Ten’s reality show with UK ‘Dogfather’ defends ‘aversive’ techniques

The controversy surrounding Ten’s latest reality dog show might be a case of more bark than bite.

Described by a London tabloid as “Britain’s best dog trainer”, Graeme Hall has reportedly been turning the naughtiest dogs into the best household pets on his Channel 5 TV show.

Reviews on his website include many satisfied clients, including Linda Matuska, whose two huge Newfoundlands were brought to heel by Hall.

They would drag her across parklands and chase lawnmowers, but Hall, a self-described master dog trainer with the UK’s Guild Of Dog Trainers, fixed the boys quick smart “and it was all done in kindness”.

When the Ten network announced it was bringing Hall to Australia to film a local version of the show, Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, the nation’s pet welfare agencies were quick to respond to suggestions the show used “aversive” techniques.

A statement from the network said that with a proven track record of reforming over 5000 “fur babies” in the past decade, the show will follow Hall and “observe the methods behind his mantra of ‘any dog, any age, any problem’”.

“Peeing in places they shouldn’t? Graeme’s got you. Separation anxiety? Graeme to the rescue. Literally tearing the place apart?” the statement read.

“It’s time to call The Dogfather.”

Bad to the bone?

In one of the promotional snippets released in the lead-up to the show’s broadcast date on July 20, we see a young dog owner carrying her scared and stiff dog to put him in her car.

The music overlay is George Thorogood and The Destroyers’ Bad To The Bone.

The RSPCA previously contacted Ten in January to express their concerns.

“The RSPCA opposes the use and promotion of aversive dog training techniques and methods, which have been associated with this show,” read a statement provided to The New Daily this week.

“We’re also concerned with the language used in relation to this show, which places blame inappropriately on dogs who display certain behaviours and reinforces negative perceptions that these are ‘bad’ dogs.

“We contacted Network Ten in January to express these concerns and subsequently met with them to discuss this.

“We encourage all dog owners to use reward-based training, where the dog is set up to succeed and then rewarded for performing the good behaviour.”

It also referred TND to its promotion of “reward-based dog training” and suggests food treats, favourite chew toys or verbal praise such as “good dog!”

“Reward-based training is the most humane and effective way of training dogs and addressing any unwanted behaviours.

“Reward-based training does not involve aversive techniques, physical punishment or the assertion of dominance over the dog,” it says.

Graeme Hall at Bondi Beach in Sydney with a very happy Rottweiler, complete with gorgeous studded white collar. Photo: Ten

‘Tongue-in-cheek’ title

TND contacted Ten to see if there was any truth to this canine controversy and were told the production team liaised “extensively” with the RSPCA to make sure appropriate dog-training techniques were used in the show.

They even submitted storylines prior to filming.

“Network 10 takes the welfare of animals seriously and sought to set the bar high with our approach to dog training on Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly,” Ten said.

“We had a behind-the-scenes animal consultant with a diploma in dog behaviour working with both the production team and Graeme Hall to ensure we followed positive reinforcement training.

“We liaised extensively with the RSPCA – stories were submitted prior to filming, and we appraised them of our plans for behind-the-scenes support.

“Throughout the production we went above and beyond to ensure the dogs were the beneficiaries of the process and best practice was followed at all steps.”

He’s bored. Left at home for nine hours during the day while the owner goes back to the office, it’s not the dog’s fault he ripped the couch apart. Photo: Getty

Blame the owners, not the dog

Hall says he’s here to help “desperate owners” and “naughty dogs” turn their lives around for the better and bring their households into some sort of “equilibrium”.

“I can’t wait to get cracking,” he says.

Adds Ten: “While the title may be tongue in cheek, the show very quickly establishes the truth of the matter – it’s the owners whose behaviour needs to change. And they did!

“We have been inundated with thank you messages from happy doggy parents. Graeme has indeed improved the quality of everyone’s lives – especially the dogs.”

Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly Australia premieres July 20 At 7.30pm on 10 And 10 Play

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.