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Disposing of an "Untrainable" Dog

Updated: Apr 30

A German Wirehaired Pointer

As a canine behavior specialist, I have helped many owners who were at the end of their proverbial ropes. In some cases, the cumulative stress of dealing with things like constant chewing and destruction had taken its toll. In others, issues such as separation anxiety or aggression had become challenging to deal with long-term. Still, rather than giving up, those people called a professional trainer. Of course, there are also those who instead either rehome their dog, or surrender him to a rescue or shelter.

Then there’s South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. In an excerpt from Noem’s upcoming book obtained by The Guardian, she recounts the story of her 14-month-old wire-haired pointer. Cricket, an adolescent who Noem “hated” and called “less than worthless” as a hunting dog was, according to her, “untrainable.” She took Cricket on a pheasant hunt with older dogs because she thought it would calm her down and teach her to behave. In other words, she set a young dog with a high prey drive and no training up to fail by putting her into an extremely arousing situation. Unsurprisingly, Cricket ruined the hunt by going “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.” According to the article, Noem then recounts calling Cricket to her and trying to use an electronic collar to calm her down. I’m no fan of e-collars, but I’d like to believe that even those least experienced with them would be smart enough to realize that you don’t try to teach a dog anything when he’s in high arousal mode in a highly distracting environment.

On the way home after the hunt, Noem stopped to talk to a local family, at which point Cricket escaped the truck and attacked the family’s chickens. Cricket, Noem writes, “behaved like a trained assassin.” No, she behaved like exactly what she was: an overly aroused, high prey drive hunting dog who saw an opportunity and took it. When Noem tried to stop the attack, Cricket whipped around and tried to bite her. So, what did she do? Did she manage the situation so that Cricket never again could escape the truck or have access to chickens? Hire a professional who could have explained that the attempted bite was the result of redirected arousal and helped to modify Cricket’s behavior? Reach out to rescue groups for help? Nope. She took poor Cricket to a gravel pit located on her family’s farm and shot her dead. Yes, you read that right. “It was not a pleasant job,” Noem wrote, “but it had to be done. And after it was over, I realized another unpleasant job needed to be done.” She then went on to kill a family goat, who she called “nasty and mean.” She also led the goat to a gravel pit, where she said her first shot wounded but did not kill the animal. She got another shell for her gun and killed the goat.

Having worked with many dangerous dogs over the years, and many with high prey drives (wolfdogs, anyone?) never once did I recommend that anyone shoot their dog. And never once have I encountered a dog who deserved what Noem did. Plenty of adolescent dogs are out of control and some might be termed “untrainable” by those who don’t know better. Some are actually aggressive. And yet, even in those cases, normal, compassionate people use solid management and do whatever they can to help modify their dog’s behavior. I’m not sure why Kristi Noem shared this story in her upcoming book. Perhaps she thinks what she did makes her seem like a strong, farm-raised, gun-toting hero. It doesn’t. And now dog lovers everywhere know exactly who she is. _______________________________________________________________ You can find my books, seminar recordings, blog, and more at and follow me on Facebook @NicoleWildeauthor. My mentoring service can be found at Dog Trainer's Friend. And if wildlife photos are your thing, check out my Instagram at nicolewildeart. 



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One of the biggest issues I had with the story is that she was training with an e-collar and shocked the dog several times while it was going “crazy” on the hunt.

Her use of the e-collar in this situation should generate conversation on the negative impact it can have on a dog. The entire story is sickening but as trainers we can use this as a way to discuss other options for any other “crickets” out there.

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