The dog world

The dog world, the great divide

I guess no one is immune to receiving criticism or even attacks from people in “the dog world”. No matter what you do, what breed you own, how you train it, what tools you use or won’t use, there is always someone who will have a problem with all or any of it.

I guess this has always been the case but in my years, people today seem to excel at rudeness, non factual debates, emotional dribble and just plain crazy behaviours.

When I grew up, if a person walked up to another and was rude or overly argumentative when they really didn’t know the person, they would have been thumped.

These days, with the advent of the internet as our main source of communication, it seems all manners, boundaries and respect have fallen by the way side in favour of, a fearless ruler. This person who knows all and will scan the internet world for anything he or she dislikes and attack the person or people without hesitation.

These war mongers are known as “Key Board Warriors”, “trolls” or “haters”.

To be a keyboard warrior, you need no actual knowledge, experience or skill, in fact you don’t even need to know anything about the person your attacking or the subject, just hide behind your keyboard and power on, after all, what have you got to lose…

When it comes to dog training, I was told years ago that “the only thing two dog trainers will agree upon is the that third one is wrong“. Ithe dog world never really understood what that means, there are literally endless ways to train a dog, and so many variables that decide which, arguing with your peers seems pointless.

In our business, we have dog handlers and dog trainers come to us all the time, sometimes to buy equipment, sometimes to learn something in one of my courses, NEVER do we treat them with anything less than respect.

A saying I like is “give everyone respect, let’s see how long they keep it“. Even if someone is doing something I gave up 20 years ago I will still help them move forward without ridicule or disagreement.

I will see a trainer or handler working a dog on youtube or social media, and sometimes the work is really poor, but that is where is ends for me. I don’t attack them, I don’t ridicule them or link all my friends to laugh or criticize, why would I do that?

Only those who are pathetic and or have no faith in themselves attack their competition…

When training dogs, people will get all emotional and angry over what tools a trainer uses or doesn’t use. Often people who use clickers are thought of as permissive or weak trainers who want to change the world with a cookie.

Sure there are people like that but it does not define the tool, it simply says there are some people like that, and I bet if you took the clicker off those people they would find away to be the same way with their dogs.

I use a clicker to teach complex behaviours primarily, normally moving to a verbal marker in most cases later for convenience. Using a clicker didn’t make me permissive, or change my mind about training, it simply gave me another tool.

There are even groups that people belong to simply by the choices they make, there are Force free, purely positive trainers and the seemingly opposite end of the scale is the Balanced Trainer and then there is the trainer that uses compulsion to generate motivation through pressure.

I don’t like to really limit myself into any of the above groups because I think limits, limit results. Once a person defines themselves as being part of one of these groups, they almost have to hate the people in the other groups! Can you say “Gang mentality…”

I have had the pleasure of seeing many handlers / trainers train their dogs, and been lucky enough to watch some really incredible people.

In all my time, the ability and or commitment of these people was what made them awesome, they didn’t really belong to a group, in fact I can’t think of one of these people that was a stark right or left wing activist when it came to tools or reward use, they used what worked and sometimes that was reward only, but not always.

So it seemed that the best that I have seen had developed methods they thought to be the best, and they often didn’t really care for what others did or didn’t do.

There can be a great divide between some tools as well, for example there are many people that will zing a check chain but would curse a person for using a prong collar. Both of these are designed to produce and aversive to the dog, a punisher.

The intensity of the punisher is totally up to the handler, you don’t have to administer a strong correction with either tool, so I feel that once you fall into the category of using any aversive, then it is strange to rule out certain tools that do the same as the tool your using, but perhaps look different.

I will hear people say they refrain from using any correction tool as they attach their dog to a head halter. REALLY?

There is a reason that the dog avoids having this put on, there is a reason that he or she scrapes their face and drags their head along the ground when its fitted.

There is a reason that it changes the behaviour, it’s an aversive, and that’s ok, but let’s see it for what it is.

In our daily life, there are many limits and or boundaries and if they are crossed, there are penalties, aversives, risks and consequences. These don’t make us live in fear but they help us make better choices and or stop us form potential harm to us or others, or they should do.

How many people choose never to break the road rules so they can have a clean driving record vs. how many don’t break the road rules so they can avoid the fine or loss of license? When people will state that these penalties are not stopping speeding drivers, I would suggest there is a consistency problem with the delivery of the consequences.

I personally believe the welfare of the dog and results are at the top of the importance list, how we get there, tools, methods etc really should not limit or control the outcomes.Order of importance

If you have a dog that is dangerous to other dogs, or people, allowing this behaviour to exist longer than it has to could be very risky to your dog’s life, or other peoples safety or dogs.

People who own (AND LOVE) dogs like this can really struggle, they love their dog but are so scared that he or she might hurt another dog or person, they are anxious on every walk, walk at the very early hours of the morning or the very late hours of the evening to avoid conflict.

When they find something that even provides a little relief, imagine how they feel when they are attacked for the their choice?

When a person is sick, they may take medicines to help them overcome the sickness right? Have you ever read the side effects list on most medicines?

Life encounters risk, the only way to have no risk is not live…

If your dog needs help, I strongly recommend that you find the help your dog needs, if the trainer or behaviourist can change your dogs behaviour in a respectable about of time, how they do that (considering also the dogs welfare) should be a secondary concern.

Looking for people who will rehabilitate your dog with your methods is likely going to see you fail your dog. Remember the dog is the most important element here, not politics.

We are lucky that we attract really GREAT owners who are dedicated to helping their dogs. They follow our advice, follow the program and they trust us, AND their dogs get better!

Give your dog the help he or she needs and be proud that you are!

Forget those on the other side of the divide…


As always, love to hear your comments below, feel free to share far and wide!

Steve Courtney

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  1. Vicky Wegener (Thompson)

    We took Atticus’s to puppy school, we socialised him at dog parks & event, we followed all the instructions from puppy school, trained him morning & night. He failed puppy school, he failed most of his training, we did not understand what we were doing wrong. We had Dobermann before so we thought we knew the breed. What we didn’t understand was we had a Doberman that had a very high drive & we weren’t training him in the right way. We knew we were out of our depth so we reached out to our breeder. We loved our boy & did not want to let him down. The breeder recommended Steve & what a life changer that was. We work Steves way, we wished we had worked with him from the start, Atticus’s was never going to respond to the puppy school recommendation & neither were a few other dogs in his class. In fact one trainer at puppy school told me I need to have more control over my dog dah that’s why I was at puppy school.
    Atticus’s was a highly reactive dog who wanted to play with every dog, who saw everything as more interesting than us so he just didn’t listen. Thanks to Steve we have a dog that wants to spend time with us, yes he is still a nut case but he listens & can be trusted to be gentle to even the smallest of dogs, my daughters 2.5kg poodle, he comes back when called, can be trusted on an off leash beach, he has freedom he would never have had without the correct training.
    I can’t thank Steve enough for all his help.

  2. Frank and well put! Honestly, ‘trolling’ on the internet has become a sort of negative sport and a wrong ego booster for people on the internet. The associated ‘coolness’ with it makes it a real problem sometimes.Having an opinion is great – often needed but, requires a touch of discretion when sharing , sometimes it can be the wrong place and wrong time. You’re right that the welfare of a dog and the results are priority , what else could be the reason for a trainer or handlers efforts. Taking the time to see someone else’s side of the opinion often gives one more insight on new techniques.

    Thanks for sharing and being honest.It’s rare to find an opinion that is not abrasive for the sake of it.

    • Thanks Becky, good trainers love training and working with dogs, if that is your focus you don’t have time for internet trolling I find.

      • agreed.

        ‘ My dog doesn’t worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn’t get her breakfast, but she doesn’t sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine. ‘ ~ Charlotte Joko Beck

      • Very true,I also like training dogs,i also worked with Ridgeback Africa K9 few years ago

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