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TikTok Famous Dog Trainer’s Aversive Methods Under Fire

What's the deal with the controversy surrounding TikTok's "Dog Daddy"? We explore the criticisms of his training methods and the growing call for more empathetic and scientifically grounded approaches to dog training.

Dog Daddy Tiktok

Who is The Dog Daddy?

In the burgeoning sphere of pet influencers, The Dog Daddy, otherwise known as Augusto Deoliveira, has established a substantial presence.

His notable ability to walk several German Shepherds off-leash at once has helped him amass millions of followers across various social platforms and facilitated collaborations with celebrities and notable TikTok personalities.

At a glance, his official website showcases a gallery of encounters with well-known figures in the industry. However, glaringly absent is any information about accreditation, certification, or training philosophy. The consensus is that Deoliveria has no license and has not been certified as a trainer.

You may be asking, what’s the big deal with that?

The training methods under scrutiny

While the Dog Daddy does not take an official stance on his site, upon viewing his content, it's clear that central to Deoliveira's training approach is a philosophy called the dominance theory. This technique emphasizes dominance and control over dogs to ensure submission. It's a training method that has been popularized in the media by other controversial figures like Caesar Milan.

The "expedited" results that these methods claim to produce have come under critical scrutiny for compromising the well-being of the animals involved, fostering a stressful and fearful atmosphere.

Viewers should be disturbed by the methods demonstrated by the Deoliveria. The dogs he works with clearly look to be in pain and distress in his videos.

In truth, the Dog Daddy employs methods that go well beyond even traditional dominance theory. Violently yanking dogs by their neck to force submission should be considered outright abuse. Suspending dogs from leashes to deprive them of oxygen is cruel. Trainers of all philosophies have spoken out against these actions.

It may be tempting to fall for “professionals” who claim that their techniques can “cure” aggressive or reactive dogs in a short amount of time. But true behavioral modification can only be achieved through hard work, consistency over time, and fostering trust and respect between you and your pet via non-aversive training methods.

Debunking the dominance theory

Modern animal behavioral research challenges the fundamentals upon which the dominance theory is built. It posits that the dynamics of wolf packs, which initially inspired the idea, are misunderstood and that wolves, in reality, operate in family units characterized by cooperative interactions rather than hostile domination.

Moreover, science now supports training methods that foster mutual respect and understanding, favoring positive reinforcement techniques that encourage dogs to learn through reward-based approaches.

This shift in perspective is backed by organizations like the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, highlighting that positive reinforcement methods are more humane and lead to better learning outcomes than aggressive dominance-based techniques.

The center of controversy

Deoliveira has attracted controversy for a number of shady business dealings and published videos. One of note followed the publication of a video on his Instagram account where he was seen handling a German Shepherd roughly during a leash training session.

The footage, displaying other dogs moving hectically around the Shepherd being trained, drew widespread criticism for creating an apparently hostile and chaotic training environment.

This sparked a series of debates with many pet parents asserting that such training techniques could be detrimental to the animals and individuals nearby.

A number of his videos involve harsh handling of dogs on leashes - thrashing and pulling them around by their necks and suspending them mid-air, resulting in escalating chaos and stress. His comment section can be polarizing - half praising Deoliveria for his technique, while others accuse him of animal cruelty.

Deoliveria has also been called out for deceptive and inhumane breeding practices after he reportedly scammed a couple out of $1,000 and has also previously come under fire for allegedly selling sick puppies.

The backlash and apology

Responding to the substantial backlash and claims of animal maltreatment, Deoliveira issued an apology through his YouTube channel. He conceded that his actions in the video were unacceptable and communicated regret.

As of writing this article, however, he has failed to alter his training methods despite this controversy and has doubled down on his techniques as a whole.

Despite his attempts at damage control, the episode has spurred broader discussions about the responsibility of adhering to ethical and humane practices in dog training, promoting the adoption of more compassionate and scientifically validated methods.

There are several petitions circulating attempting to ban Deoliveiera from being legally allowed to train in various states and provinces throughout North America.

The ACVB's statement

Recently, the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACBV) released a statement condemning Dog Daddy's viral rise to fame. You can read their words below in full.

To sum it up, they maintain that the methods demonstrated by the Dog Daddy are not only dangerous and distressing to dogs, but can result in pet parents getting bitten or attacked if they attempt to replicate them. The methods they criticize include:

  • Hanging dogs from slip leads

  • Delivering physical corrections via prong collar

  • Forcing dogs into sit or lie down

  • Provoking aggression in dogs

American College of Vet Behaviorist letter about the dog daddy part 1

Let's be real - our society has evolved beyond intimidating our pets into submission. All pets, regardless of behavioral issues, deserve to be protected and respected, just as they are. No “trainer” should be abusing animals and broadcasting dangerous training methods for likes and followers.

Finding a trustworthy trainer

In light of the recent controversies, it is paramount for pet parents to know how to identify a proficient positive reinforcement trainer. Here are some aspects to consider and steps to take in finding a professional who aligns with modern, science-backed, and ethical training practices:

  1. Certifications and Education: Ensure that the trainer has reputable certifications. Certifications from recognized bodies like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or The Karen Pryor Academy signify that the trainer has undergone rigorous training and adheres to high standards of practice.

  2. Training Philosophy: A good trainer's philosophy should prioritize the well-being of the dog, employing methods that are humane and rooted in positive reinforcement. This approach helps build a trustful and respectful relationship between the pet and the pet parent.

  3. Transparent Methods: Trainers should be willing to discuss and explain their training methods openly. They should be capable of providing rational explanations for the techniques they use, backed by scientific evidence.

  4. Customized Training Plans: Every dog is different. A skilled trainer would recognize this and be willing to customize training plans to suit the individual characteristics and needs of your dog.

  5. Online Reviews and References: Don't hesitate to explore online reviews or ask for references to gauge the experiences of other clients with the trainer.

  6. Observation: If possible, ask to observe a training session before committing. This will give you a firsthand glimpse into the trainer's methods and their interaction with the dogs.

  7. Resources for Finding a Trainer: Utilize resources like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) website, where you can search for trainers in your area and learn more about their credentials and specialties.

By adhering to these guidelines, you will be better equipped to find a trainer who promotes a safe, positive, and effective training environment for your beloved dog.

The case for evidence-backed training

The controversy surrounding The Dog Daddy underscores the critical need for adopting contemporary, evidence-based approaches to dog training.

As pet parents seek to nurture positive and respectful bonds with their animal companions, incidents like these serve as a clarion call for transparency and ethics in the ever-evolving domain of pet care and training.

We must demand more from influencers, especially when it comes to the very beings we have sworn to love and protect.

Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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