Jim Gillies CDBC is a highly experienced and qualified dog behaviourist in Glasgow. With over a decade of experience working with dogs and their owners, Jim has earned a reputation as a trusted expert in his field. He is dedicated to promoting positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques, always prioritising the well-being of the dogs he works with.
Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly – Is This TV Show Helping or Harming Our Dogs?
The premise of this particular show begins with statements from “Master Trainer” Graeme Hall postulating ideas such as “lasting results… quickly” and “we have to be able to tell our dogs off.” At face value, this may seem reasonable. The reality is much different; these are extremely reckless and can be dangerous presuppositions. The show would have you believe that a dog’s behaviour problems can be rectified in a single day or that a simple flick of the leash is all that is required to resolve complex issues with dogs in clear distress.
Why TV Dog Training Shows Can Be Misleading
- Quick fixes: The shows often promote fast solutions, implying that a dog’s behavioural issues can be resolved in just one day or with one simple technique without addressing the underlying cause.
- Harsh corrections: They encourage the use of punishment and corrections, which can erode trust and lead to other long-term behaviour issues.
- Setting dog guardian’s up to fail: it raises the wrong expectations that complex issues can be improved quickly and in some cases, they are to blame for their dogs behaviour.
The Consequences of Corrections and Punishments
All of the scientific research conclude punishment-led approaches erode trust. Recent studies have clearly demonstrated that punishment can often intensify, or create other behaviour problems over the long term. Shoving a dog off balance is an extremely dangerous thing to do.
The example of the “Master Dog Trainer” shoving the Labrador upon entry to the family’s home is not only unnecessary but lacks any form of functional assessment, therefore not ascertaining the reason for the behaviour being displayed. We, as dog owners and professionals, need to understand why our dogs display unwanted behaviour.
The Risks of Misguided Dog Training Techniques on TV
The clearly excitable, yet friendly Labradors, in this case, have learnt that when they jump on people they receive the attention they are looking for. To shove them off balance in an attempt to deter them is completely unfair to them.
Worse, it actually sets the conditions for the dogs learning that people coming to the house is a negative or threatening thing, which can be a precursor to aggressive behaviour. Careful editing makes the process look miraculous and instantaneous.
Both dogs, to the trained eye, display avoidance behaviour as the “Master Trainer” shoves them in the neck. Friendly and relatively well-socialised Labradors may accept this type of response from people initially, but over time may not.
The most pressing issue with this example is that the audience will then replicate this approach because someone on television should be a reliable source of guidance.
The Dangers and Fallout of Punishment
What begins as a sharp yank on the leash, over time, becomes more severe as the punishment no longer works. Using techniques like this is extremely reinforcing to the handler, as they perceive what they are doing is working.
Commonly, the handler has to escalate their punisher to have the same desired effect. The constant repetition of a stimulus changes the efficacy of that stimulus, whether this is a yank on the leash or a verbal correction “NO”. Alternatively, the dog learns to avoid the punisher and the conditions that predict it.
The consequences of this approach could be severe for both humans and dogs, for example leading to a reduction in the owner-dog bond, and reduced confidence in the dog not knowing how their owner would like them to behave.
The Advantages of Reward-Based Training
There are established force-free training techniques that could resolve this behaviour problem, guiding the dogs to be calmer in their greeting of visitors and to walk calmly on a loose leash, removing the need for painful or intimidating interactions with their owners.
Positive, force-free training methods that are easier and more comfortable for owners to implement and much safer for both dog and owner. And we haven’t even mentioned the ethical considerations…
The purpose of this show is about entertainment, and the welfare of the dogs is low on the producer’s list of considerations. Where we see the aforementioned Labradors pulling the owner off her feet, resulting in a cut arm, this is simply for effect.
Advancing Dog Training: Rejecting Quick Fixes for Compassionate, Science-Based Solutions
No reputable trainer or behaviourist would set their clients up to fail. Yet it makes for compelling viewing when owners and dogs are in distress and along comes the “Master Trainer” to miraculously resolve the issue in a matter of moments.
The behaviour world has progressed significantly over the past couple of decades. Qualified behaviourists using up-to-date scientific research findings currently operating would avoid using invasive techniques, and work in consideration with detailed historical information and closely with veterinary professionals.
Dogs can often behave in the way they do because they do not understand how we want them to behave or because they are stressed in some way.
Why You Should Be Sceptical of Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly
The programme, Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, would lead viewers to believe that complex behaviour problems are resolved with one or two sessions. Careful editing and false outcomes are postulated as a success.
The case of Bella, featured in the series, is a deeply worrying example. Bella is clearly a sensitive dog who is badly overwhelmed.
Exposing a dog to something clearly finding worrying (flooding) and then punishing and suppressing responses is absolutely no measure of success. After reading several dog tv reviews, very few shows of this nature are thought highly of.
The Misinterpretation of Success
Lay viewers may see a dog lying down in the presence of something they would previously lunge at as some measure of success, but someone conversant in animal body language and psychology would identify all the hallmarks of shutdown or behavioural inhibition, a state where the animal learns it cannot influence events and therefore offers no behaviour at all. Learned helplessness is not an outcome that can be postulated as a successful outcome.
The behavioural response may seem different and more convenient to a handler, however emotionally the dog is now in a more stressed state, and the emotional cause of the behaviour has not been addressed.
This is, unfortunately, what this show presents to its viewers, who, with no background in this field, cannot be blamed for accepting this as a viable and effective strategy and then applying it to their struggling dog, who cannot cope.
Rethinking “Bad” Behaviour: Embracing a Non-Anthropocentric Approach to Dog Training
There is a multitude of reasons a dog may behave “badly”. Viewing animal behaviour as “bad” is anthropomorphic because it projects human emotions and values onto animals, which can lead to misconceptions and misunderstandings about their natural behaviours. Dogs, for instance, do not act out of malice or with an intention to annoy their human companions. They simply behave according to their instincts, past experiences, and the circumstances they find themselves in.
Labelling a dog’s actions as “bad” can hinder our ability to truly understand the underlying reasons for their behaviour and find appropriate solutions. Instead of judging a dog’s actions based on human standards, it is crucial to approach their behaviour from a non-anthropocentric perspective, taking into account their unique needs, biology, and learning mechanisms.
Understanding Canine Behaviour: Beyond Punishment and Misconceptions
The title of the show can perhaps give us some insight into how the trainer views behaviour problems. Dogs don’t have some intrinsic moral code. They display behaviour that has worked for them previously, or, as a result of their emotional state at that time. They are not trying to annoy or inconvenience us.
Behaviour that is effective in dealing with the situation is then repeated, whether it be to access food or attention or to get away from a situation that frightens them. For us to punish our dogs for these behaviours is deeply unfair and can cause a huge amount of unintended consequences, both for trust and our relations with our dogs.
Designing Effective Treatment Strategies by Understanding Behaviour Causes
In order to design the most effective treatment strategy for addressing a dog’s behavioural issues, it is crucial to gain a deep understanding of the reasons behind the behaviour. This involves considering a variety of factors that may contribute to the issue, including:
Key Aspects in Dog Behaviour and Training
Emotional state: Assessing the dog’s emotional state during the display of problematic behaviour can help identify potential stressors or triggers that need to be addressed. Fear, anxiety, frustration, or excitement may all play a role in driving certain behaviours.
Reinforcement history: Understanding what factors have reinforced the problematic behaviour in the past, whether it be positive reinforcement (e.g., receiving attention or treats) or negative reinforcement (e.g., escaping a frightening situation), can help guide the treatment strategy.
Training history: Examining the dog’s training history, including the methods used and the consistency of the training, can help identify areas for improvement and potential gaps in the dog’s understanding of desired behaviours.
Environmental factors: Considering the dog’s living environment, exercise routines, and mental stimulation opportunities can help pinpoint aspects that may be contributing to the behaviour and need modification.
Socialisation experiences: Assessing the dog’s socialisation history with other animals, humans, and various environments can help identify potential areas of concern that may be influencing the problematic behaviour.
Medical Factors: Identifying any underlying medical conditions or issues is pivotal as they can significantly affect a dog’s behaviour. Conditions such as pain, vision or hearing loss, or gastrointestinal problems may be contributing to the behaviour issues. It’s also crucial to consider the side effects of any medications the dog may be on, as some medications can alter behaviour or mood.
By taking the time to thoroughly understand the reasons behind a dog’s behaviour, trainers and behaviourists can design more effective and targeted treatment strategies. These customised plans not only address the root causes of the issue but also provide a solid foundation for long-term success in managing and resolving the behavioural problem.
Essential Steps in Addressing Canine Behavioural Issues: a Functional Approach
When it comes to addressing behavioural issues in dogs, a comprehensive approach is necessary to ensure that the root causes are identified and addressed effectively. This is called a “Functional Behaviour Assessment”. The considerations in this process include:
Key Takeaways for Dog Behaviour Assessment
- Taking a detailed history of the dog’s behaviour:
- Understanding the dog’s past experiences and environment
- Identifying any triggers or patterns in the problematic behaviour
- Assessing the dog’s socialisation, training, and overall daily routine
- Evaluating the consistency and appropriateness of the owner’s interactions with the dog
- Investigating possible medical explanations for the behaviour:
- Consulting with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues that may contribute to the behaviour, such as pain, discomfort, or hormonal imbalances
- Considering the dog’s diet and potential allergies or intolerances that could influence behaviour
- Evaluating any medications the dog may be taking and their potential side effects on behaviour
By taking a thorough history of the dog’s behaviour and investigating possible medical explanations, dog owners, trainers, and behaviourists can develop a well-rounded understanding of the factors contributing to the behavioural issue. This information enables them to design tailored and effective treatment plans that address the root causes, ultimately leading to lasting positive changes in the dog’s behaviour.
The Misleading Appeal of “Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly”
Whilst there are some useful tips in the programme, the overall message is one of a “Master Trainer” who postulates techniques which have worked for him in the past, with a lack of scientific reasoning or an explanation why.
The trainer at least used some form of praise, and in the case of Dave the dog displaying coprophagia, aside from the examples of corrections initially, there were some good ideas on how to resolve the issue. Had the trainer avoided the correction and simply used the “leave” cue, then more praise would have been justified.
As with all behaviour problems, taking a detailed history is essential, and there appears to be no investigation into possible medical explanations for the behaviour, which are common when investigating cases of coprophagia, however, this did not appear to be undertaken.
This “master dog trainer”, at the very least, does try and communicate to the dogs, in some circumstances, what behaviour he is actually looking for. This is to be highlighted and commended, as previous celebrity dog trainers have only punished and suppressed, without guiding the dog to a behaviour that can then be rewarded.
Why Does “Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly” Attract So Many Viewers?
Why does Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly gain so much attraction from viewers? The answer, it makes for compelling viewing. The average person sees that it “works” in so much that there appears to be an improvement in the dog’s behaviour in a very short period of time. However, a lack of addressing the emotional cause of problems changes very little from the dog’s perspective.
Selective editing and a fundamental lack of understanding of learning theory very often mean these results do not last, or that the dogs develop other issues as a consequence.
This is not a personal attack but it has to be pointed out that Graeme Hall has no professional qualifications or recognised accreditations. In any other regulated sector, he wouldn’t be able to practice. But due to the lack of regulation in dog training and behaviour in the UK, we have to endure these types…for now. This show should not be called Dogs Behaving Badly, it should be called People Behaving Badly!
Dogs Behaving Badly New Series 2023: A Critique
The much-anticipated “dogs behaving badly new series 2023” has recently aired, and as an advocate for positive reinforcement methods in dog training, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. While the series continues to captivate audiences with its dramatic portrayals of canine misbehaviour and subsequent interventions, I still have more than a few reservations about the methods showcased.
Firstly, it’s essential to understand that while some methods might provide immediate results on screen, they may not be the most beneficial for the dog’s long-term well-being. The show often leans towards quick fixes, which can sometimes side-line the importance of understanding a dog’s emotional and psychological needs.
Quick fixes might look impressive on TV, but in the real world, sustainable change requires patience, understanding, and a deep bond between the dog and its owner. By teaching owners about modern training approaches, we can give them less risky ways of training their dog.
There are Better and Safer ways…
Moreover, the series sometimes veers towards methods that are not only outdated but potentially harmful. As many modern dog trainers will attest, positive reinforcement techniques, where desirable behaviour is rewarded, are not only more effective but also foster a positive relationship between the dog and its owner. On the contrary, punitive methods can lead to increased aggression, anxiety, and other behavioural issues in dogs.
While “dogs behaving badly new series 2023” offers entertainment only with little insights, it’s crucial for viewers to approach its teachings with a grain of salt. Always prioritise your dog’s emotional well-being and consult with qualified and certified professionals who advocate for positive reinforcement techniques.
Jim Gillies, a Certified Dog Behaviourist and Trainer in Glasgow with over 10 years of experience, prioritises canine well-being through modern, science-backed methods. Handling 4000+ cases of 1-to-1 behaviour training, Jim is fully accredited, insured, and recognised for addressing various behavioural issues including aggression, separation anxiety, and more. Jim holds qualifications in level 5 (merit) Advance Diploma Canine Behaviour Management and level 6 Applied Animal Behaviour. Explore his insightful blog and podcast, sharing expert knowledge on dog training and behaviour. Certified by the IAABC, Jim’s expertise makes him a reliable choice for addressing your dog’s needs.
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