Controversial dog trainer returns

Local animal lovers are opposing the Humane Society Yukon's decision to bring dog trainer and television personality Brad Pattison to Whitehorse for a weekend fundraiser.

Local animal lovers are opposing the Humane Society Yukon’s decision to bring dog trainer and television personality Brad Pattison to Whitehorse for a weekend fundraiser.

The host of At the End of My Leash, which airs on Canada’s Slice Network, will offer his street-smart and hike-safety workshops as part of the society’s Paws and Claws fundraiser. The society also had him come in June.

An online petition, begun earlier this week, asked the society to cancel the event and end any further association with Pattison or the trainers he certifies. It has over 300 signatures, although many are anonymous and some names appear more than once.

Pattison’s methods treat dogs in an “inhumane” way, said Sabine Almstrom, a local dog trainer and owner of FunDogs School of Dog Training.

Almstrom attended one of Pattison’s workshops in June. He told participants to step on their dogs’ toes to encourage them to lie down, she said. And she points to one online video, which shows him forcefully hitting a dog in the face.

Pattison isn’t surprised by the criticism. People consistently launch online campaigns against him wherever he goes, he said.

But he disputes some of Almstrom’s assertions. In June, he told participants to tap their dogs’ toes, not step on them, he said.

Videos of him striking dogs in the face are taken out of context, said Pattison. He sometimes puts his hand in front of a dog’s face to keep it from jumping up “because it’s better than kneeing a dog in the chest,” he said.

The humane society invited Pattison because his methods work, said president Shelley Cuthbert.

The Yukon government’s animal welfare officer was present at June’s workshops. No abuse was reported, she said.

The television networks want Pattison to be tough and get in people’s faces, he said. “It’s a TV show. That’s not who I am,” he said.

“My training is amazing. I have a phenomenal amount of people who are super pleased with my training. I’ve never had a client’s dog die. I’ve never had a client’s dog escape them. I’ve only had success,” said Pattison.

He has never been charged with abuse from a humane society or the SPCA, he said. And Pattison touted how he has travelled to New Orleans and Haiti to help dogs after natural disasters.

Almstrom warns that hitting dogs is particularly dangerous if the animals were previously abused. It causes dogs to lose trust in their owners and produces unnecessary fear and stress, making the dogs aggressive, she said.

She saw one dog growl at Pattison, she said.

After Pattison’s last fundraising appearance, Almstrom cried in her car.

“If this treatment, this so-called ‘training’ that Brad Pattison applies to dogs, if that was used on children, what do you think it would be called? We all know what it would be called. It would be called abuse. Totally. And nobody would want their children to be subjected to that kind of treatment,” Almstrom said.

She uses positive methods, which reward dogs for good behaviour and obedience. The goal is to have the dogs obey because they love their owners, not because they fear punishment, she said.

Positive reinforcement can include rewards ranging from treats to praise, to using a clicker after the dog obeys. The dog learns to associate the noise with positive reinforcement, she said.

Almstrom isn’t the only one with concerns.

“I think I share the public outcry with the community,” said Jordi Mikeli-Jones of Triple J’s Music Cafe. Pattison’s practice of pinching dogs’ ears, slapping puppies in the face and holding dogs down aggressively concerns her, she said.

Mikeli-Jones did not support his earlier visit, and is glad to see people have done more research on Pattison, she said.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association favours reward-based methods. “Methods causing fear, distress, pain or anxiety are highly unacceptable,” states the organization’s online statement on humane training methods for dogs.

If a reward-based method is used, there should be no place for physical force, said Dr. Warren Skippon, a veterinarian with the association.

The society hopes to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 through Pattison’s visit. The funds will go toward things like repairing fences at the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter. Three dogs have been injured in the last six months while digging under the fence, said Cuthbert.

Also in June, Pattison did a fundraiser for the Sarnia and District Humane Society in southern Ontario.

People expressed concerns about him coming, said Dylan Powell, executive director of the society. A cruelty investigator attended the event, and the response from participants was overwhelmingly positive, he said.

Television personalities Rescue Ink will also be in town Saturday at a barbecue at the Kwanlin Dun Potlach House. The event will include a discussion of breed-specific legislation. In a partnership with the city, KDFN is offering McIntyre and Crow Street neighbourhood residents free spay and neuter, immunizations and micro-chipping for their dogs, as well as lifetime dog licences.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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