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I have a friend who took her dog to a "behaviorist" (the trainer is adamant that she is not a trainer, she is a behaviorist) to deal with excessive whining and anxiety. She has tried many different things with this dog and finally decided to seek professional help. The woman she took her dog to is very highly rated in our area and seems to have a good reputation.

However, my friend came home with instructions that seem to be potentially harmful for her dog, and certainly not positive reinforcement. She has told that her dog is always "on" and therefore needs to learn to install her own "off" button. She is supposed to do this in a few different ways. First, the dog is not to freely roam the house anymore, and should be tethered to a piece of furniture with a chew toy. Second, she is to stay in her crate while my friend is at work (no dog walkers, visitors, or day care anymore) which is 9+ hours a day, and her crate is to be covered so it is dark. Third, she is not allowed to enter situations anymore where she may get too excited and whine, which means she no longer comes over to play, or goes to the dog park, and really only exercises with my friend by herself. Finally, she is to practice an exercise multiple times a day where my friend should step on the dog's leash, a couple inches away from the collar, to force her dog to lay down. This in particular upsets me, as I have seen her dog violently thrash to try and free herself from being tethered, 3-4 ins from the ground, by her neck.

My friend has wholeheartedly embraced these new training techniques, despite the fact that I expressed my misgivings. She actually seemed very angry and hurt that I believed these methods would potentially be harmful for her dog. I haven't seen the dog for awhile, although she used to come over to play almost every day. My friend is isolating the dog, and the couple of times I have seen her, she seems more anxious and actually whines more.

Am I overly sensitive and gentle in the way I view training, or is this trainer seriously bad news?
 

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Wow that seems like horrible training techniques to me! I think that would make a dog that's not normally anxious get anxiety!! That's not addressing the problems, that's punishing the dog in my eyes.
 

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Geez. I will admit, most of it I disagree with completely but there is one small section I do agree with - tethering and giving them a chew toy or something to keep them occupied.
When Callie was a pup, she was on the go 24/7, even now she would be if I let her. So we started to set up a routine where she would get to play, play, play and then I would tie her up with a chew or put her in her crate (these days I tell her to go to her chair) so she will relax. The length of time she is in her crate/tied up/on her chair varies every time, sometimes it's only 5 minutes and other times she decides she will relax and lay down/sleep for an hour or so - most of it is completely up to her.
 

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Yeah, a lot of that sounds too extreme, or just a bad idea. I think it sounds ok to keep the dog tethered with a toy to occupy her and avoiding overstimulating situations like dog parks but...all alone for 9 hours with no bathroom breaks or attention or anything? That's a lot. Also, being tethered on such a short leash sounds emotionally and physically damaging. I really see nothing with someone coming over at least once a day for a walk and some attention. If the dog is clearly behaving more anxious and whining more I would simply say that. It doesn't matter if your friend is hurt because this is clearly hurting her dog.
 

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I can deal with all of it except the stepping on the leash to make the dog lie down thing. What's that supposed to do for the dog? I don't get it. Unless, I guess, it's to be done when the dog is in a really agitated/anxious state and is meant to make her calm down? I don't know. Seems weird.

As for being in a crate while your friend is at work, I've personally never crated my dogs, but they are left alone (one in the house, two in the tack room of my barn) the whole day while I'm at work. That's a minimum of 7.5 hours and maximum of 9 hours depending on what's happening after school (I teach) like meetings or needing to run errands, etc. They seem to do fine. Granted, the one in the house is ancient and just lays around, and the two in the tack room can play with each other and have a good bit of room, but there are no visitors, walkers, or daycare in my dogs' lives while I'm at work. And I think my Aussie would gladly stay in a crate. I bought a crate for Winston and Pete the Aussie spends more time in it than Winston (who prefers my bed! LOL). So, I don't think that's all that unreasonable.

Tethering to a piece of furniture sounds disastrous to me as my dogs are all big enough to move my furniture and Winston would just chew up the piece of furniture to which he was tethered! LOL! But if this is a relatively small dog, I guess I can see how this might be helpful. It sounds like the goal is to get the dog to stop anticipating something happening 24/7 and working itself up constantly. It's easy to create a whining, anxious dog when the world revolves around that dog. Ask me how I know. Winston was well on his way to being the most rotten animal on the planet (he's still pretty rotten, hee hee) because I catered to his every whim and literally lived my life to make sure he was adequately entertained, exercised, and stimulated. So much so that he began sort of running the show, and when I wasn't on top of things, he'd whine and fret to let me know I was slacking in giving him the attention he wanted or do the things he wanted (like playing with his tug toy or frisbee...I can't even SAY "Frisbee" without him getting so worked up he's about to explode).

So, I think that while these things might seem "cruel" at the onset, in the long run they will lead to a more content dog. A dog that is constantly whining and anxious has to be somewhat miserable. And I imagine it does get worse before it gets better. That's just to be expected.
 

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I like the Nothing In Life Is Free program which some consider harsh but that teaches dogs how to entertain themselves, create an off switch, etc. These training methods sound like NILF on steroids.

Dog Training: Nothing in Life is Free : The Humane Society of the United States
Nothing In Life Is Free For Dogs Either: A Shake-Up/Shape-Up Program for Turning Any Dog Into a Great Dog Practically Overnight - Kindle edition by Henry Askew. Crafts, Hobbies & Home Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.


@Gretchenpc I agree that I can deal with most of it but the forced down. I think they might be trying to use a "pack leader" thing but that doesn't work.
 
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I've been told by trainers a few times that we needed to do the crating thing with out dog as well. That she should be spending a large portion of her time in the crate. I suppose it depends on the origin of the whine that may be the reason they suggested this. I was told, in regards to my dog, that she was developing much too strong a bond with me and that was causing some of her anxiety issues. I was instructed to crate her while I was home and do periods of leaving and coming back as well as leaving her in the crate when I was at work. The point was to get the dog to understand that she doesn't need me around. That being on her own is a good thing.

As for the stepping on the leash, that seems unnecessary. I can't really imagine what the point is.
 

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I've been told by trainers a few times that we needed to do the crating thing with out dog as well. That she should be spending a large portion of her time in the crate. I suppose it depends on the origin of the whine that may be the reason they suggested this. I was told, in regards to my dog, that she was developing much too strong a bond with me and that was causing some of her anxiety issues. I was instructed to crate her while I was home and do periods of leaving and coming back as well as leaving her in the crate when I was at work. The point was to get the dog to understand that she doesn't need me around. That being on her own is a good thing.

As for the stepping on the leash, that seems unnecessary. I can't really imagine what the point is.
I have an Aussie that acts like he's in absolute ecstasy when I show him the least little bit of attention or affection. I mean like he buries his head in my chest, clings to me with his paws, and collapses in a heavy heap of gratitude just because I pet him for a few minutes. It's both sweet and pitiful. LOL. But what I've realized is I don't dole out a lot of affection to him, and he's just sort of expected to deal with whatever life throws at him. As a result, he's the most reliable, polite, undemanding animal I've ever owned. You wouldn't even know he's in the house half the time, and I live in a tiny house. He can stay in by himself for 12 hours (he's done it before!) and never mess up a thing. He wouldn't dream of it. Now, maybe he was born that way, but I think the fact that he came into an established home with three horses, two other dogs (one who was my constant sidekick), and a few cats, meant that he just became a member of the big family instead of the center of attention. I think he'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to be an only dog that was the center of someone's world, but I wonder if that might ruin him? (He'd be more like Winston, who is pretty sure his presence is needed AT ALL TIMES).

I think dogs, like kids, need to develop independence and self-reliance so that they don't wrongly assume the world revolves around them. It makes for healthier, happier individuals in the long run.
 

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Bad advice. Dog training is an unregulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or a behaviorist. Ask your friend what sort of credentials this trainer has. Maybe you could suggest your friend join this forum.
 

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To me, it sounds like she is cooking up the exact problems I am currently trying to remedy!

I adamantly disagree with all of it, with the exception of the initial "diagnosis."

I have run into traditional trainers who call themselves behaviorists, I like to think the best of people, so I tend to tell myself they must have a different definition of a behaviorist than I do. For the sake of clarity, I am going to spell it out. For me, a behaviorist a) has a degree in veterinary medicine b) is a member of The American Academy of Veterinary Behaviorist's c) has completed additional formal training at the university level in animal behavior.

Since I said she's cooking up a difficult dog, I will go ahead and share the remedy for when she needs it. It sounds as though the dog needs a job to do, so it isn't making up their own jobs, like whining, barking or stealing things. My dog has a problem with barking in public, so his new job is going to be holding a toy when we are out. My dog doesn't have an off switch either, we are installing one using Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. I will add, I don't know how I could get through the protocol without his anxiety meds... The rest of my dog's treatment plan is specifically tailored to issues he has from being crated 8+ hours a day, not being socialized and acclimated to the world around him. He kind of had to have a job to do all the time, he cannot be left to manage himself, so if he isn't busy foraging for his meals, then he is in a down stay with breaks.

At a certain level, I can empathize with your friend's feelings on the reaction she got. She is probably very stressed, and to an extent disappointed in how things are going with her pup. Personally, I take a lot of personal pride in having well behaved, amiable pups. This is something that takes a lot of work, so when I knew I was putting in the effort and not getting the results, I was really frustrated. I tend to internalize things, and what with this being my first cattle dog, I started to doubt myself. If I were in your shoes, I would probably get her a copy of "Decoding Your Dog," written cooperatively with Academy of Veterinary Behaviorists. Some other good books to review, "Culture Clash," " The Genius of Dogs," and "For the Love of a Dog."

Hope my response isn't too, over the top, strident. Like I said, raising nice pups is a deeply personal point of pride for me.
 

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I don't see the problem with crating your dog, or restricting their movement around the house. It's a normal training technique. Many people do this to keep their dogs safe and to protect their belongings, so I don't think it's 'cruel' or 'harmful', and it's possible that she will be given more freedom once she achieves a calmer base state. I think 9+ hours a day without being let out to pee is a little excessive, though.
Many people don't take their dogs to the dog park, myself included, and it's a good idea to cover your dog's crate as it creates a more den-like atmosphere. I don't see a problem with any of these things.
Stepping on the leash sounds like some Cesar Milan thing to me, and it seems that that would only contribute to the dog's anxiety, not to mention affect her relationship with your friend.
In the end, though, the dog belongs to your friend, and she gets to choose how to train her. While you may not agree with it, none of this is animal-abuse. I've seen too many awful pictures of things humans have done to animals to call this cruel.
 
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