Although I do not have much time for it anymore, I used to frequent various online dog-themed forums or communities. It’s something I enjoyed doing and these communities were where I met some amazing friends and colleagues. I spent most of my efforts responding to training or behavior posts. Training methods are deeply personal, and like religion and politics can create very heated debates and discussions on web communities. I won’t claim to have been a complete angel, I certainly let frustration get the best of me at times and responded in a less than polite manner. What got me the most riled up back then is what still gets me riled up enough to take a few minutes and respond even if I don’t have much time to follow the thread.
I know, I know, you must be thinking, “But you seem so cool, calm, collected and completely rational. What could possibly get your feathers ruffled?” Some people will claim that my responses were simply because I disagreed with someone’s advice–but that is not entirely accurate.
Generally speaking, I can vehemently disagree with someone but do so politely and without getting my feathers too ruffled. I really disagree with the way most children are educated in the US, I am very vocal about my concerns about the education system but I accept that there are reasons for the other side’s opinion and that they have every right to express those opinions. It is not the mere act of disagreeing that bothers me enough to take time out of my busy schedule to post or that will ruffle my feathers. It is when I see people giving incredibly dangerous advice to unskilled dog handlers that it ruffles my feathers– and even more when it’s an “arm chair dog trainer” giving the advice (ie a person who has learned all they know about dog training from watching cable television shows).
There is risk involved in owning an animal with long pointy teeth, strong jaws, and potentially sharp claws. As domesticated as dogs are, they are still animals and are predators. If things go wrong when working with a dog, there can be serious repercussions. So, when I see advice that is putting handlers in extremely risky situations, I feel obligated to offer an alternative point of view (not just simply attack the other opinion) to hopefully prevent an injury to a person (and potentially prevent the rehoming/dumping/euthanizing of the dog who bit). I try to be cool, calm, collected… and ultimately understanding of everyone but with dangerous advice like this, I sometimes fall short:
JQP: “My dog is snarling, growling, and snapping at me when I am petting him while he eats! It’s totally unacceptable for him to growl at me like that, how should I fix that?”
Arm Chair Trainer: “Wow! If I were you and the dog were growling at me, I’d get to his level so he know I meant business, look him in the eyes, and tell him very firmly “no!!!” then take his food away. If he growls when I take the food away, I would give a collar correction if he has a leash on or roll him on his side until he submits. Your dog needs to know you are the boss”
This isn’t a direct quote from any specific post but it is is dangerous advice like this that gets my feathers ruffled and elicits a response from me. Out on the interwebs everyone can be an expert, they can use all the eloquent words and enigmatic phrases in the world to sound knowledgeable but it doesn’t mean that they really know what they are doing. These folks are often sure of their advice and sound really confident in what they are saying and people listen–even when the advice is dangerous.
I guess what I hope you take away from this post is that there is some extremely dangerous advice being given out by arm-chair trainers. Unfortunately, the advice is often backed by lots of confidence and can be hidden behind creative use of language but it is dangerous nonetheless, so be savvy and don’t take things at face value (though I suspect I’m preaching to the choir). (I suppose I should step down from my soapbox now)