Crossing Over…

February 20, 2014 at 8:20 am 16 comments

I was cleaning out my car the other day and I found some handouts from the first dog trainer I ever met/hired, from over 5 years ago. (Yes, I know – I should clean out my car more often)



This was a really uncomfortable and sad reminder of what I used to do to Boogie and how I used to make him cry because this was part of the training program I had paid for.  Quote the trainer: “It doesn’t hurt. He is being a drama queen. Correct him again/harder.” 

It saddens me that THIS sort of information is still being disseminated to lord knows how many millions of people  around the world even in this day and age, and to think that there are so many people who continue to choke, shock, pinch, alpha-roll their dog because they have been taught that this is how it is meant to be. Or maybe like me all those years ago, they don’t have access to any other information or don’t hang around any other dog-owner friends who DON’T use corrections or the ‘pack leader’ spiel… or maybe also like me, they already paid a huge chunk of money to receive advice that tells them to dominate their dog and “show him who is boss”, so they stick with what they paid for. And besides, the advice sounds ‘right’ because it’s the stuff that’s really popular on TV…

Seriously, how can people learn about humane training methods and CHANGE, when there is so little popular mainstream support for doing so? 

This is an old photo from 5-6 years ago. I was supposed to have Boogie wear this collar 24/7.

This is an old photo from 5-6 years ago. According to the trainer: he was supposed to wear this collar 24/7 and get corrected for every little thing he did that we didn’t want him to do.

Anyway,  my crossover experience in a nutshell or what made me change training methods:

  1. When Boogie was on that obedience training program years ago, he became shut down, more scared around people, more tense, and more prone to aggression (lunging and biting). He got worse.
  2. I wrote in to a behavior advice column with the question: “I don’t understand how this prong collar obedience program is going to help socialize Boogie to other dogs and people.” and the trainer who responded – Grisha Stewart – said: “Throw away the prong collar and look into CAT and BAT” Until then I had no idea that there were other methods that do not require corrections. A seed had been planted though by that piece of advice, and I started reading books NOT written by Cesar Millan.
  3. Karen Pryor’s “Reaching The Animal Mind” blew my mind and opened up a new world for me. It was a revelation that animals could learn via hands-off training methods that do not require the use of pain or intimidation or by humans having to be bossy/dominant. I went out, bought a clicker and started practicing  hand targeting with Boogie.
  4. Seeing the change in Boogie was the biggest motivator and reinforcer of all for ME to change and learn new ways of interacting with him. I had never seen Boogie so happy and so excited and so responsive. He was perky, relaxed, full of life and it was SUCH A RELIEF that I could BE MYSELF again. I didn’t have to feel bad about “not being dominant enough”, or “too weak” or “too nice” or about not giving commands in a deep enough voice, or even worry about “my energy” (which according to a few neighbors, was the reason for Boogie’s behavioral issues) Friends noted that Boogie had become more relaxed and I was less stressed.
  5. I gave up on the old training program (the trainer was not keen on the idea of teaching me to use a ‘clicker’, and I didn’t get my money back either). I started visiting dog training forums and found Sarah on the Functional Rewards yahoo group…. etc. etc.
  6. I want to add also that as I learned about dog body language and calming signals, I could look back on the video footage I took of myself using a prong collar on Boogie and for the first time in my life   I understood what all those head turns, lip licks, and yawns meant. I could see the stress that Boogie was experiencing caused by me and I couldn’t un-see what I had learned to see.

It is so great to see more articles and blog posts about crossing over… and how to talk about crossing over. This is still hard for me…  I get emotional when I think about the past (the things I did to Boogie) and also when I learn that people I know are fans of  aversive training methods or are praising Alpha-wannabe trainers, and I don’t know how to say what I want to say… without feeling like I am going to have a reactive episode. So for now, I say nothing. I do drawings and link to articles like these…


Rise Van Fleet: A Psychologist’s View of Crossover Training

Eric Brad: The Crossover Files

Ines  Gaschot: The Crossover Trainer

From the American Association of Veterinary Behaviorists.

From the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.


Entry filed under: Training.

Two BAT set-ups – January 2014 (BEFORE BAT 2.0) Ear Work

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sara Martin  |  February 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Yes! You are not alone. I still suffer guilt and regret over using a prong and corrections on Brodie years ago. I was at the end of my rope, stress limits reached, and was referred to a trainer who promised she could fix my dog. Was told treats and clicks given to him while around other dogs were a sign of weakness from me. Was told I was not being strong enough of a leader and he was trying to take the lead role himself. Was told to scream stop at him before the correction and get angry, which felt ugly to me. The prong “worked” for a few weeks, although I now know he was just shut down and afraid of me, not ok with other dogs. Thenhe started reacting again, worse than before and I couldn’t deal with what I was doing to him and I finally found help from people who taught the right way.

  • 2. Ines  |  February 20, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing! The crossing over journey is so conflicting. Its always great to hear other people’s stories to know you’re not alone. 🙂

  • 3. lili  |  February 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks, Sara and Ines. I know I am not alone on the internet, but in day-to-day life I feel alone because everywhere I go I see people yelling at their dogs or with best intentions, quoting The Dog Whisperer Show at me. Another thing I feel guilty about is that I used to do blog posts and illustrations about THOSE types of training sessions, and a few people I know hired the same trainer…

    • 4. Sara Martin  |  February 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      I work for a petstore, and on a daily basis deal with people trying to solve various behavior issues. Most people listen to my story and take my advice, thankfully. However there are those who are convinced that they’re right and I’m wrong and no amount of talking or research will prove them otherwise. Then there are those who are lazy and want a quick fix, which is what a prong or shock treatment looks like to them. Some days I feel completely defeated and want to go home and pound a few beers and snuggle my dogs.

      • 5. lili  |  February 21, 2014 at 6:03 pm

        It’s great Sara, that there are people who care enough to ask questions and that it’s YOU they get advice from!

  • 6. trujilloalison  |  February 20, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Reaching the Animal Mind sounds likes a great book! I could not agree with you more…I’ve used a clicker on and off with my Boston and he always responds so well. I realize now that I’m also more happy and relaxed when doing positive reinforcement, rather than feeling like I have to put up a front as a tough pack leader.

    • 7. lili  |  February 20, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      That is exactly how I feel! 🙂

  • 8. Kat  |  February 22, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Awesome post! Thank you for sharing your journey! Yes, unfortunately a lot of Los Angeles trainers still use aversive methods. It’s great to see someone local crossing over!

    • 9. lili  |  February 22, 2014 at 6:00 am

      Thank you, Kat! It’s like dredging up bad memories but I hope other people can learn from my mistakes.

  • 10. Pauline  |  February 23, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Thank you for this 🙂 I have recently shared this article in a dog owners’ Facebook Group. People are starting to disagree with my points (and with your points, indirectly). Such is the case whenever I see/hear anyone praising and trying to imitate Cesar Millan’s methods.

    I didn’t know anything about training when I got my beagle last year. I was just lucky that there’s a training facility 10 minutes away from where I live so I decided to enroll and it has since become a weekend habit. It’s one of the very few dog training schools in our country that uses positive training. I wouldn’t know how evil the other trainers are if not for our teacher and the resources she’s been sharing with me, including your site and your Doggie Drawings infographics!

    • 11. lili  |  February 23, 2014 at 4:13 am

      Thank you for your comment, Pauline. There will always be people who disagree… Which training facility do you go to? Please thank them for me! 🙂

      • 12. Pauline  |  February 23, 2014 at 10:09 am

        I’m just really worried about their dogs. They deserve better.
        I go to Pet Centrics here in Manila with my beagle boy Odie 🙂

  • 13. Me  |  February 23, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I could have written this! I started to get suspicious when trainers suggested that my older dog barked at squirrels because she was “taking advantage of me/showing me that she was the boss” and absolutely broke with them when I was instructed to repeatedly leash correct my younger, LEASH REACTIVE, dog or, if that didn’t work, to throw a can of pennies at him when he exhibited leash reactivity.

    Not only do I feel miserable for all the training time I wasted being a gruff asshat with my amazing older pup, but it’s going to take me forever to undo the damage that that mindset did to my younger scaredy dog.

    I’ve seen the proverbial light, and found an amazing trainer, but it still feels shitty. You are not alone!

    • 14. lili  |  February 23, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      So much ridiculous crazy dangerous advice!!!

      Yep, I can’t believe I took my reactive dog to this trainer’s bootcamp which was full of dogs and corrected him whenever he reacted. Poor Boogie. Actually what was scarier was what one person in that class did to their dog. Boogie pulled towards this woman’s dog, and her dog growled, so she grabbed her dog – this 80lb labrador – flipped her on her back, pinned her down, and said to me “I am teaching her not to be dominant. Go on, let your dog sniff her butt”. This woman worked with CM.

      I was also told that if Boogie lifted his leg to pee on a tree or post, that this was a sign of dominance that had to be suppressed. And that regular peeing is done squatting on the grass. (?!?)

  • 15. Anna B  |  November 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Curious about where you are and what the name of that trainer was. I’m currently fostering a pup (now 10.5 months) and he was brought to me at 6 months wearing a prong collar that was “supposed” to be on 24/7 after a two week bootcamp (that did not help with his aggression issues with his owner). I took off the prong and gave it back to the former owners as they were leaving (really nice people, just uneducated). He had similar abrasions and cuts on his neck. Now I am dealing with touch sensitivity as well as the original resource guarding. I’m working with an excellent positive trainer so I’m hopeful that we will get to a better place. Thanks for a great post and I’m hopeful that it will help to educate people about the stupidity, cruelty, and ineffectivenss of this type of training. In the case of our foster boy it clearly created more problems for the pup 😦

    • 16. lili  |  April 5, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Hi Anna B – If you go back to older blog posts, you will see the name of the trainer/bootcamp. Your pup is so lucky to have you!


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