Dog Training vs. Dolphin Training: Why the Double Standard?
It's not often that animal training makes headlines, but it happened in Atlanta this week.
A new senior vice president of the Georgia Aquarium, José Luis Barbero, was a former dolphin trainer at Marineland Mallorca in Spain. Video (shown below) from that facility surfaced of Barbero and several other trainers allegedly yelling at, hitting, and kicking the dolphins in their care.
The public's response? Outrage. Calls to boycott the Georgia Aquarium until he is fired. Some have even said they feel he should be charged with animal abuse.
I agree wholeheartedly with the public's outrage. Dolphins are highly intelligent and sentient beings that are fully capable of learning without the use of force or intimidation. The video made me sick to my stomach. I'll omit my thoughts on keeping marine mammals in captivity--let's focus on what really puzzles me about this story.
The abusive methods used on the dolphins in the video in question--yelling, physical punishment, instilling fear in the animals in order to get cooperation--are all methods used to train dogs by people all over the world. People who call themselves "dog trainers" employ the use of fear, pain, and intimidation in order to achieve what they feel is "control" or "submission." But what have they really achieved, other than a fearful dog that is now operating with a sense of self-preservation?
A truly successful animal trainer is able to teach an animal appropriate behaviors by guiding them away from behaviors they don't want and teaching them what they do want --all without the use of force. Dolphins and dogs are two of the most intelligent, emotional, and sensitive species that exist in our world. Research has shown that a dolphin's brain has a more complex neocortex than our own, and that they are capable of complex emotions. While it seems to be an accepted fact that dolphins are highly intelligent and worthy of humane training, I think the general public is still in the process of accepting the same about their dogs.
Research tells us that dogs have the intelligence and emotional capacity equivalent to that of a human toddler. They are highly in tune with our body language and facial expressions, and are capable of learning hundreds of words. Some dogs are even able to understand basic arithmetic and that's just the start. Leaving the human comparison behind for a moment, dogs are so beyond us in so many ways, that to celebrate their 'dogdom' means this blog would go on for days.
So I'll leave you with this. Maybe it's time that we start being as outraged with punishment-based dog training methods as we are about the video of this dolphin trainer. Aren't dolphins and dogs both worthy of the same respect?
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