Why punishment could be deadly

A Pedadoggy reader gave me the loan of a really great book that was produced after the devastating 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, called Quake Dogs. The heart-warming photos and stories cover the inspirational working dogs that tirelessly sniffed the rubble to try to find survivors, as well as the many pets, most of who were home alone at the time, when the earth rumbled, shook and tore open.

These dogs were lucky to escape with their lives but almost all have been left with psychological scars that remain with them from that day.

I was very troubled about one story however. It wasn’t the earthquake that very nearly killed this dog, but poor advice from a dog trainer. Prior to the first quake in 2010, a one-year old collie called Adam “had severe separation anxiety disorder and would chew everything available when Dan (the owner) left him. He chewed CDs, the stairwell, the carpet and an entire couch. Nothing Dan did seemed to stop Adam’s behaviour, so he asked a dog trainer for advice.”

Great call by the owner – get an expert in to help. But check out what the trainer recommended for a dog that clearly needed support. “The trainer told Dan that while he was physically looking after the dogs (Adam and Tara) very well, he was treating them like children instead of dogs.”

The advice allegedly given was for him to eat before his dogs, enter doorways before them and to keep them behind them on their leads when out walking. Unfortunately typical advice for someone following outdated methods of dog training that advocate for dominance and punishment.

The near-fatal call, however, was: “Most importantly, Tara and Adam were absolutely not, to sleep on Dan’s bed or even in his room.”

It’s reported in the story that the owner went to bed that night, only allowing Tara into the room and closing the door on poor Adam. Just after 4am that morning the house began to shake. When Dan finally managed to shout for Adam in the dark after the shaking stopped, the dog didn’t come. A bookshelf had fallen over blocking the stairs and as the owner started having visions of the dog being crushed underneath, Adam finally came to him. Poor pup, can you imagine, he was probably petrified. Apparently the dog now sleeps in the room again and has stopped chewing the furniture.

You’ll see that I often refer to the unintended consequences, of which there will always be some, of punishment of any type. This example very nearly took a dog’s life. Without knowing the history of the dog and owner, I can’t comment on exactly what I would have recommended. However, shutting the dog out and walking through doorways first would not feature on my list of advice.

That’s why I advocate for positive because a different approach to helping Adam, I am certain, would have had a far better outcome for his physical and mental health and wellbeing in the longer term.

Just because you get advice doesn’t mean it’s always good. Ask for and choose positive.



Quotes taken from and attributed to: Quake Dogs, Random House, 2013. All proceeds to HUHA Rescuing dogs around New Zealand.


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