|Stills from video footage belonging to Christopher Upton, Callington, Cornwall|
It is shocking that even now, despite science and plenty of very successful, modern, force free trainers writing books, demonstrating their dogs work - despite the fact that all manner of dogs from pet dogs to dogs with serious jobs such as search and rescue, assistance dogs, bomb detection dogs... we STILL have people insisting that they need to use abusive methods to train dogs.
And let me ask you, just HOW serious a job actually IS a working gundog doing? Really, whose life depends on that dog quartering nicely, stopping promptly, recalling swiftly?
Nobody's, except perhaps the dog itself and that's the same for ANY dog off leash anywhere.
So why do people like Christopher Upton of Corleone Gundogs, think that it's not just acceptable, but completely necessary, to pick dogs up by their ears (he prefers this to a single hand on the scruff as it limits the dogs ability to whip round and bite him, which one presumes some dogs have done!)?
The video footage I took the stills from here is publicly available on Christopher's facebook page - I reproduce stills from it here under the UK copyright legislation 'fair dealing - using the work of others' as specified here:
"Criticism or review
Quoting parts of a work for the purpose of criticism or review is permitted provided that:
- The work has been made available to the public.
- The source of the material is acknowledged.
- The material quoted must be accompanied by some actual discussion or assessment (to warrant the criticism or review classification).
- The amount of the material quoted is no more than is necessary for the purpose of the review."
Just in case Mr Upton does not like me discussing his behaviour or use of his publicly available video footage.
So - is it necessary to use force? Or painful methods? Or fear? Or intimidation?
I don't believe so, and a great many people agree with me - if we don't need to use force, fear, pain, intimidation etc to train dogs to detect bombs and save peoples lives, and we don't need to use these things to teach dogs to tell deaf people that the smoke alarm is going off...
Why do we need to use them to teach dogs to flush game or retrieve dead game? These jobs cannot possibly be claimed to be serious or of life-or-death importance. They are just the things we need dogs to do as part of a hobby!
Would it be acceptable to claim that we must use force and pain to teach heelwork-to-music, which no one would claim was a serious job - of course not!
In one of Mr Upton's videos (one where he demonstrates teaching a loose leash walk by jerking a slip lead so hard he lifts a little spaniel bitch off her feet, whipping her round and seriously risking injury to her neck) he claims he has to be "cruel to be kind" and setting aside the fallacy of this thought process for a moment, this suggests very strongly that Mr Upton KNOWS that these methods are cruel - he is not of the opinion that picking a dog up by its ears, hitting it, jerking it off its feet by a noose round its neck, is NICE, he KNOWS it's cruel.
It is perfectly possible to teach a dog any number of tricks (and yes Mr Upton, retrieving game is a trick, staying at a distance is a trick, dropping into a stay when running is a trick, these tricks are no more nor less difficult to teach than any other, they just happen to be relevant to your hobby, where reversing in a circle around someone's legs, hopping on three legs or closing a door might not be!) using positive reinforcement.
Emily Larlham has some fantastic videos demonstrating a wide variety of behaviours trained using the clicker, some of them are frivolous and fun, some of them really useful for responsible and safe ownership of a dog.
To a dog though, they are all the same - just tricks.
Mr Upton claims that his training methods are justified because they work - personally I disagree with that concept.
Now that we know WHY various methods work, and now that we have a choice in what methods we use, it really is not as simple as saying 'this works, I'll use it'.
Allowing myself a little hyperbole at this late hour - I can cure a dog of stock chasing in under 30 seconds and I can promise you a 100% success rate, that dog will never chase stock again.
How? Oh well I'll shoot your dog.
It works right?
Clearly this example is over the top, but the point is certain methods come with a price - and it is up to us to judge if that price is fair and acceptable.
I can't comprehend that any right minded sane person thinks that causing pain, discomfort, fear, is an acceptable price - even if there was no other way...
And of course, this is not the case, because there IS another way. There ARE people training dogs to do serious jobs, without using force, pain, intimidation, fear... there are also people very successfully training gundogs to do their jobs without using any of these things!
For positive gundog training in the UK, speak to Helen Phillips or buy her book - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Clicker-Gundog-Level-Learning-about/dp/1890948306
For US readers - http://www.duckhillkennels.com/forums/index.php
There are undoubtedly more out there, these are just the first two I found in under one minute's googling - they are NOT hard to find!
Mr Upton has been reported to the RSPCA and they are allegedly dealing with the matter.
Mr Upton is most assuredly not the only person using methods like this across the world, but for it to be stopped, we do have to stand up and be counted. Saying 'it shouldn't be allowed' is not enough - please take appropriate action!
I would ask anyone reading this to keep their comments clean (no matter how hard that might be) and not to harass Mr Upton in any way - but if you feel strongly that abuse under the guise of training should not be permitted, do feel free to contact the RSPCA, your local press, dog magazines etc.