I'm not sure how people will react to this and if you feel it's too far removed from what we are about on here please say so but it is something that has been worrying me for a while and I need to express it somewhere!
As some of you know I have trained dogs as well as horses and I am starting to see good horse people align themselves with bad dog trainers in the belief that the theories are the same (because that's what bad dog trainers tell them!). Examples of this:
- Dogs are "pack" animals (herd) and have a pack leader. This is a myth that has been scientifically proven to be incorrect time and time again. Horses are herd animals, dogs are not.
- Dogs are descended from wolves because 'man' tamed wolves. There is a 'wolf' in every dog. This is a myth. You would not treat a young dog like a young wolf any more than you would treat a human baby like a young chimpanzee despite the genetic and biological similarities. Dogs evolved themselves to 'bond' to humans like no other species - they NEED humans, no other species has evolved this way; it is unique trait in dogs. Horses have retained much of their innate 'state of being'.
In addition to this - many many dog trainers use very outdated methods that are at best 'not nice' and at worst barbaric. Prong collars, shock collars, hitting, slapping, kicking, strangling, lying them down, etc etc etc. The most proven and effective method for dog training is positive reinforcement. With horses (especially Monty's way) we use a lot of negative reinforcement and some positive. This causes consternation at times in the dog trainers world (good dog trainers) because they see that horse training has a negative reinforcement leaning (positive too of course but less so than purist positive dog trainers). This culture clash and lack of understanding has opened the door for bad dog trainers to sneak in and align themselves with horse trainers. I have argued (and being shouted down and had a lot of abuse I must say in some dog training forums) for trying to express the view that there is a fundamental difference between the prey and the predator response to our interaction.
1. Pat Parelli has aligned himself with Caesar Milan - big mistake in my opinion. Caesar and others like him still (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) believes in 'pack theory', dominance/submission models of behaviour/relationship. He talks about the 'alpha roll' a revolting practice that is akin to forced tie down of a horse.
2. I notice on Horsemanship Radio they are currently extolling the virtues of "Bark Busters" - this is an organisation that is detested by many highly respectable and knowledgeable dog trainers (far better than me) and they also still talk about dominance and pack theory. (Any dog trainer who touts pack theory immediately shows themselves to be scientifically uninformed about dog behaviour)
3. Monty I know has a lot of regard for Jan Fennell and while she has a much more balanced approach I have also met her son who is also a dog trainer and he subscribes to pack/wolf theory etc. and is very dismissive of many 'positive' dog trainers like Victoria Stilwell for example.
OK, so why am I rambling about this? Well there is a danger that we inadvertently support bad practices because we have believed what these "experts" tell us. And when people as famous and trusted as Monty, Parelli etc. align themselves with these people it has the potential to confuse people and damage their own reputations in the eyes of the scientific community and in those we are trying to convince to move away from untested hypotheses/outdated traditional methods and into evidence based practice that does not cause fear or distress.
The famous horsemen and women cannot be expected to know everything about their own profession and everything about everyone else's but I see this trend developing from a base of good intentions but the foundation is shaky and may lead to trouble later on. I feel that all non-violent horse training advocates must be very careful and thoroughly check out what they are putting their name too, as must we.