Debunking Dogs In The City, II

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Although thirty-nine percent of US households own at least one dog the pet service industry is highly unregulated. This works for the industry because the public is uneducated and ill informed about dog ownership. This is why so many people still buy dogs from puppy stores, feed IAMS dog food, and hire dog trainers with no credentials.

I am here to tell you that there are great breeders (but you need to do your research), mutts are usually healthier than pure bred dogs because of their diversified genetic background, IAMS is full of filler, and there are certification programs for dog trainers.

Justin apparently didn’t get the memo about ADPT and CPDT (two certifying bodies). Here is a quote from his business page (which was changed drastically just prior to Dogs in the City coming on air):

 “Currently, Justin has begun to work towards implementing standards and procedural criteria to dog training and aims towards a National Standard to thwart further abuse to animals as well as make life easier for dog owners.”


ADPT – Founded by Ian Dunbar, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is a professional organization of dog trainers that provides educational resources through conferences, sets standards for humane training techniques, and whose goal is to represent and advance the dog training profession through education and advocacy.

CCPDT – The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is the National Certification Program for Professional Dog Trainers. Most dog trainers become certified after attending schools like the Animal Behavior College or Karen Pryor Academy and assisting professional trainers to gain hands on experience.

Applied Animal Behaviorist – These individuals have an undergraduate degree in biology or psychology, a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior and a minimum of five years working in the field before they can even apply to become certified.

Veterinary Behaviorist – There are less than sixty Veterinary Behaviorists in the United States and we have one here in NYC, Dr. E’Lise Christensen. Veterinary Behaviorists can legally diagnose behavior problems, assess medical complications, provide behavior modification programs and prescribe medications.

Dog Guru –A title CBS made up instead of finding someone qualified to host their new show Dogs in the City.

I’m not sure what kind of “behaviorist” CBS is referring to, but Justin Silver has none of these qualifications. Click on the links provided above to find someone who does. Now, let’s move on to debunking another episode of this show.

EPISODE 2: He Barks and He Barks and He Barks

Client: Police Dogs Riley (& Nikki)

Issues: Police Dog Riley is Retiring to family life due to disc damage. How should the family handle this transition? How do they integrate the new police dog Nikki into the family?

Justin Silver’s Solution: Justin brought his dog Akita to see how Riley would interact with another dog. Brought Nikki and Riley to meet each other in a place that was not their own home. This is great, but unnecessary. Riley wouldn’t have become a police dog if he had any issues getting along with anyone – dogs or people! Police dogs are trained for approximately 2 years and are worth approximately $30,000.00. Justin teaches the family’s son to take over the “owner” role with Riley and starts to teach him commands.

DEBUNKED: There wasn’t a problem to solve here. Riley is a great dog and while he will need extra stimulation because he is used to working he shows no signs of separation anxiety or destructive boredom behaviors. I have to note that when Justin is teaching the boy to handle the dog he tells the dog to stay and then tells the dog to fetch without releasing the dog from stay, which is counterintuitive. I really enjoyed watching Riley work with the policemen, but as Riley’s owner was already such a well-informed handler, this was an unnecessary fluff piece.

Client: Valentina the Bulldog

Issues: Client has a new baby in the house and needs help with the transition. Owner thinks that it isn’t fair to treat the dog like “a dog” now that she has a “human baby”.

Justin Silver’s Solution: Valentina goes to “Fetch Club” for a play date. She doesn’t know how to play because she is under-socialized.

DEBUNKED: While it’s fantastic that Justin is encouraging Valentina’s owner to let her “be a dog”, Valentina has never interacted with another dog before. Taking her to a space with multiple dogs could have caused anxiety, fear, and shutdown for Valentina. Supervised one-on-one play dates would be an appropriate start along with teaching the owner proper handling and walking techniques. He should have talked about problem prevention, desensitization, proper puppy socialization, etc. This could have been very informative for the public but was just a fluff piece.

Client: Aggressive Terrier mix named Oreo.

Issues: Kids can’t play with the dog. Oreo bites the kids, growls, scares everyone. Oreo guards the wife by growling and snapping at anyone that comes near her. When the wife is not around, problems are not present. Also the dog really needs his teeth cleaned.

Justin Silver’s Solution: Justin points out that Oreo needs much more exercise as he only goes out for 10 minutes every day. He takes Oreo on a walk. When Oreo starts barking at another dog, Justin grabs the dog and walks them side-by-side. He teaches “stay” by vocal correction (ahah!).

DEBUNKED: It is very clear that Oreo is uncomfortable and is being put in situations that he can’t handle. This segment made me wonder what is going on behind the scenes. What are they doing to get all these shots of Oreo snarling and why would any humane person provoke a dog to that state? No reputable trainer would do that. Justin approached Oreo by putting his hand over Oreo’s head! That is an inappropriate way to approach any dog, let alone one with these issues! He’s lucky he didn’t get bit! Again, Oreo is wearing a choke collar and Justin is teaching stay with punishment by correcting the undesired behavior instead of rewarding the desired behavior. He also gave Oreo food even when Oreo didn’t stay! Why would Justin reward Oreo for moving when he is trying to teach him to stay!!!!???!!! None of this makes any sense.

Justin does not teach the owners proper walking techniques or how to desensitize Oreo to the stimulus that is making him react aggressively. Taking a dog that Oreo is barking at and walking them side by side isn’t practical! Are the owners supposed to kidnap every dog on the street that Oreo starts barking at??? Justin keeps telling Oreo “off” of the couch when he is growling and “protecting” his mom, but we don’t know if Oreo has been taught that command. Justin lets Dominique pet Oreo while he’s growling which is at the very least rewarding the behavior and at the most dangerous. Justin states that Oreo is in the position of “leadership” (what does that mean?) and doesn’t mention that he is guarding his owner or that Oreo is aggressive. Most importantly, he fails to take Oreo to the vet to make sure that he isn’t in pain. By the looks of Oreo’s teeth I was immediately wondering if something wasn’t going on… maybe an abscessed tooth? In high school I had an Irish Setter who would growl at me every time I sat too close to my mom. Six months later a bump started growing out of the top of his head. He had bone cancer, and he died at the age of five. 20% of Behavioral Issues are caused by Illness

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