Monday, 8 July 2013

You have to be cruel to be kind??

Stills from video footage belonging to Christopher Upton, Callington, Cornwall
... Said the man who picked his spaniel up by the ears, threw it to the ground and then hit it a couple of times across the back for good measure.

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 -

    For US readers -

    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.


Anonymous said...

Oh my God, just awful. You, me, and they know it's nothing to do with actual training, it's because they get enjoyment out of having utter control over another living thing and seeing what they can get away with, pushing the dog to limits just so they can enact further control over it. It's ironic that sporting dog's work is SO important when people are hunting for sport, but when people are hunting for sustenance (an actual useful purpose), these stupid power games no longer matter and they're just happy to have a dog that retrieves the prey.

Lauren jonczak said...

I don't know how to train a dog that is why my dog went to dog training in Baltimore when we first got her but even I know that you do not have to be cruel to be kind. I would never be aggressive with a dog to get him or her to do what I want them to do. These pictures make me mad. How come this isn't considered animal cruelty?

Colin Seal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elayne Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Colin Seal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TheDogLine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You make me sick, abusing for control! Really?? Big Man arent you?? Some day one is going to turn on you! Karmas a bitch, comes back at you ten fold!

May said...

Someone should pick him up by the ears. AND SWINGHIM ROUND AND ROUND SEEIF HE LIKES IT.nasty piece of work!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

UTTERLY SICKENING , HOW can he be allowed to continue

Julia Dolan said...

I wrote him today and said the following (which I'm sure will fall on deaf ears)

I am a fellow Spaniel owner and hunter from America who grew up in Ireland, and word of your training methods and practices with your beautiful gun dogs have reached a lot of us here, and we are absolutely appalled.
Spaniels by nature are an intelligent, loyal, and eager to please breed who thrive off of giving you what you want. The talent a dog trainer must possess is the willingness to learn how to COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY with your dog, and be good enough at your trade to get what you want out of them through partnership and understanding, not out of fear and subordination. Hanging a spaniel by their ears does nothing more than diminish their trust in their person- trust that is much needed when out working together in the field. I have owned spaniels my entire life. Spaniels who are on point, quick, effective and brilliantly trained. Never once has any of my dogs been hit, struck, or reprimanded with anything other than a voice – because if you’re doing it right, that is all they need. If you’re unwilling or too incompetent to learn to communicate with the animal, rather than dominate it in a way similar to that of the World War Two soviet era dictator, than you are going to have faux relationships with your dogs based on fear induced decision making, not faith based. And that is going to be a HUGE problem in the quality of your field work. A pure relationship with a dog based on mutual understanding, trust, and partnership will always win over dominance and force. There is no substitute for the feeling you get when you walk in to do a job in the field with your spaniel, and you know that they are focused on you, listening to you, eager to do whatever you want, and they do all of that because they WANT to and love you. Not because they are so scared shitless that if they don’t they will be hanged by their ears and walloped. Because what you’ve been left with, is a bad reputation here in the States (and apparently in the UK from what I’ve heard), dogs who look good, but lack the personality and true willingness to work without punishment. I often compare men who must hit their dogs to get them to do what they want to the man who must drive a red Ferrari to be appealing to ladies. You’re compensating for something.
If you are going to abuse the breed and its integrity, please do not refer to yourself as an accomplished dog trainer when all you have accomplished is scared dogs working out of fear. Because there are some of us who have successfully figured out how to get these brilliant dogs to what they are bred so well to do without them screwing up so badly they need to be hung by their ears. Please consider taking a moment to understand your breed and be willing to learn to give them what THEY want and need- not always what YOU want and need. I bet you’ll have better dogs for it. Please consider it. A solid partnership with a good spaniel is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. But it shouldn’t come at their cost.

Hope he reads it, I sent it to him email.

Sue Tassoni said...

YOU ARE A SCUM BAG PIECE OF SHIT! Someone ought to pick you up by your fucking dick you PIECE OF SHIT!

pinuplilly said...

in the name of God but what's wrong with this idiot is one called training is called animal cruelty this man deserves jail

Stockings said...

Well said. Did u get a reply?

Anonymous said...

Our springer had a couple of training sessions with this man! He carried out this technique on him upon which he wet himself! My husband demanded he stopped and never took him back!

12 years on our springer has aggression issues gets extremely nervous when someone he doesn't trust goes near his head!! Coincidence? It sickens me what this man does to dogs that are either too excited or confused to know what he's asking of them to treat them this way!

Anonymous said...

Please tell me he's been prosecuted....

Ems said...

In response to Anonymous of 18th July 2014 - if you have witnessed the way this 'man' works first hand, please please make a complaint to the RSPCA.

The latest news is that they have investigated him but because he said he didn't know his methods were considered abusive, and he promised not to do it again, they have not taken further action.

What they NEED is further evidence of his behaviour.