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Dog dies at hand of dog trainer

Discussion in 'Dogs - all breeds / types' started by MyPetTherapyDog, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. MyPetTherapyDog

    MyPetTherapyDog New Member

    Gosh, not any method I would use on any of my clients dogs.

    Owner blames training session for dog's death

    By Susan R. Miller

    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    A year ago Lisa Bernstein rescued Ringo, an 8-week-old German shepherd pup, from the Tri-County Humane Society. The high-spirited dog became her teenage son's best friend, though the pooch didn't much like others.

    In hopes of getting him to behave, Bernstein, of suburban Boca Raton, hired Jill Deringer, a dog trainer whom she met at Petco in Boca Raton and whom she now blames for killing her family's beloved pet.

    "The woman came into my house with a dog that was in perfect health. She sat on my dog for one hour and killed him," Bernstein said, weeping.

    Deringer, of Lake Worth, who claims to have successfully trained more than 1,700 dogs, some even more aggressive than Ringo, used what some trainers call a questionable technique, muzzling the dog and holding him down to show him who's the boss. She's been on national talk shows displaying her ability to bark like 200 breeds of dogs.

    "I do an alpha role. Many trainers do this. I hold it down to prevent myself from being bitten," Deringer said. "I am a huge animal lover. This was just a tragedy."

    Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control is investigating the dog's death, which occurred Sunday night after Ringo was rushed to an emergency animal hospital suffering from what appeared to be heat stroke. A necropsy is planned, said Dianne Sauve, the agency's director.

    "There are red flags going up with tactics that may have been taken," she said.

    Bernstein, who also filed a report with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, blames herself, in part, for the dog's demise.

    "This was a year-and-a-half-old vibrant, healthy puppy that she tortured for one hour, and I allowed it because she kept telling me over and over again that he was OK," Bernstein said.

    Bernstein's experience serves as a cautionary tale for other dog owners looking for trainers.

    "Anybody can be a dog trainer; there is no licensing, certification or requirement," said Chris Altier, a trainer with the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers in Columbus, Ohio. "There are situations where you might have to restrain a dog, but I have never heard of anybody having to do that," he said, referring to Deringer's training method.

    A qualified trainer, said Altier, should have recognized the signs of stress before the dog's condition became critical.

    Deringer said she was simply holding the dog — kneeling over him, but not applying her full weight — to prevent him from kicking her. Despite those efforts, she said, "He struck me over 100 times. I have the scratches to prove it."

    When Ringo finally calmed, Deringer took off the muzzle but he just sat there panting. That had never happened before, she said.

    She and Bernstein quickly put the dog into a tub of water to cool it down and then called Bernstein's vet. Because it was late on a Sunday night, he urged her to take the dog to the emergency clinic. By the time they got there, Ringo was blind and showed signs of internal bleeding. A couple of hours later, the clinic called to say he had taken a turn for the worse and had little chance of survival. That's when Bernstein agreed to let them put Ringo to sleep.

    Deringer said the whole situation is "sad and emotional."

    A spokesman for Petco, where Deringer worked, said company officials were aware of the situation and were looking into it.

    "This is unfortunate all around. What this person did is something she is responsible for, and we are investigating it fully and will take appropriate actions," said Don Cowan from the company's corporate office in San Diego, Calif.

    Cowan said their trainers go through a certification program that includes classroom training and some on-the-job training with other trainers.

    It's unclear what training techniques Deringer used while at Petco, but Stephen Zawistowski, a certified applied animal behaviorist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York, said the "alpha dog" method is based on concepts that are 20 to 30 years old.

    "Theoretically, beating kids with a strap used to keep them behaved, but we don't do that any more," Zawistowski said. "Our concept is that humane training does not inflict unnecessary distress or discomfort."

    On Tuesday, Bernstein got a call from Jeannette Christos of the Tri-County Humane Society that another German shepherd, one the same age as Ringo, was available for adoption. Her family had moved to Costa Rica and couldn't keep her.

    It was a "beshert," Yiddish for "meant to be," said Bernstein. "This dog needed us and we needed her. She is going to help us heal."
  2. hermann muenster

    hermann muenster New Member


    Oh no! Don't get me started!!! Here comes the soapbox!

    I don't consider it "training" when a dog is bullied into "behaving"!
    Aggressive or violent "techniques" aren't training -- it's bullying! And a dog that has been bullied - will never be better behaved than a dog that is allowed to exhibit its true instinct which is to please its' human companion!!! Heart always beats out the fear of the hand!

    We have in my area a very reputable training facility. They train police dogs, bomb sniffers, and search and rescue dogs for police departments around the country. They also have training classes for the public using different trainers. I called one time to inquire about their classes and fees and I was shocked at how much they charged and that they required a pinch collar for all of the dogs in their classes!

    I haven't met a dog yet that really needed a pinch collar! But, I have met many owners that didn't know how to teach their dogs good behaviors and resorted to using pinch collars. Pinch collars are to be used only for the most powerful dogs to prevent them from pulling! When used properly - the prongs on the collar will dig into the dogs neck and pinch so the dog will stop whatever behavior it was doing. They hurt - they pinch!

    It still amazes me how that training facility repeatedly fills their classes!
    It amazes me that that the GSD owner didn't stop Deringer from muzzling and wrestling with her dog for an hour!!! How gulible. What a horrible loss.

    I really wish more people would decide to not have dogs! And I wish that that cities and towns throughout the country would pass ordinances requiring - that if you are not a registered kennel -- your dogs must be spayed or neutered. Then maybe we could close some of the shelters (instead of building new ones or begging people to foster because the shelter ran out of room!)

    AND, I think that anyone that wants to own a dog should be required to take a 6 week training class --- if they whine and waa-waa about having to go --- well then, I say, if you can't give your pet 6 weeks of obedience training -- how are you going to be able to establish a harmonious relationship with that animal for the next 10 or 15 years?

    My new mantra --- Alter and train, or don't bother having one!!!
  3. DeLaUK

    DeLaUK New Member

    Where do I start :x

    If she works for Petco isnt she supposed to be a member of the APDT? or no?

    I dont have a problem with someone doing an alpha roll (if they know what theyre doing) but by putting a muzzle on the dog first is defeating the object, just because a dog gives in with a muzzle doesnt mean it will give in without the muzzle.....I dont see how, if shes worked with over 1700 dogs how she could not know that this dog was in trouble. Seems to me that she was probably scared of the dog and her ego got in the way.

    Any update on Millans lawsuit?
  4. elizavixen

    elizavixen New Member

    That's awful. Of course the dog was struggling. He was freaked out. My dogs - who are both very sweet, non-aggressive and submissive to me - would freak too. They get scared when they are held down.

    I've also always sort of had a problem with dog trainers who use methods like they are other 'alpha' dogs. I am not a trainer, but it just doesn't seem right to me. Like those ppl who alpha roll their dog, or stare them down. I even heard of one moron biting his dog - why? b/c that is what the "alpha" dog would do. WTF? Humans are not dogs and shouldn't act as such. I don't want my dog behaving me b/c he is afraid I might wrestle him down and bite him. Just a pet peeve of mine.
  5. hermann muenster

    hermann muenster New Member

    DeLaUk - you are so right about the muzzle!!!
    I don't see any point to ever train with a muzzle!!! If a dog is that vicious and aggressive -- the trainer needs to first gain that dogs trust rather than bullying it into submission!

    And you are right --- if this goof has really worked with 1700 dogs (that is a huge number!) she should have known the dog was in trouble!
  6. MyPetTherapyDog

    MyPetTherapyDog New Member

    I am a dog trainer. I have many clients as well as work with 7 different shelters in my state.

    Working With shelter dogs, you get a ton of experience because the dogs are usually turned in because the owners had no control and the dog ended up with extremily bad habbits and sometimes aggression.

    In the many years that I have been professionally training shelter dogs (along with private clients) I have never ever even thought to do such a horrible thing to a dog and I have met some pretty dangerous dogs.

    Her thoughts and methods are so unheard of.

    I get much better results teaching my clients how to become "Alpa leader" by teaching the methods of NILIF (nothing in life is free) That and a combination of using basic obedience techniques teaches the owner how to be in charge of the dog and teaches the dog to look to his owner as a leader. If the owner is in charge, the dog doesn't feel he has to be.

    As far as the alpha roll technique it can be very dangerous if the person doesn't have a clue what they are doing. I don't recommend it. Also the dog needs to look to the owner as leader of the pack (great that I can control my clients dogs, I have been doing this a long time but I don't live with the dog) the idea is to begin a behavior modification plan getting the dog to look to his/her owner as his personal super star and always always look up to the owner as just that. NILIF begins to open this avenue up.

    I too Delauk even looked up on the APDT list and could not find her name in the area or surrounding area where she lives.


    I would love to find out her credentials!
  7. lil96

    lil96 New Member

    poor dog, and how sad the people had to sit there and watch this lady be so cruel to the dog. It makes me remember that case with the dog whisperer guy when he/trainers exercised the dog to death, what ever happened with that?
    I hope that lady is no longer allowed to train dogs, but she probably will, just not "legally" it is so sad how she can kill a dog and nothing serious will happen to her.
  8. DogLover

    DogLover New Member

    I am speechless...that was just an 8-week-old pup, was the alpha-role method really necessary? for an hour?
  9. Nik

    Nik New Member

    This has made me feel sick :(

    How can she call herself an animal lover?
  10. Shineillusion

    Shineillusion New Member

    DogLover, it wasn't an 8 week old pup. They adopted the dog a year ago, when it was 8 weeks old. But no matter what the age, there's no excuse for what was done to this dog.

    I would never muzzle a dog for an hour, especially a dog that was physically struggling and stressed. No wonder the dog died from heat exhaustion. He couldn' t pant. When I have to muzzle, I always loosen the muzzle after a few minutes to give the dog time to pant and cool off. Panting is the only way they have to exhaust excess heat, and it's not all that efficient in the first place. Stress a dog, and have him struggle, and you're increasing his body temperature anyway. Muzzle him, and you're cooking him from the inside out.

    I really don't use an alpha rollover when training, either. I've seen that look too many times in dogs that have been put down by their trainer. That look that says "I may be laying down on the outside, but inside, I'm standing up." I think too many trainers have forgotten the other side of the equation; yes, the alpha dog will take another dog down IF the other dog submits. If it doesn't, they fight it out until one of them does submit, or one of them is severely injured or dies. If you try rolling a dominant dog that doesn't happen to believe he should submit, you might force him into the position, but you didn't force him to submit. On the inside, he's still standing up.

    I do believe that poor dog probably passed from "I don't want to submit" to "Let me up and let me breath, you idiot. I'm dying here." and the trainer (and I use that term loosely) didn't have enough sense to realize the difference.
  11. NickSter7715

    NickSter7715 New Member

    OMG!!! She sat on him?! How is that training?! Think about it, if you were a dog and someone sat on you, scaring you half to death, would you listen to them?! I wouldn't!!! I don't see how that helps with traing at all!!!! I thought you were supposed to GAIN the dog's trust to make it easier for them to listen to you. Not SCARE them to death. How could someone do that?! I can't even talk with a firm voice to my dog while training her, let alone sit on her!!!!! I'm with the dogs owner on this one, It had to have absolutly been that trainers fault.
    Poor pup.
  12. chu082011

    chu082011 New Member


    Thank very much for your comment. It help me to think about for my ideals.

    Tks again and pls keep posting.

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