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By Published On: February 21st, 2010

I watched a 28 second video yesterday of a trainer in Canada, doing some pretty rough stuff to a dog. The abuse that he inflicted on the dog included sharp collar jerks, pulling the dog off its front feet and slapping the dog on the face. It was unclear what the dog, a large breed, perhaps a vizla or Rhodesian, had done or was doing to provoke this kind of treatment. The setting appeared to be an outdoor training class with other people and their dogs circled around. The dog being abused was barely moving, which may have been the ‘problem’ in the trainer’s eyes, I don’t know. The creator of the film claims that the trainer was annoyed with the dog’s owner and took his ire out on the dog.

When I watched the clip I got that heart constricting feeling that occurs when my body has a physical reaction to seeing not only someone/thing suffering but also a response to the perpetrator of the violence. I prefer not to fantasize about being violent toward other people, but in this case I had flashes of what I would do had I been there to witness it. It was shocking to watch a group of pet owners, who no doubt care about their animals or else they wouldn’t be bothering with a training class, standing around while someone assaulted an animal. Whether anyone spoke out for the dog I couldn’t tell. It may have happened so quickly that there was little chance to react and while some may have been dumbstruck by the treatment, others may have assumed that it was justified.

In the clip I saw the film had been looped so that it looked like the dog was being yanked and hit several times. This was unfortunate since it was not explained that this editing had been done. But more unfortunate is the idea that yanking and hitting a dog once isn’t that bad and only if it happens repeatedly is there a problem.

Some may criticize me for using terms that are usually applied to violence against people, to an animal, but what else is it other than assault when someone has another being trapped by a chain around their neck and proceeds to hit and choke them? Oh wait, there is another name for it, it’s called TRAINING by folks like this trainer!

Why is it that we are drawn to watching people who gain control of other creatures through the use of intimidation and physical violence? Is it because we don’t define what we are seeing as violence? Is getting what we want when we want it, exactly as we want it, enough to justify the means we use to get it? Who finds these people and then popularizes them by giving them TV programs and guest appearances on talk shows and why do they do it other than to make a buck (or millions of them)? We are sickened when we watch programs that advocate the teaching of violence to young children (yes Virginia there are people who do this) yet tune in weekly to learn how to bully, threaten, scare and hurt dogs, without the bat of an eye. It surprises me how many otherwise intelligent, thoughtful people do not see violence against animals as what it is, violence, period.

I have four dogs and board others at my home. I understand what it’s like to feel frustrated and angered by their behavior. It seems that in the spectrum of human behavioral responses to being frustrated and angry, violence comes more easily than thoughtfulness and patience. There is probably an evolutionary reason for this, but it seems a poor excuse when with instruction and practice we are capable of measured, productive, non-violent responses. As a species we find reasons to justify our bad behavior whether we are enslaving other people, beating them up for being different than us, or eating a piece of cheesecake and although they are not comparable, they are evidence that we can delude ourselves about minor to major things.

Isn’t it time to move up on the evolutionary ladder rather than slide down a few rungs?

Check out this video clip with a group of OFF LEASH puppies paying attention to their handlers and learning new behaviors without a slap, collar jerk or shout.


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