Is It Ever Defensible for Dog Trainers to Throw a Rolled Up Towel to “Teach” Dogs?


I implore someone to explain how dog trainers like Jeff Gellman are appealing.

Please, please someone explain how a technique called “bonking” or hurling a large rolled up towel at a dog is a humane or ethical approach?  How desperate or frankly ignorant are people accepting of such abuse?

Look how anxious this dog appears to be (unless it’s Very hot in this room), and in the video Gellman is only working to teach the dog (via force) to sit on the mat, and finds it necessary to reinforce using a shock collar.

Gellman uses force training methods including bonking, and relies on e-collars (in one video even suggesting shock collars for dogs with separation anxiety and in the same video poking dogs that whine).

I am never a fan of e-collars or shock collars, and support that Petco no longer sells them because they are inhumane. Petco CEO Ron Coughlin wrote, “We encourage anyone using or looking for shock collars to consider training with treats instead of electricity and partnership instead of pain.”  However, worse than using shock collars under the most urgent of circumstances is reliance on inhumane equipment for routine dog training.

It’s been proven over and over again that positive reinforcement training is not only humane, but simply most effective as the most efficient way for dogs to learn.

Any trainer using any method who goes out on tour – but won’t reveal the location (unless you buy a ticket) is obviously not being transparent  – it would seem to me –is a huge red flag.

Why are Gellman’s events held at secret locations?

Here’s one explanation: In the Chicago area last year when Gellman was scheduled to hold a seminar, with others, I helped to lead an effort to keep Gellman out of the Chicago area using my platforms, and there was a petition. We were successful to an extent, as Gellman’s planned seminar at Bark Avenue Daycamp in Bartlett, IL. last October was unceremoniously cancelled. However, it turned out that Gellman found another venue, one which wasn’t announced publicly.  Why would any training facility host a trainer using these methods? Money? I suppose.

Gellman is planning to bring his act to somewhere in the Chicago area, July 10-11 to kick off his “tour.”

Chicago isn’t alone wanting to keep Gelman out, as other U.S. cities I hope are proactive.

In the UK Gellman isn’t particularly welcome with the RSPCA voicing opposition and there was an organized effort to keep him out of Scotland.

Australia, where shock collars are banned (in most places), Gellman is not welcome.

In fact, many countries ban the use of shock collars, including  Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, and Quebec in Canada.

This post isn’t meant so much to be about one trainer, but instead any trainer who uses aversive methods and hides where events are held (I am guessing also preventing people from using their phones to take video at the event) is to be avoided – period.

Aside from veterinary behaviorists who are qualified to help dogs with behavior problems and certified behavior consultants, there are so many dog trainers who teach appropriately using reward-based and force free training. Seek certification from your trainer of choice. If the person claims to be a behaviorist, that person just isn’t unless he or she is a veterinary behaviorist or PhD behaviorist. Certainly, individuals misleading about their credentials may not be trusted. Is the person Fear Free certified?

Absolutely, it’s true, aversive training methods may modify behavior at that moment. Throw a rolled up towel at a lunging dog and the dog will likely (if the timing is right) stop lunging. However, using such methods does have significant repercussions, and simply isn’t necessary.