I’ve written before in my articles that I believe the 3 most important things in dog training to be: 1) Watch the Dog 2) Watch the Dog 3) Watch the Dog. It is critical to good training that we are able to look and understand what we are seeing in our dogs. And that goes beyond simply identifying whether or not the dog “sat” or did whatever behaviour you were training. It’s important to monitor their emotional states to the best of our ability. We need to see frustration, confusion, joy, sadness, resignation, and more. When my wife came across a set of DVDs that she had won in a raffle, she was incredulous and suggested I share them.
Now, I am the first person to discourage people from making decisions about a dog’s emotional state or behaviour from a single snapshot. But I think what needs to be taken into consideration here is that these photos were CHOSEN for these covers. They were a conscious choice to represent a video series by a famous dog trainer on “Mastering Leadership” with dogs. I find it astonishing that no one on the marketing team said, “Um, do you think these are the BEST pictures for this series?”
What I find so remarkable in these photos is the consistent “dead” look on the faces of these dogs. Most of them show that look that I’ve come to recognize as the “quiet desperation” of a dog who’s actions are so controlled that there is no point in expressing any initiative. A life of simply waiting to be told what to do next, eating, sleeping, and hoping not to be scolded. And it is consistent across the various breeds shown in these photos.
It’s difficult to place responsibility for these dogs on the trainer pictured in these photos. The truth is we don’t know how or why these dogs have come to the attitudes they seem to display here. What we can consider is the wisdom of using these photos as presumably effective marketing. What about the dogs in these photos would lead one to possess the knowledge contained in the video series? Presumably these dogs are an advertisement for the training techniques the videos offer. Didn’t anyone consider what the dogs looked like before using them to sell a training technique?
Remarkably, the only dog in all of these covers that seems to be happy (by my viewing) is the one dog that appears to have been Photoshopped in (i.e., added to the photo later by a digital editing process). The dog under the green arrow in this photo is the one I’m talking about.
It’s interesting how some trainers choose to market themselves. What I find most puzzling in this series of covers is that a world famous trainer has allowed a series of photos to be used on this video series that so blatantly disregards what the dogs in them are displaying. It does make me wonder whether those involved with these covers are ignorant of what the dogs are actually showing or whether the knew and simply didn’t care. Of course, a third possibility is that they knew and thought these were the best shots to promote this kind of training.
I suppose anything is possible. I’ll leave you with a few more of these covers. Do you see the same things I see?
UPDATE: My wife wanted everyone to know that all of this material went to recycling. Hopefully they will be broken down and made into other useful materials.