A question of ethics – part 1


I was at the office today (our local park) doing a consultation with a man and his Labrador, working on recall and loose lead walking (connection). We have a really nice community at the park on weekday mornings, the professional dog walkers, the power walkers without dogs, the recreational cyclists and the dog people walking their own dogs.

There is a fella who I see who has two GSDs who he has trained to a high level from the brief glimpses I get of him (I see him several times over the month). He appears to use positive trainng methods from what I can see. He uses food to reinforce the behaviour which he likes and I’ve never seen him physically correct his dogs. When he asks the dogs to do something though, he’s not really asking, he’s telling.

This fella knows I’m a dog trainer and from reading his body language (he never says hello to anyone etc) I get the impression that’s he is trying to show me how it’s really done. Today (and every other dog he sees me), he put his dogs in a sit stay in the middle of the path and walked away. There were other dogs and people around walking past his dogs. The dogs were transfixed by him and then he called them, they raced towards him and then held a heel position targeting his hands for about 50m or so. They were then reinforced with food. Impressive? Yes, maybe. Ethical? I’m not so sure. If this had been in competition for a dog sport, then yes, it’s impressive. If it had been in preparation for that dog sport competition, then yes, cool also. My issues is that it’s done for the benefit of all those watching and at the dogs’ expense to boot.

For me it would be far more impressive if his dogs were walking with him off lead, moving forward in front of him, sniffing, moving with him when he walked on and behaving in an appropriate social manner with dogs and people. But they’re not. The appear to be automatons, with little choice and not allow ot behave like dogs (I’ve never seen them sniff when out)

Training with positive methods isn’t enough. We need to train with an ethical mindset too. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Until next time, have a great Christmas.

John and the Glasgow Dog Trainer Team

7 thoughts on “A question of ethics – part 1

  1. I agree with you but what he is doing is a lot better than dogs totally out of control or having owners that just go to the park and throw a ball over and over again and then go home. I see a lot of the latter as I live opposite a village playing field. They drive to the area, and start throwing straight away, they don’t even walk around , just stand still throwing. We learn a lot on the internet and can keep up with all the latest findings etc. before that I just went with teaching what I had always done which would be the same as this guy was doing 😦

  2. I agree, 100%. Happy dogs are important to me, and that means providing the dogs with time and opportunities to just be dogs. Hopefully he takes them out to big open fields somewhere to run and play and sniff… even if it’s when no one’s watching.

  3. Thanks for this article John. My outlook on dog training used to praise the relationship you describe – dog works FOR human. However whilst my partner and I work with our recently adopted Shepherd/Husky ‘Bruce’, I recognise that it is much nicer to have dog work WITH human. I hope that with the right practices, Bruce will learn proper social etiquette so that we can embrace his autonomy rather than resist it.

    Thanks for keeping up with all the posts – I hope to work with you and your team soon!

  4. Yup, I’ve seen just what you described, and some think that’s just great. But every dog I work with meets your later paragraph. And if they catch a good scent out there and want to track it down, they know how to ask for it. I guide their walks and over activities, but they have a great deal of choice, because this is about them.

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