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Towel Bonking is Barbaric

How ironic that a video of a trainer named Jeff Gellman using a rolled and rubber banded towel to forcible “bonk” a dog would show up on my Facebook page just after I wrote a lengthy blog post on punitive training methods.   The full video can be found here. The incident takes place at about the 3 minute mark.

This video made my stomach hurt when the dog reacted in fear and pain, yipping and jumping away. It was no different than if the man had reached out and punched the dog in the head.  And then I noticed that he used his foot to retrieve the towel from beyond the dog’s reach before bending over to pick it up.  Gee…I wonder why.             

There is no need for this type of abusive training any more.  We know better.  And just because something works doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. 

But here is the thing I found most disturbing about that video, beyond the abuse.  This man’s timing is abysmal, and he is going to get someone hurt.

In the longer video that he has posted I watched while the dog was reactive to a dog across the room but responded quickly to his handler and sat down at her side almost immediately after reacting.  Then he looked to her for validation of what he had just done.  What am amazing time to reward good behavior.  We WANT dogs to check in with us.  We WANT to reward them when they do the right thing.  When the distracting dog is brought back into the picture you can see the dog begin to tense, but instead of jumping up and barking/pulling again, he immediately looks at his person.  And then…right at that instant, when the dog looks up for guidance, he was hit, at close range and impressive force but absolutely no warning, with the rolled towel.

What in the hell did you just teach that dog?  You taught him that checking in with his person can be scary and painful.  This dog was already trying to curb his inappropriate behavior.  That is  the time to positively reinforce his progress, not teach him the exact opposite.  If this happened again you would be well on your way to insuring that dog never, ever checks in with his handler, and as a potential service dog, doing so is beyond critical.

You don’t have to beat a dog to teach them.  You just don’t. Not ever.  

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