Training and Trainers…

We were helping someone with their dog this weekend, and they commented on how difficult it can be to find the right advice.

The problem was that everyone she'd asked locally for advice belonged to the same training group - and so they were giving her consistent advice... but it was consistently wrong.

And when you have that many people telling you the same thing, you start to believe that they must be right...

"You need to show that dog who's boss."

"Grab him by the collar and give him A GOOD SHAKE!"

And these people go to a training class with a good reputation!

Under what circumstances is it a good idea to shake a dog by the neck?  How can that ever be seen as a constructive training technique?

Frankly, That's a short-cut to getting bitten.  And when someone physically assaults an already stressed dog - and that person gets bitten - the dog gets the blame.

"SEE!!  He's a dangerous dog!!  He bit his master!"

There's something called 'confirmation bias'.  It is described as "the tendency of people to favour information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses."  In this case, the person believes the dog bit them because they're a "bad dog", rather than because they just physically assaulted another living creature.

The fact is, had they not grabbed the dog by the collar and shook them, they wouldn't have been bitten.  But because this person believed this 'bad dog' needed physical chastisement, they will believe the dog's reaction was inappropriate.

So, be wary of taking advice from people who suggest physical means of making sure your dog 'knows who's boss'.  We'd like to think that the vast majority of people know that doing this sort of thing is inexcusable.

But, if someone sounds plausible and confident, some people will believe it.

Wrong advice given by someone stating it like a cold hard fact is like a virus; it spreads and it's passed on.  "My trainer told me..."

It adds authority to the advice, so it gets passed on.  "A friend told me his trainer said..."

It's training class Chinese Whispers.  And people like to add their own experience when passing on training or behavioural tips.

Sometimes, they get what they've been told, and what they've seen elsewhere mixed up...

So, how do you make sure you're getting the right advice?

We've got a whole section devoted to the topic of Trainers and Training Classes, you can find it here:

Read more in the section: "Training" >


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