On Killer Whales And Dogs

My friend Paul Everson posted a trailer clip for the movie documentary, “Black Fish” on his Facebook page.

From the documentary’s web site:

Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the mulit-billion dollar sea-park industry.


I don’t like the idea of taking wild animals and using them in performances.  Most people don’t seem to have a problem with it.  Neither did Sigfried and Roy… until they did.

The problem is that you’re taking a wild animal– supposedly tame– and asking it to perform as if it was a domesticated animal. It’s like the same idiots who own wolves and keep them as if they were dogs, and then they’re surprised when it eats a kid or the neighbor’s house pet.

The documentary clip also features the quote, “There’s no record of an Orca ever attacking a person in the wild.”

I bet there’s no record of a person tap dancing on an Orca’s back in the wild, either.


And this is the problem with the “purely positive” clicker training crowd, too: They always point to the whale and dolphin trainers and say, “You can’t put a training collar on a whale.  But you can train a whale using our ‘purely positive’ methods.”

Until that whale eats you.

And let’s not forget: In order to train whales and dolphins to perform semi-reliably, they must spend all of their time in what basically amounts to a bathtub.  Are you willing to do the same to your dog?  Do you really want to keep your dog away from any possible distraction in order to train him?

That’s not natural.  It’s not the way dogs learn in nature.

A dog needs to get out in the world with you.  He needs to experience life as it is, and learn from both his mistakes and his accomplishments.  That’s the way nature intended it, and that’s the way we try to train.