Most television dog training shows are pretty formulaic. They feature the same host doing and saying the same things from week to week, only with different dogs and owners.
By the second or third series, the advice becomes repetitious and often dogmatic — it’s “my way or the highway.” Reality TV often focuses on problems, problems, and yet more problems, followed by seemingly magical “cures.”
In reality, much of reality TV is decidedly unreal. Who knows what happened in the editing process? Most television dog training follows a 1-2-3-4 format: 1) Dog misbehaving, 2) Magical cure, 3) Dog being perfect, and 4) Owner endorsing trainer’s magic. Think about it: It doesn’t matter in which order the four parts of the sequence are filmed, just as long as they are assembled appropriately in the end.
Let’s say, for example, that we have a program showing a dog that bites the trainer, then gets trained, and within minutes appears to love the trainer. The Dog’s owner is amazed and ecstatic. But for all we know, the dog loved and trusted the trainer at the start, then became fearful after some aversive manhandling and was provoked to bite. The owners are happy and smiling because their “dangerous” dog is in the hands of an expert, and because they’re on the telly.
All the film editor has to do is reverse the “love” and the “bite” to create a convincing episode. To make television training appear to work, the editor only needs one shot of the dog misbehaving and another of him behaving perfectly, filmed in any order.
Even if misleading editing is going on, it’s reasonable to presume that television dog trainers can train dogs because that’s what they do for a living. The burning question is whether the owners have learned how to train, so that the dog will continue to behave appropriately once the television crew has left. Was it a temporary TV fix or is the problem truly resolved? We viewers will never know.
Reality TV producers think that problems and pseudo-drama make for good TV. Personally, I think that dogs and their owners deserve better. Rather than focusing on supposed problem solving, puppy/dog owners are screaming for programs that show them how to quickly, easily, and effectively train their puppies/dogs to act appropriately from the outset, so that they don’t develop predictable problems.
A well-trained owner is absolutely essential to the well-being of a dog, because untrained owners tend to get frustrated and upset and may even punish the dog, when he simply lacks an education, through no fault of his own.
Enter Dogstardaily.com, which Kelly and I created long ago. It offers hundreds of free how-to training videos, and just this month we launched a new program on our Web-based DSD TV — America’s Dog Trainer. Each weekly episode features a different dog trainer from a different part of the U.S. A second program, World’s Dog Trainer, will soon follow and will feature different dog trainers from different countries.
All these trainers focus on dog- and family-friendly training — proactively teaching dogs good habits, predicting and preventing common problems, and, most important, teaching dogs to enjoy training and playing games with their human companions. DSD TV benefits from the wealth of creativity and the variety of approaches demonstrated by many different trainers. This allows dog owners to choose a trainer and training style that suits their personalities and lifestyles.
Ten years ago, I tried to create a dog-oriented cable TV channel, but the required budget exceeded $200 million. How technology has changed! Now it is easy and affordable to film and edit short dog training videos and put them online.
Web-based TV is a terrific business and educational model, much better than local, cable, or network. Web TV has a worldwide audience and all the programs are archived so viewers can watch at their own convenience — anytime and anywhere. All you need is a laptop (or iPad) to watch on the go, or you can connect to a big screen at home to watch the programs in your living room. It’s an exciting technology that I predict will be accessible from all televisions within a couple of years.
You don’t have to wait, though, to check out America’s Dog Trainer at www.dogstardaily.com/videos/tv.
Ian Dunbar is a veterinarian, canine behaviorist, and puppy-training pio-neer. He is the founder of SIRIUS® Puppy Training and Scientific Director for www.dogstardaily.com.