Dog trainer video sparks outrage: Owner of facility insists action has been taken, animals are safe

BOTHELL, Wash. -- The video is hard to watch. It shows a female dog trainer striking a dog multiple times with a small plastic bat.

“I’m going to tell you my reaction ... to that video was literally a gut knot," said Colleen McDaniel, owner of the Academy of Canine Behavior training facility where the now-viral video was recorded.  "And I honestly don’t blame people for reacting to it."

The Academy of Canine Behavior has been around since 1981 and McDaniel says the video was shot two years ago.  She says she only learned about it three weeks ago when Snohomish County Animal Control came to investigate an anonymous tip.

Colleen says when she finally watched the video on Monday, she immediately fired the dog trainer, who had been an employee for 15 years.

Jamie Tompkins: Do you think this is animal abuse?

Colleen McDaniel: I can’t answer that question and the reason I can’t … I wasn’t there.

The video has been shared and viewed countless times on social media.

“What you don’t see on the video is that the dog was really mad because he couldn’t do what he wanted to do. And that’s what he was in here for -- training, because he would bite you,” says Colleen.

She says the dog in the video had aggression problems. She says in the past, her staff would use the small plastic bats, with the top cut out, to grab a dog’s attention or interrupt a dog fight, by hitting the bat against the wall, making a loud noise.  Colleen insists the bats were never meant to be used to strike the dogs and says her facility utilizes multiple training techniques.

Colleen McDaniel: We are incredibly fair and we are very successful because we have a balanced approach. We don’t have an all-cookie approach.

Jamie Tompkins: So when you say you’re very fair, I just want to be so specific, when you say you’re very fair ... do you hit animals here as part of the training?

Colleen McDaniel: The short answer to that would be no. Has it ever been done? Of course it has, but it better be justified.

Colleen says a justified example would be if a dog were to attack a trainer.

But not every trainer agrees.

Wynona Karbo, who owns Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle, says she focuses on positive reinforcements when training dogs.

“I was horrified by the video, I have to admit. I can’t imagine anything that dog would have done that would have justified that behavior,” says Karbo.

She encourages pet owners to really do their research before signing their pets up for behavioral training.

“If you take a human aggressive dog and humans then punish them, you make that dog 25% more likely to bite,” says Karbo.

Back at The Academy of Canine Behavior, Colleen says their training styles are constantly changing with the times. She showed us the kennels and insists her facility is a safe place for dogs to learn and grow.

Jamie Tompkins: But none of the training includes physically abusing an animal or hitting an animal or inflicting any kind of pain?

Colleen McDaniel:  Pain shuts down learning, if you think about it. Pain shuts down learning.

Snohomish County Animal Services says their investigation concluded the behavior of the trainer towards the dog did not rise to the level of animal cruelty, as defined by law.

Organizations like Pasado’s Safe Haven says they are currently looking into ways that Washington state's animal cruelty laws can be strengthened.