however you look at it, it's all ishkabibble

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In which I review Don Sullivan's Secrets to Training the Perfect Dog DVD
My plan today
So one of my students bought Don Sullivan's Secrets to Training the Perfect Dog DVD. It was... different than she had expected. Luckily for me, she gave the $60 set to me after she realized what she'd gotten.

For those of you who don't know, I've been a dog trainer for over 20 years. I've pretty much seen it all by now, but this new DVD training fad makes it more expensive to see what's being spouted. Italics are my comments, regular text is what the DVD says, underlines are titles and bold is my emphasis.

Part 1: Getting Started

Ok... Opening screen:

Big bold letters:

May not work with breeds like Pitbulls which have been bred and trained to be aggressive

What.... The.... Pitbulls aren't any more aggressive than any other breed. I bet 20 years ago, he was saying this about Dobermans and German Shepherds too. Most of my "aggression" issues come from the little foofy dogs, the bully breeds are usually laid back and just want to chill or play. It's not a good sign when they open up with psudo-nonsense like this.

Training Philosophy

You must be respected and the leader in your dogs life! The best time to train is when they are 3 months old. Older dogs can learn, but you need to overcome them first. We don't want to break the dogs spirit, but we want them to obey us.
Why do none of these people ever talk about love?

Dogs are pack animals, and naturally want to be in control. Leaders use force to keep control. Pack leader is all! Discipline enhances a dogs sense of well being. Remove emotion from training. Use a balance of praise and discipline. You and your dog will be more bonded when you use a mix of praise and discipline.
Dogs aren't pack animals -- they're social animals. There is no alpha, beta, delta, gamma...all the way down to omega. This idea gets even more bizarre when you learn that who the "alpha" dog is can change depending on where you are. Sadie may be the queen of the house, but at the park Bella may rule the roost.

"Spoiled" means "I ruined my dog."
He doesn't define spoiled in this usage. Does he mean "can get away with doing whatever they want" or "given the best stuff in life in terms of food, treats, and toys"? Keebler would be considered by many to be very spoiled, but he's a well trained dog who loves everyone, and is loved by everyone.

Watch this tape several times before trying to work with your dog. They're going to fight you to maintain their place in the pack.
It's very rare for my students to "fight" training. They're usually so eager to show off, that the loose leash walking to the classroom is the hardest part!

Also, why is he grabbing his crotch while talking to the camera?

Golden Rules
Do undo your dog as you wish others would do unto you?

When teaching something new, you need to do it 10 times before they understand.
Is this the first ten times ever, or the first ten times in a new situation?

Praise verbally and physically -- but don't over do it. Heavy praise is only for play.

Never repeat a command.

If they don't obey, make a physical correction. They knew what you wanted, they're just testing you.
Is this before or after the first 10 times? Also, is this the first time in a new place, or only after we've become accustomed to a new place?

Never give a command unless you can correct them.

Start with low level of correction, then move up until they "want" to obey. Pick up at the same level you left off at before the next time and escalate more from there.
Escalation isn't just for the cold war, kids!

You must be consistent at a level of correction appropriate to the strength of will of your dog.
I really hope he defines these terms at some point. Is it the strength of will as in "ability to ignoring you" or how well they ignore temptation warrants larger punishments for succumbing to temptation"?

It is not abuse, you should be just firm enough to make them want to obey in a calculated way.
It's not abuse, we just take away his air.

Speak firmly.
Because your dog should only listen when you sound like a drill sergeant

If your dog doesn't respond, increase the level of physical correction, not the volume.
Hit harder, not louder!

If they break stay, take them back and physically correct them.
Wait, so you take the dog back to where you want them to stay, and THEN punish them?

Use voice and hand signal.
Because you never have your hands full or a sore throat when you're with your dog.

Your dog has 2 seconds to listen to a hand command.

Don't wait to get the dogs attention to give a command.
It's his own fault if he can't see or hear you.

Keep hand signs visible for two seconds.
Are these the same two seconds she has to obey?

Make physical correction even if the dog is moving to comply if they're after two seconds.

Incorporate play periods.

Training line should stay on even in play, short line should be worn 24/7.
Heh, I do all my training off leash, unless in an area where one is required by law. I want them to listen to me when naked, not just because I can catch them.

Training should be limited to 45 minutes -- but three perfect responses earns a break.
Wow,45 minutes is a long time. I usually limit my students to 5!

Incorporate commands into daily life instead of training sessions.

Training and Treats
Oh, this should be good. It's where I'm usually lambasted by "no nonsense" trainers.

Never use treats because:

Dog is simply obsessed with treats and that's all they want.
Wouldn't you run the risk of them simply becoming obsessed with attention if you only use praise as well? This seems to be a bit of a strawman argument.

Dogs in a pack don't use treats to gain respect, they use the discipline they use on other dogs.
Dogs don't to either, actually. If a dog needs to use discipline to maintain his/her status, they're usually on the way out.

No consequences for not responding if one uses treats - can't trust them.
Why do people always assume that treats = never corrected for misbehaving?

Puppies are so stupid that if a stranger gives them food, then then they'll figure that all humans are subordinate to them. Also, it leads to food aggression.
Huh, and here I thought that by humans asking them to do something, and then giving the thing that is vital for life, then they learn that life itself and all that is good comes from human hands...He argues that giving treats makes the human subordinate to the dog, but "subordinate" dogs don't walk up and give "dominant" dogs food. If they find food, they either hide it, or they gulp it down as fast as possible. The closest dog equivalent to an owner giving a treat is a mother dog bringing her puppies food. Which places the human in the role of the great provider that limits aggression he's so worried about.

Children and Training
I agree, all children should be trained.

Children should not handle the training, because otherwise the dog won't accept authority.
Shouldn't the dog be taught to listen to the children? It should be a whole family affair, with the dog learning to listen to everyone equally.

Children shouldn't have the dog to do commands to show off to their friends, because then the dog won't listen anymore.
Wait... what? Like what kind of commands? All commands?

Verbal Baiting

This is encouraging them to get excited with certain phases, like "wanna go for a walk?"

Dogs shouldn't get excited. Letting this happen encourages aggression.
No fun for you! I prefer my dogs to have a command that means "calm down." Then again, I've never raised an aggressive dog, so what do I know.

Don't let them chase other animals.
That rule applies to children too. Never let children chase small animals!

Incorporating Training into Daily Routines
Isn't that what training is all about?

You can bring your dog into the bank if he can do a down stay.
What bank does he go to? All the ones around here have "No animals other than service animals" on the doors.

Down stay can fix phobias.
I hope that he goes more into this, otherwise it might end up a good way to give your dog a phobia of "stay."

Trust Zone
I certainly hope your dog trusts you!

"That place where you get with your dog when they'll obey you even without correction despite the distractions."
Ah, I see. It's where you trust them. You don't have to do anything to earn their trust, you get that by the default of being AWESOME.

I've always preferred the term "house training," because I want neither the dog or the house broken in this process.

First day restrict them from wandering freely in the house.

Use a kennel when you can't watch them.

After they go potty, you can take them in the house an play with them, then put them back into the crate. Play outside if at all possible, so they can go whenever they want during play.
Wait, so first we're teaching them that they can't pee whenever they feel like it, and then we encourage them to? Isn't that a little counter-productive?

Going in the house as an adult is a dominance issue. If they don't go outside, they'll come inside and go to the bathroom just to prove a point. 10 to 14 days is the usual length to break the routine of an adult dog. You have to reprogram them.
Yes, because it's all about dominance, and has nothing to do with the face that it's the established routine that the dog is used to, or that the area you've picked to use as the potty area might be uncomfortable (IE, it's raining, or has tall grass that pokes them in the tender private parts).

Crate should be big enough to turn around in, lie down, and stand up.
Well, it's nice to know we agree on something.

Repeat "go pee, go pee, go pee" when you want them to go. Don't give a treat, praise should just be enough.
Whatever happened to "don't repeat a command"? And why should they get excited about peeing there?

Potty training is a battle of wills you have to win.
And knowing is half the battle!

Let the dog come up with a marker to tell you when you have to pee. If they do this, take them out, and after they go, play with them inside.

Use "on your bed" to restrict them throughout the house while they're potty training.
Because even though they're not reliable to not pee on the floor, they're totally reliable to stay quietly on a small bed in the middle of a big room. What about playpens?

Take them out regularly, apx every hour or so.
Forever? Until they start signaling? For how long should we make hourly trips? What about when you're at work and can't be there hourly?

Use Verbal Baiting to get the dog excited about going outside and going to the bathroom.
Did he not say earlier to not verbally bait the dog, because it causes aggression? I agree that the dog should be excited to go outside and pee, but he's contradicting himself again.

If your dog goes in the house and you find it several hours to a day later, you can correct them. Take him to the soiled place, show it to them, and then verbally scold them, push their nose to it in a scruff shake. Snap the collar several times, then lock them outside. Otherwise they think they're pulling a fast one on you and will go back to it.
Because the dog will totally connect it with the action of peeing or pooping, and not fact that the humans don't like finding this stuff and apparently think it's dangerous or something. Have to hide it better next time!

Excitement peeing:

Don't hype them up.
Don't talk to them for the first 10 minutes if they're excited to see you.
How do you know that the puddle you found an hour ago wasn't excitement pee?

Oof, I'll take a break, and then we'll move onto the equipment section of the video.

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dog training

Well apparently Mr Sullivan is doing something right, due to his television show and very popular training system. Sounds like someone is jealous, just saying,. Not to mention that watching some of his YouTube videos it seems like he has a very well behaved and well trained dog. I'm not saying that his methods are fool proof but apparently it works to some degree. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and to train a dog. So give him a break, till you have your own dog training show, thanks!

Jealousy is for those who aren't successful. *grin* I have the satisfaction of hundreds of well trained canine students, with happy clients who recommended me to random people that they see with a misbehaving dog or a new puppy. I have students who are now competing at high levels of obedience trials and agility, who are scoring reliably in the 190s at ages as young as six months old.

I have no desire to have a dog training show for several reasons:

I consider telling someone what to do for a dog with serious issues (such as aggression or phobias) without having actually met the dog to be highly irresponsible. There is simply too much that is easy to do wrong.

A good example would be a woman I had in my work today, who had watched an episode of Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer on male dog aggression, tried to do what he did, and failed. The two dogs got into a horrible fight, and her one dog required nearly US $2,000 worth of medical care to stitch back together. That is not something I would consider a successful training experience for her. This woman and her two dogs need personal attention, not generic "most of the time this works" training blather. Just because I recommend her to do a specific series of things for her and her dogs, could have no bearing on what I would suggest for a different pair of dogs. To assume that two different pairs of dogs have the same solution to their problems is simplistic and incorrect.

A huge number of my students started with training like his, and then end up coming to me because it often, quite simply, does not work to create a reliable dog.

No matter what training theory we're talking about, one will be able to find people who sing the praises of it, and people who utterly condemn it. A good trainer tries to work as specifically as possible for the particular issue(s) of their student -- in a way that is best for the dog and the humans that have to live with it. In my experience, his method is not the one that will be the most successful for the majority of people who have dogs.

Worked for me!

We purchased this progam. The DVD's are very good and helpful on lots of issues. My stubborn little terrier responded to this very well, she was pulling my arm out of the socket when on leash and lurching at my other dog incessantly at home. We never let her off lead, she was always tied to something in the house to protect our other dog. We'd been working with her for two months to try to stop this with diversions, downs, cookies, etc. etc. She quit in two days on the Perfect Dog system with a few corrections and consistent follow up. I'm grateful for this program. Our home life has changed for the better.

This is a vague enough endorsement that I can find dozens of them that are virtually identical -- I had "some problem with a terrier" and then this "program/system" magically fixed it by "unspecified correction an follow up."

What exactly did this DVD set do to fix your problem? What exactly was your problem that you needed help with?

Was she a puller? Was she dog aggressive? Was she afraid of other dogs and acting defensively? Was she very excited to see other dogs and her overenthusiastic greeting started fights? I'd be quite interested to know. You say a lot of words, but there is very little information behind them other than generic endorsement.

Your Review

I ADORE my dog and my children, I am fun, silly and loving, not stern but when you talk about "Love vs. respect" you are confused, they go hand in hand. Being stern does not mean you don't "love" them. If your toddler was about to run into traffic would you be a wimp and say: "oh, sweetie, I suggest you don't do that if that's ok with you" or would you yell "STOP!!!".
There are times to play on the couch and snuggle and times to be serious. If you are a good dog trainer then branch out, become a better business person, market yourself, sell YOUR system.
Good luck

Did you actually read my review, or did you only read the first part where I jokingly quoted Crimewave lyrics? Obviously love and respect go hand in hand! But respect doesn't come from fear of punishment.

I also agree, dogs (and children) need clear rules and clear boundaries. These rules do need to be enforced -- however, they need to be enforced in a way that the dog is capable of understanding. To use your example, toddler has the language skills to understand when you cry "stop!" Unless the dog is trained to understand that "stop" means "cease your forward momentum" than crying stop at your dog will have no meaning to the dog, and punishing them for not obeying is unfair.

They need to be taught, and teaching them should be humane, clear, and consistent. Mr Sullivan's "system" is not this way. He is inconstant, unclear, and forces the dog to play "20 questions" by punishing the dog until they do something he deems acceptable, at which point the punishment stops.

I doubt any human would condone strapping a prong collar on a human toddler, let the kid run off, and yell "stop," and then snap the child back by the neck to "learn" what the word stop means -- but this is the very system that he is advocating for puppies.

As I have never posted my training methods here, you have no way of being able to say anything about how if I am a "good" dog trainer or not. You assume simply because I reviewed a DVD training video in a way you do not agree with, I must be a lousy trainer. That's fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion.

However, in answer to your comment, I have branched out. I used to train like Mr Sullivan, back in the early 1980s. And I realized that it doesn't work in the long run. Sure, you'll find the success stories of how it fixed their problem "so fast!"; but you never get to see if it was a long term success, and even more rarely from people who will actually share their name and/or contact information. Those people (and their dogs) drop off the radar.

When I decided to try other methods, I studied how dogs learn, read up different training methods and long term studies on dog psychology and health, and watched and questioned the trainers whose dogs were kicking my dogs butt in both the show ring and with fostering dogs with "issues" such as aggression or phobias.

One of the reasons I haven't made long posts on how to train your dog here is that I tailor each training lesson to the specific dog and the needs of their owner. I feel uncomfortable with the idea of "this is the only method and if it doesn't work than you're doing it wrong and you should just do it harder." That training method has led to students only coming to me after they've collapsed their dogs trachea with snap corrections ("pops"). The other reason I don't do stuff online or via book is because owners are, quite frankly, often very bad at even knowing what the problem is. I've had more "aggressive" dogs come to me for training that actually had phobias than dogs with actual aggression issues -- and the way one would handle that is very, very different. I think it's very irresponsible to be telling people how to "fix" their dog without having ever even met the dog or the person.

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I totally agree with you, and thank you for the review of this. I saw the commercial on TV and immediately started looking for reviews, because quite honestly the man looked like a grade-A sack of bull. All he's marketing is force and a pinch collar. I can't stand the mass production training video crap that is so popular now. Dogs are not one-size-fits-all. You can't beat them into submission, just like you can't beat a child into submission. And the dogs aren't misbehaving to spite you (or to dominate you, what a load of crap), most of the time they are misbehaving because they do not know any better, do not understand, or because they know that there will be absolutely no consequences. Try treating your dog like you would your child. They're smarter than you think! Programs like this just encourage people to treat their dogs like property.

So, in conclusion, thank you, for proving to me that there is still hope for the world of dog trainers. Glad to see that not everyone has bought into this crap and tried to find the easy way out. Kudos. ^_^

Edited at 2013-09-10 06:21 pm (UTC)

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