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.