by Lisa Mullinax, CPDT
Before anyone starts to think that I'm opposed to all the dog shows on television, I have to sing my praises for "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet. Don't let the dominatrix photos fool you, Victoria Stillwell, a professional dog trainer, uses positive methods to change the behavior of problem dogs in the UK.
Stillwell does a great job of educating dog owners just how their bad behavior creates bad behavior in their dogs. Then, she shows them effective, positive training methods to change their pet's behavior, including problems with aggression towards family members and strangers. Stillwell is a perfect example of "positive does not equal permissive."
While she does use sound aversion (such as an air horn) in some circumstances, she is careful to make sure that the dog does not associate the sound with the presence of the owners, a common mistake owners make when using such methods. This makes sure the dog associates the noise to his actions, and not the owners.
One of the best things about the show is that by the end, the dogs show a real change in their behavior, rather than simply having the behavior suppressed through forceful methods. Stillwell addresses everything from bad manners to aggression and does it in a way that dog owners can replicate. There are no warnings flashing across the screen about the methods used in this show.
She also goes back to the owners' homes over a period of time, to check on their progress. One of my favorite techniques that Stillwell uses with dog owners who have not complied is to drive them to the local animal shelter, to see what happens to dogs that owners don't train. This shocks owners into reality: make changes now or subject your dog to a horrible fate.
I give "It's Me or the Dog" a big four paws up!
Visit the Animal Planet Website for more information on Victoria Stillwell and a listing of upcoming shows.