What would motivate a highly successful dog trainer with a loving family to choose a hectic life travelling thousands of miles crisscrossing the country, training dogs under the pressure of television production schedules, trying to satisfy all of the demands placed on a TV celebrity while still finding time for a private life?
I posed this question to Victoria Stilwell, world renowned dog trainer and star of “It’s Me or the Dog” at the NYC Pet Show on Saturday.
Ms. Stilwell answered that, from its inception, the mission of the show has always been to educate viewers about humane and effective dog training methods.
“I am sickened by the methods used in the media and in everyday life,” she stated emphatically. “I won’t rest until we’ve blanketed this country with the right kind of knowledge, with the right kind of trainers, with people to give that knowledge to others . . . that there is a humane way to teach your dog,” she declared.
Ms. Stilwell wondered aloud why some people think they have the right to “dominate animals” and proposed that such people are “weak and insecure.” She expressed concern that people are “. . . mimicking aggressive behaviors towards animals that they see other people doing.”
“You do not need to dominate your dog in order to get your dog to behave. In fact, if you teach your dog through positive reinforcement, give your dog confidence, your dog is more focused on you, will work with you more and will have fun learning,” she explained.
Ms. Stilwell summed up by stating very simply, “That’s it, bottom line. I tell people ‘run, run far away’ from any trainer that uses any kind of forceful training.”
Victoria Stilwell is in excellent company when she favors positive, force free dog training methods over confrontational, compulsion-based methods of modifying behavior.
In 2007, The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior published a position paper publicly stating the organization’s concerns about the use of aversives in pet dog training.
And in 2008, a canine behavior study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that “dogs presenting for aggression to familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to the confrontational techniques “alpha roll” and yelling “no” compared to dogs with other presenting complaints. . . It is thus important for primary care veterinarians to advise owners about risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems.”
To find dog trainers who are well educated and train dogs by using the least invasive, most dog friendly methods possible, here are some excellent referral sources:
Victoria Stilwell Positive Trainers
Jean Donaldson’s The Academy for Dog Trainers graduate referral list
Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA)
About Victoria Stilwell
Born and raised in Wimbledon, England, Victoria Stilwell is one of the world’s most recognized and respected dog trainers, reaching audiences in over 50 countries.
She is best known for her role as the star of Animal Planet’s hit TV series It’s Me or the Dog, through which she is able to share her insight and passion for positive reinforcement dog training by taming some of the world’s most unruly pets as she counsels families on their pet problems. She also served as a judge on CBS’s Greatest American Dog.