A Review of Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book

Puppy book cover

Ruled by Fear. Rules by Fear.

There is one recurring theme in Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book- FEAR.

Fear dominates every aspect of Pattison’s interaction with the world. Fear infects this book and runs rampant like an unchecked disease; a pox leaving its mark on every decision, every action and every argument.

Fear breeds hostility; toward dogs, clients and even other trainers. Pattison’s snippy antagonistic tone is clear from the onset. In the Acknowledgements he writes, “I’m tempted to thank the doubters and naysayers as well,”  but like a petulant child concludes, “I don’t think anyone deserves thanks for that.”  This angry and fearful attitude continues throughout the book.

Pattison instills fear in his readers

The Puppy Book is filled with portents of death, disease, and destruction; dreadful prophesies of what can happen if his advice is not followed. It begins in page 1; making the case for coercive methods he starts by scaring the reader and warns:

“so-called “positive reinforcement” treat-training nonsense that has turned people into doggy vending machines and dogs into potentially lethal weapons”

There is no citation to support this claim; to say that he pulled this “fact” out of the air is putting it nicely. But at least Pattison is nice enough to out himself as a complete idiot,  thoroughly ignorant of dog training methods. Even the most naïve of trainers knows that positive reinforcement isn’t the same as “treat training.”

Perhaps I should note that in a previous book (Unleashed), Pattison described dog show handlers as “treat trainers” and thought their habit of throwing bait on the floor during a stack was “treat training.”

The invented assertion also illustrates the second (subservient to the first goal of fear) trend found it this book; Pattison has no interest in the facts and doesn’t hesitate in fabricating nonsense in the hopes of deceiving his reader.  [see post]

One gets the feeling that Mr. Pattison will blurt out any lie to frighten the reader; he goes on to misinform us:

“Fascinating studies have recently been published in behaviour science journals concerning optimal positive reinforces, and they point to some very disturbing issues related to treat-trained dogs.”

He cites “Prevalence and Risk Factors for Obesity in Adult dogs from Private U.S. Veterinary Practices” (PDF) as the source; it turns out to that study has nothing to do with ‘treat training.’ Lund’s study has no technical details and free from jargon. It’s very hard to believe this was an honest mistake.

Pattison later cites Schwab’s study on how dogs behave when they are being watched; he distorts the author’s work and claims the study concludes that “treats are also shown to cause inattentiveness and lack of obedience among dogs.”  It seems like accuracy doesn’t matter as long as the scare tactics work.

Pattison’s bogeyman is ‘treat-training’, what the rest of the world calls positive reinforcement, gets blamed for dogs attacking kids warns us that it will make dogs view “anything standing between their mouths and those treats as public enemy number one”, concluding “ treat training is a recipe for disaster.”

Pattison fears dogs

Throughout the book Pattison makes it clear that he thinks dogs are out to get him.  Anything and everything will make the dog come after him and “take over” – not just the dreaded ‘treat training.’

There are many things that will give the dog puppy the power to enslave you. If the puppy sleeps on an elevated structure, then you need to be afraid because the pup “will start to think she’s part of the leadership of the pack.”

If the pup has more than 3 toys (a number arrived on a whim) then it will “think everything is a toy” and trash your stuff. And for heaven’s sake you better not have a high-pitched voice because the little pup will see you as “weak and hurt” and try to dominate you. To make sure that the puppy doesn’t dominate, Pattison suggests you should eat “before your pup does.”

You’d better watch it he warns;“she’ll be ready to stage a hostile takeover of your household!”  and you must break their spirit “before your dog [pup] attempts that coup d’état.”  Maybe you should also hire a few soldiers-of-fortune to quell that impending coup.

Pattison uses fear to control dogs.

All this fear eventually rains down on the dogs in the form of coercive, threatening and painful methods of control. This is especially troubling considering the aim is to train puppies; cute, pliable, vulnerable puppies.

To teach a puppy to sit he suggest hanging and tells the reader to “pull the leash up until her front paws are airborne.” Pattison also advises to “pinch her” ear to get teach the RELEASE command and using “leg to make contact with your dog’s [puppy’s] body” to make her move. And a puppy’s desire for social contact must be quelled with force. Pattison’s solution to a jumping pup is to quickly thrust your arm forward so the pup’s snout will “run into your hand.” 

Did he just tell you to hit the pup? Yes! He says; “That’s fine. He needs to learn to heed to your movements, not the other way around.”

Even house-training is based on force. Against all common sense this book advocates punishing your pup even if you find a mess days after the incident.

Conclusion

There is so much bad advice in this book that a full account would have made this post much, much longer. One of the great tragedies is that Pattison is so afraid of being dominated, that even when they are literally throwing themselves on the floor in deference/fear he sees a malevolent intent.

“He tries to manipulate you by displaying exaggerated signs of submission as soon as you even attempt to assert your leadership.”

He also characterizes anxiety as bad behavior.

“Pups and dogs with separation anxiety should never get a free pass for misbehaving.”

 

And vocalizations of pain as a dog being a ‘drama-queen’

“These fake-out submissions include shrieking an equivalent of “Ouch” when you dethrone him from your bed or favorite armchair; twirling around in circles when you try to clip on the leash for a walk’ and dropping down or rolling over like a drama queen”

If owners follow the advice in this book they will fail their dogs, just like Pattison failed Rudy. How ineffectual is his training advice? He can’t even control his own dog.

Rudy, the Schnoodle still goes ape when his archrival, the pushy, noisy vacuum cleaner, suddenly appears out of the closet and rudely sucks up all the good, smelly things off the floor. He’ll chase that thing around, yapping at it and trying to dominate it, even though it could probably suck him right up like a big ball of lint.

In the final account, Pattison’s advice is outdated, dangerous and ineffective. He offers a relationship based on fear and that is no relationship at all.

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17 thoughts on “A Review of Brad Pattison’s Puppy Book

  1. Oh dear. Brad Brad Brad. I have had the “pleasure” of encountering this man while with dogs on a few occasions. He seems angry, every interaction with the canines feels full of negativity. Please stop supporting this nonsense “knowledge” of dogs, and don’t give him anymore TV shows!

  2. Pingback: Glad I'd never heard of Brad Pattinson before DF!

  3. Wow, I almost missed a good post and review. I never read one of Pattison’s books, and never will. I have to ask… did any of you commenting purchase his books? It would be ashamed to put money in his pocket.

  4. This is horrific. There is nothing new in what he says, in fact he hearkens back to the positively ancient methods of training which have been thoroughly proven as ineffective in producing a well rounded, confident dog.

    Your dog – any dog, deserves better than to be treated in the way Brad Pattison espouses. Thank you for this review, and I certainly hope that anyone who reads it will go out and see what amazing things are being done with positive methods…. and then decide.

  5. Sorry if this is a duplicate–I already submitted it once. Thank you for performing the odious task of reading and summarizing this book. You have done dogs a great service.

  6. I have not read the book, but thank you for he warning and analysis. It horrifies me to imagine how much canine relationship damage and hurt such a book can do in the hands of a novel, inexperienced puppy owner who doesn’t know any better than to think that such a neurotic dog-phobic belief system is science.

  7. This book reminds me of examples in “Training Dogs” by Konrad Most circa 1910…back then before the shock collar they shot dogs with bird loads to make it hurt but not kill the dog…it was called “training”.

  8. I think you missed the point of the review. Read the book, if you wish. But the review points out clearly that none of Mr. Pattison’s claims square up with the research and science about dogs, dog training or learning theory.

  9. Now im going to read the book. You have just demonstrated that you fear people reading the book and coming to their own conclusions. Thats outdated.

    • I would not blame anyone for fearing that the general public would read this ridiculous man’s book and hurt their dogs because of it. Anyone who slaps dogs in public, which is bad enough, certainly couldn’t be trusted to train anyone’s dog in private. Fear is easy to install in dogs and hard to remove – so the last thing anyone should do with puppies is train them by force. Pattison seems ignorant of the science of learning, and that is a colossal failure in a dog trainer.

    • If anyone is going to read the book, I also highly recommend looking up the research studies cited in the back of the book.
      The book states that research says treat training is dangerous (obesity), yet the research link didn’t study treat training. It was a study by a pet food company to look at canned, dry, homemade food and it concluded in part that people should feed more commercial dog food.
      The study on bonding is misquoted.
      Quotes from various books that treat training cause aggression are unsubstantiated.
      Then there’s the study on dogs misbehaving when food is present. Dogs misbehave more quickly when food is near AND the owner is not looking. It is used to make treat training look bad. But, the study didn’t look at HOW the dogs were trained. Just that they were tempted. For all we know, they could have been force trained.
      It goes on and on and on.
      I don’t fear someone reading the book. I fear someone not checking the cited references for accuracy. How many people check the bibliography and READ the studies?

      • I read the other books Unleashed & Synergy; I knew that he tends to be wrong when he cites studies. Not only does he get them wrong, the scarcity of references is sad; I’ve seen high school reports with more more citations.

    • good for you Michelle. you go right ahead and do that.
      I don’t think anyone here fears you coming to your own conclusion ( I certainly don’t) but there’s alot to be said for being concerned about the fallout from this book that could adversely affect dogs.
      enjoy your read. I hope you still think it’s worth the price once you’ve finished it.

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