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.

How to Become a Professional Dog Trainer

Dear Adam:

Sorry to keep bothering you. I am really interested in becoming a professional dog trainer. I was looking on the web and I found a school that has a home study course. I am getting married in March and I don’t have the time to attend a school for 4-8 weeks. I was wondering if you could give me some input on this school I found. The name is [deleted] Inc. It sounds like a good idea. I just want to have some kind of certificate to show potential clients.

I just wanted to let you know that your videos are fantastic.

I have only had them for a week now and my 14 month-old Boxer is responding beautifully. Today, while at work, I met a lady with a Beagle/Pointer pup. Totally out of control. She bet me that I couldn’t make him sit/stay. Of course after watching your videos I took the challenge. Within 5 minutes I had him in a sit/stay with her neighbors Boxer running all around him. Thanks to that, I have my first client. I couldn’t have done it without your videos.


Adam’s response:

Uh… watch those fingers, dude.  (See article titled, “Dog Trainer Lost Finger!”)

I appreciate the kind words about my videos, but my videos were designed to teach YOU how to train your own dog. Teaching dog training professionally requires much more expertise and experience than you can get from a set of videos.

The following is clipped from another article I wrote on the subject:

If I had to do it all over again, my advice would be to join every dog training club in your area.  Go to every meeting.  Start watching and seeing who’s dogs are really working.

Then, make friends with those people (they’ll usually be professionals with their own dog training businesses) and offer to work for free in exchange for mentorship.


If doing this is geographically impossible, then I would consider taking an extended vacation and moving to an area that has a lot of  “dog activity.”  You’ll have to do some research to figure out which towns are best for the type of training that you want to focus on.


Seminars are another good route.  If you subscribe to a number of activity-oriented publications (such as Schutzhund, obedience competition, etc…) you’ll find out when the better seminars are coming to your neck of the woods.


As a last resort, you might consider some of the dog training “trade” schools.  Be careful to thoroughly research the ones you are considering.  You should be ready to visit the facility and talk with past students.  The internet can be a wonderful tool for putting you in touch with people who have attended the school that you are considering.

If you’d like to learn more about the business of starting and operating your own dog training company, take a look at:


Good luck,