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First Do No Harm

by Kim Brophey on 05/18/16


I’m pissed off.  I’m usually really neutral when it comes to speaking out about specific techniques in this industry, and I appreciate the fact that there are always circumstances which can warrant the use of certain aversive tools in dog training even when they are not my first choice.  My aim is not to criticize of judge those who do things differently from myself.  But today I am angry.  I am angry for the dog I just met who will be euthanized based on my recommendation.  I am angry for the family who has done nothing but their best for him since the day who brought him home, now unsafe to his increasingly dangerous aggressive behavior towards them in their own home.  I am angry for the veterinarian who will administer a fatal injection to a perfectly physically healthy dog. 
This Rottweiler has been living in psychological hell for most of his life, though he lived with a wonderful family.  This dog is the victim of socially condoned animal abuse in the name of dog training.  This dog has been tortured with misinformation.  He was a bold puppy.  So the breeder and her assistant taught the family how to wrestle him to the ground and pin him there to dominate him.  He learned the people he knew were not to be trusted.  The family took him to a trainer who put him in their “off leash” program based on prong and e collars and taught the family how to control him with these tools.  It worked.  They got control.  He learned beautiful obedience.  He became more aggressive, more unpredictable.  His trust and sense of safety in the world plummeted.   He is living, suffering, in chronic dysfunctional distress and anxiety, and has no idea when and where the threats are coming from.  The entire family is in danger.
This dog could have been saved if someone had known what they were doing when they bred him, raised him, taught the family, trained him.  This could have been avoided.  Doing it right by him would not have meant being permissive to a bold dog but rather giving guidance without the abuse.  No tool is inherently wrong, and no technique is inherently evil.  But we can do better.  We have to do better.  We can and should raise the bar and TRY for crying out loud with an 8 week old puppy to FIRST DO NO HARM.


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