Dear John… Ableism is everywhere… Even dog training.

In 17 years as a professional dog trainer, I have only once publicly called out another dog trainer.  One time in 17 years.  It was regarding a public news story and severe abuse and I did not conceal their name of the trainer in a blog post I wrote discussing it.

Today it will now be 2 dog trainers.

Even more surprisingly, it’s going to happen about another trainer with whom I have no issues with their dog training methods.  It’s going to happen about a trainer with whom I had previously believed to be, overall, helping the dog training community.

After MUCH consideration and counsel from the individuals involved in these comments and trusted advisors, we determined to not conceal the name of the trainer who made the original post or the comments in response to our comments.  We felt he was clearly proud and public about his stance, so we chose to let it remain unfettered.  

It started this morning at 7:15am ish local time.  A well known dog trainer posted on both his professional and person page the following post:


23 minutes after that post, I received a PM about it and then the following comments ensued within the original post(s):


All of these comments were deleted by Mr. McGuigan as they were occurring.  

In full transparency, I have never met Mr. McGuigan.  I have never heard him speak.  I have commented on a public post of his less than 5 times over the years,  The only individual interaction we have ever had was based on this random PM I received from him earlier this year:


So, let’s discuss Mr. McGuigan’s behavior this morning.  Ableism is a word defined as: “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.”  Discrimination is defined as: “prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment.”  Prejudiced is defined as: “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.”

Everyone, every single human being, has prejudice.  Our goal should always be to listen to individuals within a group when they try to educate us on our opinions and actions surrounding that group based on insufficient knowledge.  

That is what was done today.  That is what Mr. McGuigan censored, manslpained, and ignored as large group of individuals with disabilities tried to educate him on ableism and disability.

As an able bodied person, it is absolutely well outside of Mr. McGuigan’s lane to tell an individual with a disability, how they should feel about a post discussing physical strength.  It is unacceptable that, when voicing concerns about an ableist viewpoint, Mr. McGuigan say that they are “missing the point”, “not thinking critically”, “not being imaginative”, “not being overlooked”, and “derailing” the conversation.

This is our life, every. single. day.  If we take our precious and very limited energy to try and educate you, it’s because we care.  We cared enough to comment.  We cared enough to try and educate.  We cared enough to not just scroll past.  Which, by the way, we do.  We “just scroll past” hundreds of times a week.  We just scroll past and continue with our lives when we get dirty looks parking in the handicapped spaces.  We just scroll past when we people speak to our spouses and ask them questions because we are in a chair.  We just scroll past when we are told you’re too young to be that painful.  We just scroll past EVERY FUCKING DAY.

So if we take the time to NOT just scroll past it’s because we think you are worth educating.  It’s because we think the community deserves to hear our voice.  It’s because we are SCREAMING for our value and inclusion.  It’s because we just can’t scroll past one more time today.

Mr. McGuigan, you have proven that you are not worthy of our time.  You have proven that you think you know better how we should feel than those of us who actually feel it.  Your attempts to silence us will not persevere.  We have a voice and we deserve a voice.

You, Mr. McGuigan, will not silence the disabled women who laid the ground upon which you walk in this industry.

You sir, will not delete us.

EDIT 11/18/19:  It appears Mr. McGuigan did issue an apology on his personal and professional page.  However, I was unable to see that directly due to my blocked status and it was not sent directly to me or any of the others involved directly.  That posted apology appears to then have been removed after approximately 24-48hours.

Published by abigailwitthauer

Lover of animal behavior, impassioned for social justice, demander of service dog reform. Please bring wine and cheese.

8 thoughts on “Dear John… Ableism is everywhere… Even dog training.

  1. I have seen John in a seminar. John is good at what he does, but does not take other’s opinions as valid, unless they totally aline with his ideas. He is quick with the delete button if your post in any way appears to critique or slightly challenge his thesis. (I’m not talking about people saying mean things or trolling). His business page reminds me of how he trains…only nice things are allowed and posts get a “like” if it’s complimentary to John. It’s like he trains his viewers to respond as he wants them to, or they are not allowed to post. Overall, I believe John means well, has done a lot of research, but, as you’ve mentioned lacks empathy. This is amazing, since a great majority of his clientele are women!


  2. Abigail, you write well and eloquently. I’m proud of you and how you try to educate all of us. Your well written thoughts can be applied to many other situations and reminded me about other groups of people who need to constantly educate us who don’t understand and make statements that are hurtful without meaning to be hurtful. I hope all of those people around me who ever hear me make a stupid thoughtless remark will be strong enough and care enough about me, to correct me and make me aware.
    Thank you, Abigail!


  3. Do you or anyone else happen to have a screenshot of the apology post? I need it for something important. I was his (paying) “mentee” and I’m a “special needs learner”. He harmed me emotionally, psychologically and financially.I posted the following (very long) comment in response to that ablest video/post and his awful behavior towards those who voiced criticism. I was in a lot of distress at the time. Shortly after I posted this he took the entire thing down, then posted the “apology”. Please excuse all the typos, I didn’t want to change any of the text.

    “Hold my beer yahoos. RE: relative “responsibility” of sender vs. receiver of a message, it’s not a static thing, it changes significantly across contexts & depends on many different factors. One of the more significant factors being whether you actually care that there was a communication failure. And furthermore, whether you have any genuine interest in exploring how/why it happened And whether you care enough about your intended audience to listen to what *they* are trying to communicate to *you*.

    Insensitivity rarely has anything to do with one’s intentions, but how we address it when people are brave enough to bring it up makes our intentions crystal clear. And that’s awesome, because it provides a better basis by which to judge a person’s character through their actions, not just their words.

    Of course, this was such an epic missed opportunity that would actually be funny if it wasn’t so tragic and you, John McGuigan, didn’t insist on making yourself and everyone else suffer so needlessly. You had *the perfect* opening to live up to your own self-narrative and turn this into an amazing, open, and probably fascinating, discussion on what “inclusivity” actually looks like*in practice*, where we get it wrong, and how to navigate the complexities of it without feeling like you have to walk on eggshells. (Hint: if you feel like it’s an imposition and you’ll have to walk on eggshells in order just to make a gd training video, and treat people’s emotional responses to your communications as “incorrect”, you’re probably missing the *entire fucking point*, and you certainly aren’t taking responsibility for yourself in your role as “receiver” of messages. But I forgot, everyone BUT YOU has to adhere to your rigid, patriarchal philosophy about “personal responsibility”).

    But of course pulling off a discussion like that would require certain emotional literacy skills, as well as greater fluency in applying LIMA to your human learners, that you currently do not possess. S’ok, I’ve actually got mad skills in that area when I’m not free-falling in agony from being gaslighted by a sadist, a supposed “mentor” laughably giving me “career advice” out of one side of their face and then just sitting back as a spectator to watch me crash and burn in public and practically commit professional suicide right in front of their eyes, *never once* being a friend to me and reaching out a hand in kindness. So I won’t share my knowledge, skills and talents with you, since you made it clear you have zero interest in what they might even be. I’ll keep them for myself and my own discussion group and when I’m inadvertently insensitive to someone (as we all are at times) the resulting discussion we have about inclusivity will be a healing thing of beauty.

    You really have no idea how easy it would be, like *magic*, to significantly reduce your burden and the pain of being a “public figure” who has to absorb the emotional load of their “followers” — it would require *so little effort* from you and you could simultaneously make your life so much less stressful AND contribute far greater value to your own community here. But in your arrogance and careless treatment of me you squandered your opportunity to access my knowledge about such things, and I already gave you enough of my hard earned money, I’m not about to give you anything for free.

    Don’t worry, Imma see myself out in a sec, I’ve got business under a bridge in Gotham City to attend to (oh yes Sir you’re absolutely right, we really DO “need to do better”). Everyone knows you can’t get any cookies in this Skinner box without a nauseating display of sycophancy anyway. Must be fun to play with your rats.

    Oh, but before you delete this and block me, make sure to gather a BIG crowd to witness your *pleasure* in pushing the hurt-y button and erasing me for my “bad behavior”. And if you hold this up as proof of how your callousness can drive a person to madness, everybody needs to do a reality check — I’m a confessional poet and comedian, not a villain. A barely functional, worthless little mouse like me who has to repeatedly mentally rehearse the act of standing up for an hour or more every day just to get out of bed, is not a danger to anyone but herself (see exhibit A: this post). The only weapon I have is my sharpened tongue. I did however leave that at home today in favor of the jagged edge of a rusty tin can for carving my words into virtual flesh here, y’know just so I could present a real picture of how well you care for your “special needs” learners. Oooo how terrifyingly unhinged sounding. Boo! 👻

    Oh and please, do not flatter yourself Hollywood, I told you a long time ago I don’t believe in unicorns — and do you know *why* I told you that?? (Of course not, because you never asked me anything about anything). Because I had a friend who was in a very vulnerable place in her life who seemed to have gotten the wrong impression about her relationship with you, and I was trying to *protect her* without being overly intrusive to you.

    My point? Lest I get accused of being a passive-aggressive troll: Fuck You Asshole.

    I do not lie. And in the company of people who actually have a clue about how to *practice* kindness and inclusivity through their actions in real life — totally different from those who abuse and over-use such words as virtue-signaling garbage and an instrument of social control to suppress criticism and authentic expression of emotion. In the company of *actually* decent people who see my suffering and don’t hesitate to offer me reassurance and real acceptance? I am *known* for being a sweetheart, a genuine, caring person, the one you call at 2 AM when you need support. I lift people up and inspire them, and I would have done that for you if you thought I had any value. I’m surrounded by the sincere love of so many objectively wonderful people. Their friendship is proof of my goodness *and sanity*. This here? The jagged edge of my rusty tin can? This is proof of the toxic culture you’ve created under the surface of the meaningless platitudes of your cult of personality.

    It didn’t have to be like this. I am absolutely grief stricken, that is what you’re witnessing here. And I wasted all my savings to boot, so I can’t even take the time off that I need to. ANY ethical professional would have admitted they were in over their head if they didn’t know what to do for me. But there in lies the crux of the problem — either you’re lacking in ethics or you have an abundance of arrogance and a lack of empathy. I’m out.

    P.S. To the rest of you — you know what you see. Believe your own eyes no matter what anyone tells you about what you witness. And never forget, you could be next.”


    1. Hello Amy, I’m so sorry you‘be been so hurt. I don’t have a screen shot of the apology but I feel confidant several people do. I would look at some of the support groups that have popped up for this and ask in there. I know there are lots of people who have been effected and are banding together to support one another.


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