At Noble Canine, we endeavour to not simply be trainers and behavior specialists; we also strive to be guardians of canine welfare, constantly evaluating and seeking to improve the practices that define our industry. In an unregulated industry, this is no easy feat.
The issue of large pack walks, especially those conducted by daycares and training organisations, has come to the forefront due to several disturbing incidents. Let's explore the complexities of large pack walks, incorporating recent stories of malpractice, and discuss the psychological effects of such practices on our dogs.
The Promise Versus the Peril of Pack Walks
On the surface, large pack walks may seem to offer socialisation and exercise. However, the reality can be far different, and the dark side of this practice has been laid bare in tragic stories from around the world.
The Carterham Catastrophe
One such incident occurred in Carterham, Surrey, where a woman was fatally mauled by eight dogs she was in charge of. The situation spiraled out of control when the dogs, following a pack mentality, turned on her. This incident underscores the inherent risk of managing large groups of dogs, which can quickly escalate into dangerous situations beyond human control.
Singapore Daycare Scandals
Even more concerning are events in Singapore, where neglect, malpractice or ignorance have resulted in both physical and mental damage to dogs under their care. The most recent of which is where trainers at a dog daycare were captured in videos using aggressive force to line dogs up for a photo, hitting them, and forcibly manipulating their bodies. Another where dogs were being dragged into the sea, again for a photo opportunity. These actions, far removed from the nurturing care one would expect, have led to public outcry and the suspension of the staff involved. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Singapore has condemned such actions, stressing the importance of humane, science-based, and force-free training methods.
Psychological Damage: Beyond the Visible Bruises
Even on a day where there are no outstanding issues, pack walks can have negative impacts on our dogs. The psychological implications of such overwhelming experiences for dogs cannot be overstated. The concept of psychological 'flooding', where a dog is exposed to an overwhelming amount of stimuli without the ability to escape, can lead to long-term trauma.
The creation of triggers, a state of shutdown, and other negative impacts can stem from these high-stress encounters. When dogs are forced into uncomfortable situations or subjected to harsh handling, it can fundamentally alter their behavior and mental state, potentially leading to increased fear, anxiety, and aggression.
Noble Canine's Observations and Interventions
At Noble Canine, we have witnessed the fallout firsthand. A number of our clients' dogs have been negatively impacted by such pack walks and daycare mishandlings, necessitating extensive behavioural rehabilitation. These dogs come to us with a myriad of issues—from newly developed triggers to complete behavioural shutdowns—instigated by the overwhelming and unethical practices they've endured.
In light of these observations and the harrowing incidents reported, Noble Canine stands firmly against large pack walks, particularly those handled by unqualified individuals for the sake of social media showmanship or client appeasement. The ethical implications of using force or intimidation - be it for a photo or during a walk - or in the name of "training"- are profound and wholly unacceptable.
Moving Forward with Responsibility
We are dedicated to promoting safe, ethical, and psychologically sound practices for walking and training dogs. We advocate for walks in small, controlled groups where individual attention can be given, and each dog's behavior can be appropriately managed. It's not just about avoiding physical harm; it's about ensuring the emotional and mental well-being of the dogs in our care.
When searching for a dog walker or daycare, it's crucial for owners to be vigilant and inquisitive to ensure their pet's safety and well-being. Start by observing the environment: Is it clean, secure, and suitable for dogs? Notice the demeanor of the dogs in their care - are they relaxed and happy, or do they seem stressed? Ask specific questions about their practices:
How many dogs do they walk or care for at a time?
How do they manage different sizes and temperaments?
Are they certified in pet first aid or dog behavior?
Do they use force free methods?
How do they handle a dog's reactivity or aggression?
Transparency is key, so request to see where your dog will spend their time and ask if they provide updates during the day. Finally, seek testimonials or references from other clients to gauge their experiences. This due diligence will help ensure that your dog is in safe, caring, and professional hands.
The well-being of our canine companions is a responsibility we as dog owners should all carry with the utmost seriousness. Seek out and only use services that enrich and nurture, rather than intimidate and overwhelm. As we move forward, we encourage the industry to set a standard that places the welfare of every dog at the forefront. It's not enough to just avoid the news headlines; we must actively work towards a future where the mental and emotional health of our dogs is given the same priority as their physical safety.
In this seminar hosted by Noble Canine, "Dog Pack Walks & Poor Handling of Dogs in the Industry," Fraser, the Head Canine Behaviour Specialist, led a comprehensive discussion on the intricacies of pack walks and their impact on our four-legged friends. Watch the seminar by following us on Facebook or clicking the link below.