without the legal approval of their local townships or the Illinois state department of agriculture. Tasneem brings this up when she mentions my dog training business in Lake Forest.
Yet, Tasneem interviews Marc Goldberg, vice president of IACP, who as per his Web site trains dogs out of his home. If his home has not been inspected and licensed by both the city and the Agriculture Department of the state of Illinois, then it would seem that Marc Goldberg is not in compliance with the law. These are simple facts that any skilled, committed investigative reporter would have discovered with the barest minimum of effort.
Tasneem makes reference to my prices and compares them to trainers that do not have my skill and knowledge and do not offer the advanced services that I do. Further proper and appropriate research by Tasneem, in which she looked at the Web sites of trainers that use electric dog-training collars, would have found that their fees are directly in line with mine; around $2,000 for a ten-day program, this is the current industry standard.
In closing, I implore the caring citizens of Chicago to act with restraint and common sense. This article is biased, slanted, poorly researched, and riddled with exaggerations, half-truths, and libelous statements. Hopefully in the near future when all facts are revealed regarding my legal situation, the Chicago Reader will run an article that will meet the standards of good journalist practices.
Doggie Do Right 911
Tasneem Paghdiwala replies:
Ami Moore declined to comment on her methods for this article, so I reported them as she outlined them in a letter to the Reader in 2006. Moore also told me, via e-mail, that she would ask her clients and colleagues not to speak to me. I later asked if she could put me in touch with any happy customers; she declined. My call to the one satisfied customer I knew by name was not returned.
Moore may have started working as a trainer ten years ago, but that's not what she told me last year.
Marc Goldberg may require a license to train or board dogs out of his home; according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture he doesn't have one.
Prices I reported were for training locations in the vicinity of Moore's West Loop location, but Goldberg's ten-day "boarding school" program in the northwest suburbs costs $2,195 and four two-hour sessions cost $995--about the same as Moore's prices for similar services.