How Not To Groom a Biting Dog

Every now and then a video crosses my desk from people either amazed, dismayed or generally seeking my opinion on something. Such was the case when I was shared this video, and I felt it was a great learning opportunity to highlight some of the misconceptions and ‘teaching moments’ of what should not be done when teaching a dog with a history of biting while being groomed.

Here are my thoughts, frame by frame:

  • 0:08 – Here the man should reward the dog for investigating the deshedding tool (why is he using that on a JRT?). The reward doesn’t have to be food – praise works well too. But a few seconds later…….
  • 0:10 – man punishes dog with a harsh correction for investigating the tool. What has he taught the dog? Do not investigate the tool! Tool = correction. Tool is bad!
  • 0:14 – the man says “licking is not love”. In this case and this particular time, he’s right! What he should go onto say though, which I don’t think he realizes, is the dog is licking because the dog is stressed.
  • 0:20 – the man says “I’m not going to hurt him….” Dogs are good at masking the pain they are feeling but I guarantee you that even though the dog is not showing it, he is supremely uncomfortable and the stress is building up in his body.
  • 0:37 – Somehow I don’t think the client really wants to ‘whip his ass.’ I think the client is uncomfortable but is trying to make light of the situation.
  • 0:41 – dog is trying to get away and trying to put distance between himself and the man. Tail is tucked, body is tense – dog is intimidated.
  • 0:52 – the man is correcting the dog while touching him with the tool. This is where positive training is completely different. We show the grooming tool and praise for a calm reaction. We set the tool out so the dog is free to investigate. We don’t pull the dog round by the neck or constantly correct. There is no force used whatsoever. We make this a pleasurable experience for the dog, not a traumatic one that is so obviously happening here.
  • 1:14 – the dog is now showing many appeasement signals. He tries to anchor himself towards the man – the man pulls him off – he lifts his paw, lowers his head and leans away from the man, who is completely oblivious to these signals.
  • 1:33 – the man says “you see how he looked away… that’s release.” Actually it’s not -it’s appeasement and the lip lick after the look away is a stress signal. The dog is not releasing at all – the dog is trying to appease the man and wants to get away from him.
  • 1:43 – the man says he wants to “desensitize” the dog to being groomed. This is not desensitization, this is intimidation.
  • 2:16 – the dog tries to move away while the man is speaking to the client. The dog is bowing his head, licking his lips and displaying a whole range of other stress signals.
  • 2:19 dog yawns – another stress signal
  • 2:43 – man says “he’s not too sure – but he’s not reacting…..” then immediately corrects the dog. Therefore he’s correcting the dog for not reacting.
  • 2:50 to 3:10 – man is telling owners to “breathe”. The man is trying to soothe himself, perhaps because he worries this isn’t going very well? The man now uses the tool on the dog’s ears, which are obviously very sensitive, but the man ignores this.
  • 3:25 – the man physically hits the dog for reacting. The dog is now in a state of extreme stress
  • 3:30 – ‘as a pack leader’…. outdated theory - based on flawed research.
  • 3:55 – man says “it’s going to take 2 to 3 corrections.” I haven’t counted all the corrections he’s given the dog since the video started but it’s way up in double figures and I guarantee he will use a lot more than 2 to 3 corrections before he’s done with this poor animal.
  • 4:16 – man says “see the foot up…” when the dog tries to climb on him. The man doesn’t realize this is an appeasement gesture.
  • 4:45 – “that’s the bad ear” the man says. Well if it is then why does he continue to make the dog uncomfortable by touching the tool to the dog’s bad ear?
  • 4:59 – no the dog is not doing it again because he’s so intimidated that he has shut down. Shut down is a survival technique. If an animal does nothing in the presence of an aggressor, maybe the aggressor will go away. The man is the aggressor and unfortunately continues the intimidation.
  • 6:02 – man says “you see, we can make this thing fun.” The man is now happy because the dog is not reacting, so now he truly believes that the dog is learning. Watch the dog though. This is not fun for the dog, this is not a success.
  • 6:10 – man holds the brush so the dog can investigate. In terms of modern, science-based training, this is the ONLY thing that the man has done right so far but it doesn’t last long as he continues with intimidation.
  • 7:07 - the dog is now stress panting while the man is talking to the clients. The dog has been closed mouthed until the point where the man has taken attention away from him and onto the clients. Dog now can open mouth and release tension. Note that the dog is also losing hair (as well as being groomed, dogs will lose more hair when they’re stressed).
  • 8:02 - man says he’s “been hired by so many groomers to help with their problem dogs.” Poor, poor dogs!
  • 8:10 – in my opinion, the man has shown that he has very little ability apart from being excellent at intimidation and causing the dog more stress and fear.
  • 8:27 – the man says “that’s not love” when the dog tries to appease him and climb onto him again.
  • 8:46 – dog is trying so desperately to get away. As he does so the dog pees. The man says “this is a typical sign of submission, not fear.” Then he contradicts himself by saying urination “can be fear.” Well dogs do pee submissively but they also pee when they are under stress and are fearful. In fact urination in stressful situations is a major fear signal – the ultimate fear signal – the dog is so stressed and scared that he pees himself.

This is why punitive training causes stress and anxiety that exacerbates aggressive behavior. These so called ‘trainers’ completely ignore dogs’ appeasement and stress signals and use intimidation to shut dogs down. This is not a success, even though it will surely be labeled so by this trainer and others like him. This man has suppressed the dog’s behavior through intimidation, exactly as a human bully suppresses another human with force and intimidation, but I think it's pretty clear that these punitive techniques have not changed the dog’s behavior in the video for the better. Suppressing behavior is a short term fix and I can almost guarantee you that the dog will react negatively to being groomed in the future and maybe even worse. In my professional opinion, the trauma that this trainer has put the dog through during this ‘training’ session will surely have long lasting repercussions on the dog’s well-being and emotional instability.


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authorname

Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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  • YLLODOG

    What a sorry excuse for a dog "trainer." I can't believe that anyone pays him to inflict his inhumane, antiquated methods on their animals. Watching the video makes me think he was trained by a circus where he beat elephants with bull hooks. No excuse.

  • Francis Vetter

    what an asshole. owner just as stupid .

  • Lacey

    This man is an idiot...and I'm being polite here, Poor dog.

  • TangoDany

    WTF ! the owner is more stupid for let that guy to do this to the poor dog !!!! No excuse to let that man do this job ....and the people pay for that !

  • Rosemary Kelly

    The little dog looks friendly and interested when he first comes in. It goes downhill quickly. I have a 225# Mastiff that I'd like this dude to meet. I got him as 3 month old puppy after he nailed a vet and a trainer that tried this "training". He's 5 now and hasn't growled at me, ever; let alone bit.

  • Elan Gauche

    I am OVER it with VC and other trainers "helping others" through, "education", aka critisism of competition. If a trainer is truly "positive" they have zero business gossiping about other trainers under the guise of, "education" about other trainers. If Lindsey Dicken/Jodi Murphy/Olga Don'twantabutcherhername were to vie for a customer's business against me none of them would make a long list of what they think I did wrong. They would simply turn out better results and the those results would speak for themselves. Same principle here. If any trainer bad mouths other trainers out of jealousy or lack of anything else to post on their monetized blog I am a brick wall to it. Regardless of what they CLAIM their intentions are. This fellow's results, (or lack thereof) should speak for themselves, but if you need further proof he is not a professional, listen to his vulgar mouth.

  • Janet Campbell

    Need you back on the telly, in the UK Victoria!

  • Kirsty Macfarlane

    He confused me never mind the dog! And you shouldn't groom a dogs ears and head or belly with a shedding blade they're to harsh for those sensitive parts I wouldn't do that to my gsds. Poor wee soul I could help them better with his issue and I'm not qualified yet! If small dogs are your dog of choice Nicole Wilde has posted an good article about a chihuahua who killed a baby and therefore small dogs get away with behaviours that would never be tolerated in larger dogs in fact their owners and others think it's funny.

  • juan_rnd

    I couldn't tolerate more than 26 seconds... the dog was very stressed! what a jerk !!

  • Anthony Quatroni

    Let me tell you something, Ms. Stilwell. You are a disgusting, evil, selfish person and you took this man, a man that came to my house and solved a dog issue I had for YEARS, and tried to ruin his reputation to further your own means. WOW, you don't even know this man, and you spent time trying to make what he does look bad, and took what he is doing and you're trashing it for your own personal gain. How do ANY of us know WHAT the dog is thinking? What this man has done has helped HUNDREDS of families with dog issues, and what he is doing is something POSITIVE and you're disputing it and all your asshole "followers" are posting bad things on his Facebook page. He doesn't even get paid for a lot of the things he does because he wants his clients to be happy, you poor excuse for a human being, and until you've walked in a person's shoes you should NOT try and get inside their head, only to make yourself "look good." You disgust me, and like a politician, you have your followers that will follow you into hell if necessary. Why don't you try and show us all the good things YOU do, instead of trying to put another person down to further your own career?

  • Anthony Quatroni

    You, are a MORON. No one knows what ANY dog is "thinking" and what this man is doing has helped many families with dog issues. He's NEVER had an unsatisfied client until your ASSHOLE buddy, Ms. Stilwell, TRASHED his reputation without even knowing him or actually SEEING any of his work. Dumbass!

  • Anthony Quatroni

    No, YOU are an idiot. You don't know anything about this man, and he's NEVER had an unsatisfied client!

  • Anthony Quatroni

    The OWNER is stupid? I am the owner, you fucking asshat. This man SOLVED a dog problem we've had for YEARS! Your womderful friend, here, Ms. Stilwell, has TRASHED this man's reputation FOR NOTHING.

  • Anthony Quatroni

    She broke this down because she wanted to use this man's work as a way to further her own career. She knows NOTHING about this man, and I am the dog owner, and THIS IS WRONG.

  • Anthony Quatroni

    I am the owner, you asshole. This man solved our dog problem that our dog had for YEARS. Your friend here is doing nothing but trolling and using this man to further her own PATHETIC career.

  • sharina

    this man is too stupid for words. he has no idea what is going on. what is wrong with the owner who is tolerating this treatment to his/her dog?

  • Asset Rose

    Can you read body language sir? The dog is afraid and stressed.

  • Asset Rose

    Stop being so agro. Bet your the guy in the video.

  • Asset Rose

    I can't either so sad.

  • Lacey

    What he did to "your dogs ears" was not right! It was hurting him. And let me say this... If this was your child would you let someone "train" him/her in this manor? One does not train an animal out of fear... One day the animal may turn on you. I never called you an idiot. And how much do you actually know of this so called "trainer" Ha as far as I know you may be impersonating to be the client... and your really the trainer. Never the less, post a video like this expected people to be upset.

  • Lacey

    You are the dumb @$$ for uploading this video on the internet.

  • YLLODOG

    I hardly think Victoria Stillwell's needs to trash this dog "trainer" to "further her own means." How many books has Eddie written? How many TV shows on Animal Planet has he starred in? Stillwell is pointing out what he does wrong, rather than just calling him names like you prefer to do to people who agree with her. She doesn't have to see the training in person b/c Eddie posted the video on YouTube. We've all seen it, and we feel sorry for your dog. The fact that you are egging on this cruelty and defending it makes you even worse than the trainer b/c you should be standing up for your dog rather than for the person abusing him.

  • YLLODOG

    I'm a moron? Take a look in the mirror buddy. Who is the one paying someone to abuse his dog ? And how do you know that he has "NEVER had an unsatisfied (sic) customer" unless you are his only customer?

  • Ole Kristian Valle

    I would like to see the video, mostly because I better can follow the discussion. I also want to see if this is a typical American hysteria, or there really are something about this trainer/groomer
    I hope I didn't offend anyone, but there are often a big difference on how Americans and Europeans see things.

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