Searching For My Inner Harpy

Okay, so.

Many of you left amazingly heartfelt and honest comments on Thursday’s post. Right now I am feeling like crap because I haven’t responded to a single one. That’s one of the things I am trying to work on, I swear. But this time I do have a good excuse. Everyone’s thoughts drifting into my inbox made me overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t know what to say.

Full confession: writing that post was hard. It was something I had to do but I was so scared that, after I admitted I used to like that show, I would be kicked off the Internet. Because I really, really did. As I mentioned in the postscript – like a coward – at one time I had actually filled out an application to appear. Something held me back and I never sent it in, but I did fill it out. I knew if I was going to talk about television and dog-training, then I had to do it candidly. It wasn’t easy.

Thank you for not crying foul and emailing WordPress to have my blog removed. (Over-dramatic much?) Thank you, instead, for offering words of support and ideas for how we can take this bully down.

It took a little bit of searching, but I found the network’s contact information:

Shaw Media
121 Bloor St. East, Suite 1500
Toronto, ON M4W 3M5

According to his blog on his website (which I will not link to but if you google the show title, At the End of My Leash, I am sure you can find it very easily) he has finished filming a new show  to air this spring. I am not positive on the network but it is likely to be the same one.

If only that was the only disturbing news. I also read that the season six opening episode was given an award by the Alberta Motion Picture Industry. Can you beat that? It was given the title “Best Lifestyle Series of 2010”.

AMPIA’s contact information is here:

Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association
#318, 8944 – 182 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta
T5T 2E3 

And, I found out the name of the show when it aired in the U.S. on Animal Planet – In the Dog House. Many of you said you called in and complained, which I think is utterly brilliant. Perhaps that’s why it aired only two seasons? Who knows but I like to think you all made a difference. Unfortunately, season one is available on DVD at Amazon under the above name.

A friend and I like to make fun of shows and trainers like this all the time. Frequently on Facebook or in class, one of us will make reference to dominance theory and the other will jump in with a sarcastic remark. We find it terribly amusing. It’s not, of course, but it helps us let off steam. We have both heard a lot from people on the street. Just the other day when I wouldn’t allow Shiva to approach another dog, the dog’s owner assumed my reluctance was due to her “aggressiveness.”

“No, not aggressive,” I said, testily. “Exuberant.”

My friend says she hears a lot of the same things when out with her stranger-wary Sheltie.

“You should make him be quiet. He is very dominant.”

“You let him walk all over you, I can tell.”

“He is trying to control you. You need to be more calm-assertive.”

Even tonight I received a lecture by a man on why I should use his collar of choice.

 “It shows them who is boss,” he said.

Frankly, I didn’t see how his dog was any better behaved than mine but I kept those thoughts to myself.

As I sit here, I wonder if that is contributing to the problem. What is the right thing to do in these situations? When someone offers up their oh-so-wise advice, should I offer up my own in return? Instead of just nodding and smiling and hoping they go away, maybe I should speak up.

Maybe what I should have done this evening as he mansplained about his special leash and our dogs ran around in circles, is said something like:

“Actually, I have heard of that product. I don’t like it because it will make my dog fear going on a walk.”

“No, my dog isn’t trying to dominate me. She is just over-aroused because your dog is so close. That’s why I pulled into this driveway to avoid you.”

Polite but firm. I can do that.

I hope I can do that.

Now, because I need a bit of a laugh, Winnie posted a parody video about one of the UK’s coercive trainers, Barbara Woodhouse. My excellent, positive trainer has talked about her before. I suppose this song is not funny. Bully methods are nothing to laugh about. Yet I’ve had it in my head all day and it makes me giggle.

I am a bad person.

44 thoughts on “Searching For My Inner Harpy

  1. Kristine, this is SUCH a good post!!!

    I was going to post yesterday about how good Daph was being: we ran into another dog and I kept her calm and focused on me while the dog passed by and all went well. SO PROUD. Then, twenty minutes later, a leash-reactive dog lunged at her (and who could blame it? If he hadn’t lunged first, Daph might’ve), and I got clocked in the face and started crying in the middle of the sidewalk. Classy.

    But, dude, we’re doing the best we can with the dogs we love, and we’re doing a helluva a lot of research around it. There are a lot of times I want to say, “Actually, you should have your reactive dog sit quiety and reward him until we walk by rather than leash-popping and yelling “no”” – but I keep my mouth shut.

    Ahh, again, this kind of interaction is why i want this master’s program I was talking about yesterday. That makes sense right? Oh, dog people.


    • Most of the time I keep my mouth shut. In fact, I pretty much always do. But in some cases I think I do need to speak up in order to protect my dog. And hopefully to nudge people to think in a different way. But it is not easy.

      It totally makes sense and I am so excited for you. I think you have to go for it!


  2. Polite but firm. Does that mean you have to be calm assertive with dominating dog owners?

    Anyway, don’t overlook the importance of the parody. It can be more than just a stress-reliever. I think Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart bring attention to a lot of important issues in the US by making fun of the truly ridiculous.

    Maybe making people perpetrating cruelty look ridiculous will be more successful in the end then some of our more “serious” efforts. At the very least, it’s another tool in the fight.


    • LOL. Something like that. Perhaps it works better with people?

      You’re right. I never thought of it that way when it comes to dog training. But I think you may be on to something.


  3. I’ve seen my agility instructor encounter beginner dogs who come to class the first time with a choke collar, or even a chain collar….people who have learned less than positive methods.

    I’m sure she wants to scream, but she calmly tells them that she has better collars/harnesses for them to use. Then, she brings in a big basket for them to choose from. It always amazes me how she tells them they won’t be allowed to use a chain collar in her class, without offending the person. Basically saying, “This is a much better option…here have a clicker too.”

    She is polite, but firm, just like you!


  4. LOL! Love it!!!
    I’ve met people who tell me that I shouldn’t use treats when I train my dogs because it’s a bribe and the dogs do it because of the treats not because of me. So their methods are verbally praises and still verbally praises with some pats and ears rubbings. It amazes me how they achieve it but I’m still happy with giving treats to my dogs. I find they are happy and look forward to the treats after they do what we have learned, so why not?
    There are people who like to be teachers and give lectures to others, I choose to be polite, but firm like you too!


    • Sometimes verbal praise works, don’t get me wrong. It is all about what a dog finds motivating. The thing to remember is, the human doesn’t decide what that is, the dog does. A person can’t decide to use chicken as a reward if their dog doesn’t even like chicken. I hope that makes sense.

      Some dogs will work their butts off for pets and some will find such a thing completely de-motivating. It’s all in finding the right currency. 🙂


  5. Ha! I couldn’t comment on the Thursday’s post for exactly the same reason, too emotional!
    Don’t feel bad for having those beliefs one day, we have all been there. Because it is the first information you will find when you start to be interested in dogs. It is first along the way the serious dog lover finds out it isn’t true.

    I used to start a discussion with people with those opinions, but it never helped. Today I am a little harder and throw something back like “You think you are a dog trainer … I would pick up your study then you are severly outdated”. I am not proud of it … just tired of all that ignorance. The only way I can have a discussion is when the other dog doesn’t behave, and the owner mentiones he/she should be more of a pack leader. Now that is someone open for discussion and you can reach out to! The judgemental ones will first ripen later 🙂


    • That’s true. It’s not your job to educate others. We’re all adults and people can figure these things out for themselves. Our only job is to protect our own animals. We have to pick our battles.

      Thank you for your kind words.


  6. I gave up being quiet a while ago.

    One time I went to a free training workshop that’s held at a local park every weekend by a guy who hands out choke collars and has the poor people looking for help for various reasons walk their dogs around the park, popping them every few seconds.

    I brought Charlie (who’s quite well trained), and a bag of treats, and walked at the back of the group. Of course he did everything he needed to do, and was rewarded for it. I got a lot of people coming over to me, asking questions, which was AWESOME.

    The head trainer then came over to us and we got into a tiff. His point was that treats only worked for training, and the dog would never be able to do the behaviors without treats, whereas the collars were just for training and the dogs were able to work without them. I calmly asked Charlie to do a series of behaviors, and didn’t give him a treat. He did them all quickly, quietly, and smoothly. I then asked the guy to get a seasoned “training collar dog” and ask it to do some behaviors without the collar – they had several trainer dogs behind the table. He looked at me funny and said they were all “still in training.” I asked him how long they’ve been in training. The list ranged from several months, to several years. I told him my dog learned most of his simple behaviors in a few days, to a few weeks.

    Needless to say, they asked Charlie and me to leave. I always hope that maybe we had an effect on some of the people that were there that day.

    I’ve found that if you can stay calm, be positive, and try not to insult them *too* much you can get your point across without getting into a full-on argument. It’s also pretty nifty when you can show off what your positively trained dog can do without a choke collar.


    • You are officially my hero. Seriously. This is positive modeling the right way. Thank you for taking the time to show others.

      I’d like to be brave like you one day.


  7. I know all about crazy/bad/mean trainers! And I’m obviously not brave enough to stand up to them either. I learned that lesson after our horrible class, but I will say that I use calm assertive all the time. Just not with my dog! At work when we have a very difficult patient our code word when someone is going into the room – “Be Zen. You’ll need to use calm assertive in there.” It makes me feel tougher 🙂


    • I remember that post. What a scary situation! I feel so bad for all those owners and dogs. That is just not a positive environment at all. Trainers like that give them all a bad name. I bet she and Brad would get along well.

      There is nothing wrong with the idea of being calm assertive. At all. Just the connotations of the words have been twisted. Which is a shame.


  8. I must admit – I trained both our shepards with a chain collar – but just the walk heel and come. After that I switched to treats and got rid of the chain collar. I did that using the recommendation of a show dog handler who breeds champion shepards. Both dogs were very well behaved and well mannered. But seeing the results that Kristine has the PH have with Shiva – I think I will take tips from them.


    • From what I remember I think my parents trained my childhood dog with a chain collar as well. That’s just how it was done back then. Since Nikita didn’t really have any fears or problems, the chain didn’t affect her too much. Much like your shepherds, I am sure.

      Thank you so much for the compliment! We certainly don’t have all the answers. Like, at all. You are too nice.


  9. Love this post!

    I don’t generally have a problem telling people that I think they’re wrong. 😛 I do it nicely, but just tell them that I disagree and give them my alternative or reason why, or just walk away. Life’s too short to listen to idiots babble on all the time. If I think it’s an educable moment, then I’ll explain. If it’s a person who’s belligerant, I ignore them and move on.


    • Exactly. It is far too short. I think you have the best attitude. No point in wasting your time with people who aren’t ready to listen. I prefer to wait until asked before offering any advice.


  10. I am so glad you weren’t offended by the parody video and liked it enough to re-post it….I was a bit worried that I may be shouldn’t point people too it in case they thought it wasn’t a subject to make light of, but I am so glad it raised a smile.

    I think your post today is spot-on as was Thursdays.

    And unfortunately for me, the Lady Of The House is still singing “Drop the lead, walk away, turn around and he will stay…” too.


    • LOL. Noooo, now it’s back in my head!

      Not offensive at all! I know how you meant it. I admit, I looked up her show on Youtube after you talked about it. It made me laugh.


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  12. Kristine – I liked Thursday’s post. I thought you were right on. No fear needed! Kicked off WordPress? Never!

    Thanks for finding the guy’s show as it appeared in the USA. I knew it was a different name but couldn’t remember the name. I also didn’t realize it had been on for two seasons. I could have sworn it was only on one and they advertised the 2nd one and it never came back. Thank God! I tweeted constantly against the show and asked people to RT.

    I am also one of those people who speaks up if I feel I need to – or at the very least give someone the “dirty look” so they know I hate what they are doing to their dog. I always hear about people saying they’ve been admonished for using treats, but I never have myself. Trust me. I would have a few choice words to say if they did. But, I agree with Houndstooth – life’s too short to listen to people babble on about the whispering method. Ugh!


    • I haven’t been admonished, exactly, but I have had some people tell me they heard using food was bad for a dog’s motivation, they’ve never used them and their dogs are fine, blah, blah, blah. But I just tell them it is what works for me and my dog. And that’s that.

      Besides, I don’t think treats are the only things that work. I know someone who’s dog is only motivated by rocks. So that’s what she uses. Go figure!


  13. EtteE, you ROCK. Love your response, “calm and assertive,” in which you totally destroyed the basis on which the dude was training. LOVE it. I remember Barbara Woodhouse as THE house hold word in dog training – at the time I had horses so paid little mind….but now I am much more critical of what I am being taught or viewing – dogs or horses. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing with us, Kristine.


    • That’s the thing. I think we need to be a lot more critical of what we are told by the media and popular culture. Decide for ourselves how we want to live and teach. It’s a good philosophy to have. We should never take anything at face value, no matter who says it.

      Thanks for your kind support.


  14. I always find it amazing when strangers are so eager to tell you what you are doing wrong with your dog. Once, a total stranger approached me and told me my collie was beautiful… and was he fixed? Thank you, I said, and yes, he is… and then he yelled at me for not breeding a beautiful dog like that. AMAZING!

    I don’t know the show you were talking about, but it’s sad that people are taught to bully their dogs. You would have thought that the days of rolled up newspapers and rubbing their nose in it were long gone, but sometimes you can’t teach an old human new tricks.


    • You are kidding. Seriously?? Seriously??

      I don’t know why people think such things are any of their business. Jeepers.

      It is sad. These people are missing out on something wonderful.


  15. When mom first adopted me, I was a very bad leash walker. (Okay, I’m not pawfect yet but I’m getting better.) And some random human that we didn’t know noticed my…ahem…less-than-mannerly self and told us that all we needed to do was watch “Cesar’s show” and all our problems would be solved. I’m pretty sure that mom made her tongue bleed by biting it so hard. He was an older pawson and mom figured it wouldn’t do any good to try and talk to him cuz she could tell he was set in his ways. So she just smiled and thanked him and off we went.

    On the other paw, when mom gets “helpful” advice from peoples who think that she should just make me face my fears and make me do things that skeer me – she has NO problem with telling them (politely) that they’re just plain wrong.

    Mom watched a Victoria Stilwell show where she was trying to help some peoples with a dog who had been “trained” with dominance methods and had LOTS of issues. These peoples would jerk their little dog around and kept talking abouts how this little dog was trying to be alpha and they couldn’t let that happen. And mom just thought…wow, it doesn’t seem like it would be very fun to always feel like you had to boss your dog around and make sure it didn’t try to take over the pack. With the kind of training we do, we do it TOGETHER. And we both have a good time doing it!

    Wiggles & WAgs,


    • It doesn’t seem like a lot of fun, does it? That’s the thing. Our methods of training ARE fun. They have brought Shiva and I closer together. She has a good time and I have a good time knowing she is loads more confident.

      Your mom and I could probably talk for hours about the people who have approached us with their “well-meaning” advice. I get it all the time too. For the most part I just try to ignore them, but perhaps I should be stronger like her and stand up for myself a little more. I don’t know if it would make a difference but maybe at the very least it would prevent them from bugging us in the future.

      Thank you for your comments. You always have something awesome to say about your own experience. I am so glad you have such a wonderful human to have such a great time with.


  16. Just because you used to really, really like a show doesn’t make you a bad person. By the way, it is very brave of you to admit that of yourself. I have a tape of the “whispering Mexican” that my husband was horrified by when he watched it and I thought it made sense. At least you didn’t have a dog and were trying out the horrible methods on them, like I was. When I realized how cruel it was, I immediately stopped. I’d rather get dragged down the street than used those methods. Live and learn.

    When I come across people when I’m walking the dogs, I plan on using the line “they are in training”. It hasn’t happened yet, but for me it is the safest answer, if asked.

    You won’t be able to change everyone’s mind about what they think about their dogs and training methods, but if you just plant a seed in one, you have changed a heart.

    Hey, take it easy on yourself. Did you forget you are human?? 🙂


    • I have often used that excuse as well. It’s not really a lie. Shiva and I are in training pretty much 24/7!

      Thanks for the reminder! I think I did. 😛 You are so right.


  17. Hi Shiva,

    Just wanted to say hello and thank you visiting me and the nice comments on my blog!

    My human was very interested to read your human’s thoughts on training – she thinks that the problem with dog training is that it has become like religions nowadays with extremists – when she believes that like most things in life, it is finding a balance in the middle. Besides, different methods work for different dogs & different owners (and different situations!) so it’s very silly to make any generalisations. She uses a combination of methods to train me – mostly positive reinforcement but sometimes, for certain things that could be dangerous for me or other people, then she will use correction to help me understand and choose not to repeat the behaviour next time. But it is very hard to use correction in the right way, with the right timing and without emotional intimidation which is where most people go wrong – and that is why they end up damaging the bond with their doggies. Hsin-Yi thinks the problem is that people either go completely too extreme one way (like hanging their dogs) or the other extreme (like afraid to even say “No” to their dogs for fear of damaging their relationship – well, you can’t have much of a bond in the first place if that’s true!) Doggies that have no boundaries or discipline are also very stressed and confused – but that doesn’t mean that the discipline has to be nasty. Hsin-Yi is very strict to me and she does say “NO” a lot but we still have a great bond.

    We also think that a lot of words have been misunderstood and used by people in the wrong way, because they don’t really understand doggie behaviour at all. LIke the word “dominance” which is like a dirty word now but most people use it in the totally wrong context. They don’t understand that true dominance is more “leadership” than “bullying” – and a dominant animal in the wild is a positive meaning, not the negative meaning like the way it is usually used nowadays.

    Anyway, this has been an interesting discussion!

    Honey the Great Dane


    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you for the most part. I don’t like judging people for what training methods they decide to use unless, of course, the methods are actually abusive. There shouldn’t be such a huge divide because are we not all after the same thing? Using “extremist” language only serves to polarise the other side. So when television hosts say “treat-training is the worst” and others say “any form of punishment is abuse”, any form of discussion is shut down. Which is too bad.

      Perhaps we could all learn from each other if we just listen and then contribute. Instead of covering our ears to other possibilities. Thanks for joining in!


  18. Soooo many people are dog training experts via what they’ve been brainwashed with on TV programmes. I suck at dog training. I’m old enough to have started training dogs with the choke chain and ‘jerk’ method and well remember watching Barbara Woodhouse on TV. I would love it we could speak dog, it would make life much simpler. I know Frankie and Beryl are way better at training me than I am at training them … but they aren’t bad dogs. And I like to think we’re a team and I’m the team leader and we’re a happy team too:)

    Another great post, Kristine. It’s a shame you had to write it though. I don’t know the programme you’re referring to but the guy sounds like a total neanderthal!


    • I’m positive you don’t suck. I wish I could speak dog too. There are daily moments when I wonder if I have any idea what I am doing or if I am just screwing my dog up more. It’s not an easy thing, unlike how these shows make it appear.

      From what you have said here, I think you are the best kind of trainer/owener there is. Simply because you care. You view training as a team effort. And that’s what I think it should be all about.

      He is, trust me. I am glad you haven’t had to witness it for yourself!


  19. You could counter the “free advice” with

    🙂 Of course, some men like to give advice, even if you’ve just rec’d directions from someone else. I guess the poor dears just need to feel helpful.

    As for our past sins….we are all growing and learning.


    • That’s too cute. Thanks for the video! Now I have a new song in my head. 🙂

      The poor dears… LOL. Sometimes I wonder. it doesn’t stop it from being irritating!


  20. Hmmm… This is a really interesting topic because of the way I train Rugby. We use the Koehler method, and he has NEVER gotten food for any obedience exercise to date. He also wears a training collar (just not made of chain). He begs for his training sessions and has excelled in Obedience.

    I can’t comment on the show since I have never seen it, but wouldn’t surprise me to find out he is an incompetent dog trainer who needs to find a whole to hide in somewhere (there are lots of them out there). The problem is that there are plenty of these bad trainers on both sides of the spectrum.

    What to people do with their “purely” positive training route doesn’t work out? (For instance, not a SINGLE police dog has been trained without the use of adversives…. and it isn’t for lack of trying)

    Just playing devils advocate, not necessarily trying to debate training methods….


    • Hey, I am all for a debate! As long as it is a respectful, useful debate in which brilliant ideas are discussed.

      I appreciate you sharing your point of view. Now that I hang out with mostly purely positive trainer types I don’t often hear the other side. So I welcome anything you have to say. You are right, of course. There are horrible people on both sides who do a lot more harm then good. I wouldn’t respect a mean trainer who only used treats any more than a mean trainer who refused to ever try them. Mostly I just don’t like mean people.

      I am not familiar with the Koehler method so I can’t comment but I promise to do some research. I would love to further this discussion one day as I think it could be useful in a lot of ways for everyone.


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