Brad Pattison Puppy Book Review

Voltaire once said, “The multitude of books is making us ignorant.”  Not much has changed if you read many dog-training books.

Random House sent me a review copy of Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book in the hopes that I would cover his Canadian book tour.  Pattison, the host of Slice’s “At the End of My Leash,” is known for his biting comments towards owners and blatently apparent hatred of treat training.  He claims that food and clicker training does not work, causes aggression and results in dead dogs (Unleashed, p 103).

I was a little surprised that Random house even bothered to send the book.  I am a treat trainer.  In Pattison’s mind, I must be responsible for dead dogs.  I would take it personally, but he criticizes other techniques such as choke, prong and shock collars too. (Puppy Book p. 37)

In my world, here is how things work.  I have a submission policy on my website where I specifically ask for proof of claims.  My job is to be unbiased, which is not difficult.  I believe we learn the most from people who disagree, and have proof.  What readers of my work do not realize is that my request for proof rarely materializes.  I get crickets.  I got the same answer from Random House when I asked about their fact checking process…crickets.

If you are thinking of buying Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book, you may want to read a few passages first.

“Master the leash correction technique…..It could take some time for you to master this technique, so if you must, practise on other people, but never practise on a canine.”

If you have never seen a leash correction, they do vary slightly from one trainer to another.  Pattison’s method can be seen online.  He also employs a second variation.  Presumably, one can assume he wants people doing things his way.

Human Chiropractor Dr. Dennis Orenchuck watched the first video and in his opinion, “This type of technique should never be used on a person.  Due to the sheer force of the jerk, I would be extremely concerned that it might cause cervical neck injuries such as whiplash.”

Leash correcting people?  I am gobsmacked.  For the first time ever, words fail me.

“Expose your pup to neighbourhoods with higher levels of traffic until you can cruise the city streets with your pup off-leash…don’t limit his need to explore the world off-leash.”

Most municipalities in North America have leash laws.  Under the law, owners must keep their dogs on leash unless in a designated off leash area.  Cities such as Calgary have clearly shown that leash law enforcement can dramatically decrease dog bites.  It is a public safety issue.

Some may claim that well-behaved animals do not need leashes.  My mother would disagree, especially after undergoing hip replacement surgery.  Unsure and slowly regaining her mobility through walking and biking, there was nothing more terrifying than the unknown behaviour of an off leash dog.

Writer Michael Howie has at many times felt they pose a danger to motorists stating, “On many occasions I’ve swerved, slammed on the brakes or thought I’d killed the poor dog.  At 50 km/hour I don’t have time to consider whether or not the owner will get him back in time.”

Frightening seniors, community members and motorists is inconsiderate in my opinion.  It is inconsiderate which is why it is illegal in most places.

 (Spay or neuter) your dog, “after the first heat, which happens at about nine months.”

Actually, some dogs come into heat at 5 months of age.  Novice owners may be lulled into a false sense of security thinking their dog cannot get pregnant.  Intact animals, especially those that are off leash in part due to Pattison’s advice, are at risk of having unwanted litters of puppies.  We have enough animals in shelters.

“If your pup didn’t release the object, pinch the top of her ear until she lets out an ouch-like, high-pitched sound and instinctively releases the object…..Still not letting go?  Pinch her ear again.”

Pattison has made a career out of telling owners that he trains without pain, unlike other trainers who use choke, prong and shock collars.  If someone pinched my ear and I let out an “ouch-like sound”, it would mean that I was in pain.  Trainers all over have taught dogs to drop objects when asked, never having to use an ear pinch, and thus rendering this technique along with other pain based techniques unnecessary.

“Lurk outside….If your dog freaks out at any point, consider returning and giving him a leash correction.”

This advice pertains to separation anxiety, a disorder where the dog has a panic attack when left alone.  Symptoms often include whining, barking, panting, pacing, clawing, chewing through walls and having accidents.

As with most anxiety disorders, they require careful treatment and possibly veterinary intervention.  Severe anxiety can result in physical injury to the animal.  At other times, it is a symptom of an underlying health condition.  Leash correcting an animal with an anxiety disorder is as effective as telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up or yelling at someone with an anxiety disorder to get over it.

“Treat training is a recipe for disaster”

Treat training is “a potentially dangerous gimmick.”

“Studies … point to some very disturbing issues relating to treat trained dogs.”

Studies get my attention.  I read all of them.  I dislike when studies are misinterpreted or misquoted.  This study actually found many factors tied to obesity such as the age of the animal, breed and neutering status.  Where food is concerned, dogs fed table scraps, homemade food or treats instead of commercial food were more likely to be obese.  Pattison recommends neutering.  He recommends a homemade diet.  Both are tied to obesity.  Why is treat training bad?  I do not know, because the study did not look at treat training.

None of these blatant accusations have any supporting evidence to my knowledge – and I keep asking.  Neither do his online allegations of increased aggression and dead dogs.  Research shows that treat training triggers less aggression and is more effective.  Research shows that dogs that attend positive puppy classes and are spoiled with things like sleeping on the bed are less likely to wind up in a shelter.  If you choose to spoil your dog, it does not result in behaviour problems.

Random House sent me this book and asked me to promote this tour.  In doing so, I have broken away from a long tradition of ignoring books and products with unsubstantiated claims.  Maybe this is a good thing.  Being positive does not mean that one stays silent.  We might all have our own opinions.  Experts, in my opinion, have an obligation to support their work.  While we all make occasional mistakes, there is a point where too much is just plain wrong in this book.  Sad part is, I could have kept writing.  Advice, accusations and claims without facts or substantiation are not worth reading.


21 thoughts on “Brad Pattison Puppy Book Review

  1. Im looking for words that wont make me sound like, how i feel about,this brad guy, so im thinking he must feel insecure and insignificant and probably should use some of the money he made of the tv shows for a psychiatrist, this peron is not right in the head, STAY AWAY FROM DOGS!!!! BRAD, THEY DONT LIKE YOU

  2. I’m only just now learning that this guy is a popular dog trainer in my country I’m shocked and can barely watch the videos of the moronic set-ups this guy is doing. When the dogs comply, it’s out of fear, as seen in their body language. This certainly gives me plenty more reasons to continue pursuing my new career as a trainer focused on positive reinforcement and scientific methods. I’m flabbergasted that in 2014 this guy can be getting paid to abuse animals. When will we learn?

  3. Pingback: Brad Pattison on learned helplessness | Science of Dogs

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  5. Pingback: A Review of Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book | Science of Dogs

  6. What really blows me away is that Humane Societies everywhere are endorsing this guy, even after being presented with evidence of Brad Pattison’s “training” methods. He recently appeared in Whitehorse, Yukon. Those who tried to warn people about this man have been banned from Humane Society property.

  7. If it is not too much to ask could you write some more about this. I have been reading your blog alot over the past few days and it has earned a place in my bookmarks.

  8. Your blog was wonderfully written and I very much enjoyed the tone. I just started reading up on this guy, but I can’t seem to find anywhere even an explanation as to why he thinks treat training would make your dog aggressive. I have a few theories of my own why he would think that (I’m a clicker trainer, btw) but I can’t find anything where he comes out and explains it. I guess it is in one of his books, but it appears that reading one would be a waste of my time and money. I do understand people’s concerns with obesity however, but almost every positive training book I have ever read explains to cut back on meals when you are using a lot of treats in training. I have two clicker trained dogs, one 4 and neutered and one who is almost 1 and not yet spayed and neither of them are even a pound overweight. We control their diet, its just about portion control like it is with your own diet. Honestly, I sometimes wish someone would portion out my snacks and meals just right, so I wouldn’t get fat and could live a healthier life ^.^

  9. This is an excellent post like everyone has said.

    I work in the social sciences and I really get irritated when I hear on the radio or see on television people spouting off all kinds of nonsense but are taken seriously because they are celebrities (whether in business, politics, or are some kind of “talking head”). I think your approach is exactly right. When people make claims they need to back them up with evidence, especially if they are trying to pass themselves off as “experts” and, most importantly, when their claims directly impact the health and well being of a living being.

  10. Nice post, drops off at the last sentence, I’m on the edge of my seat! I don’t understand why Pattison has a TV show, like others who have posted comments. I don’t see any value in his program, unlike some of the other TV trainers.

    Re: leashing in public. It’s important that dogs be leashed when in public, especially in areas where there are lots of distractions and people. People who fear or dislike dogs have a right to walk down the street without worrying about interacting with them. Besides, if a dog is so well trained that he will walk at heel in a busy downtown scenario, then he won’t mind wearing a leash!

  11. This man needs to read “Reaching the Animal Mind” by Karen Pryor, and “Plenty in Life is Free – Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace” by Kathy Sdao. He probably should be arrested for animal abuse. Instead they give him a TV show?? incredible. The only section I disagree with in your post is the recommendation for spay/neuter. Recent studies have shown it can be bad for the dog’s health and longevity. No other country in the world supports sterilizing dogs for human convenience! Thirty years of public education have dropped the euthanasia numbers in the U.S. by 70% or more. The overpopulation of dogs in this country is a myth spread by HSUS and other animal rights groups whose agenda is to end pet ownership. Think about it. If you sterilize every dog born, where do you expect future generations to come from? This is an extremely complicated issue which can’t really be distilled down into a few sentences as I have just done. But my main point, of course, is that Brad Pattison needs to be yanked off television using that leash correction he recommends! And I thought Cesar Milan was bad.

    • I didn’t give my opinion on spay and neutering and agree that there is plenty of conflicting research. Another day for that blog. But I have been covering it for years in the column.
      My problem is that owners might read the book thinking their dog won’t get pregnant before 9 months of age. They keep the dog off leash, which makes it really hard to prevent an accidental litter.

  12. Thank you for posting this. I was so angry and upset after watching an episode in which a puppy was dragged and yanked around to show the humans were boss. When brad went back to check on the family he was happy the dog had learnt it’s lesson all I could see was a traumatised young dog that was showing clear signs of stress.
    I have never seen anything like it and I see no reasoning behind his training just plain cruelty. We can see through positive training methods dogs wanting to learn and please us why then are people like this able to use such horrific methods and be endorsed by tv and shelters?

  13. I really want to thank you for keeping this so professional. There are many trainers who have been less than professional when writing about this trainer. Their message gets lost (and loses validity) when they start slinging mud and reacting out of frustration. It’s hard not to let emotions get the best of you (a general you, not specific) when dealing with a guy who hurts animals often out of frustration, not training, but you did a great job!! Hopefully this get shared far and wide!

  14. I have to say that of the many trainers I have worked with (some of whom are traditional “correction” trainers), without exception, they all agree that Mr. Pattison is a deluded and dangerous hack. How he got a TV show is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend. I guess we’ve finally found something all trainers with any experience at all can agree on.

  15. Thank you for posting this! I hope it spreads far and wide for the sake of all the innocent pups out there. Ear pinching and leash corrections must be so confusing for them. Why would people not teach dogs the behaviour they want by rewarding it? It seems so simple and straightforward. It makes far more sense than damaging a pup’s trust and sending mixed messages about the behaviour of humans.

  16. In my view, Brad Pattison is worse than Cesar Milan. He is abusive to dogs and to people. I have seen him physically abuse a rescue dog on TV, dragging it down a garden path, him walking backwards with hands either side of it’s neck until he got it up against a wall and hoisted it up by it’s neck so its back legs were off the ground. He looked at the camera and said “I cannot let this dog win”. The dog had been homed to a couple with children. The dog had issues about having it’s collar touched and had bitten one of the children (one questions the shelter who rehomed the dog to these people). One can only imagine that in what may have been an abusive past the dog was dragged around by the collar and now had an issue. Teaching the dog with positive training that having the collar touched is a good thing would have been fairly easy and not taken long. At the end of that piece I was so angry with him that I was in tears. He deemed the dog unsuitable and took it back to the shelter and chose another dog for them.

    This man should never be on television. Oh, and the Humane Society of Sarnia actually promotes his dog trainers’ courses (they are run at the shelter) and uses his methods to help what they call “difficult dogs”. I have written to them in protest and so have other people I know. They refuse to even consider changing their position on the matter saying that they would not use inhumane methods. Their directors need to get an educatiion about dog training I believe.

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