Read an Excerpt of 'The Loved Dog'

Chapter Five: Pain and Pleasure

To this day I know of several well-respected trainers who use unreasonable exhaustion to break a dog's spirit. A common method is to tie dogs to a moving treadmill and force them to run until they are beyond exhausted. At that point all the dog cares about is surviving.

Don't be fooled when a trainer calls a choke chain a "slip collar." The name may sound prettier, but it's the same old violent method of choking a dog until he submits to your commands. I have seen these so-called trainers telling owners that spraying Binaca in a dog's face is the way to stop unwanted behavior. Still others physically force dogs on their backs in what is known as an "alpha rollover," which is scary and unnecessary. I wish these torturers, disguised as trainers, who are too lazy to actually learn dog behavior, would take to heart the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil is permanent."

You have to be smarter than your dog, not tougher. If you think being tougher works, try training a rat to run an agility course. Or try training a chicken to heel, like I have. Being tough and dominant will get you nowhere. Compared to working with these animals, training a dog is a piece of cake, because he actually wants to help, and will forgive you when you are being unclear or inconsistent. If your dog doesn't want to lay down when you ask him to, hurting his neck and shoving him around will only cause his enthusiasm level to plummet even more. I find this abusive behavior utterly unnecessary because teaching your dog to lie down is actually easy -- and when you do it properly, he won't even want to get up! When you coach your dog using The Loved Dog method, your wishes will become his favorite behavior because he will associate it with great pleasure -- not pain.

Alpha Rollover

There is a training method called the alpha rollover, which a few trainers still swear by. It is suggested that when a dog becomes too aggressive or tries to assume the leadership role in your relationship, you should get down on the ground and use your hands or your body to pin your dog on his back so he can't move under your weight. Then, from that terrifying position, the trainer is meant to stare the dog down into submission.

Does it work? Ask my friend Michelle, a Canadian woman whose Jack Russell terrier stiffened up whenever she got close to his food bowl. Instead of systematically coaching her dog to accept her presence (as I describe in chapter 9), she followed a trainer's advice to do the alpha rollover and pin her dog to the ground when he growled at her. She called me when she got back from the emergency room after her terrified dog had bitten her.

People tell me that the alpha rollover is natural, and that an alpha wolf or dog performs this technique to create submission in other pack members. That is absolutely not true! You may see a snapshot of a submissive wolf lying on his back in front of a higher-ranking wolf. But if you'd seen the sequence of events that took place beforehand, you'd realize that nobody put the wolf in that submissive posture. He got there on his own, whether he was playing, or looking for acceptance from his leader.

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