The world has gone crazy.

IMG_1940I tell my dogs this every day and then I realize, I’ve probably gone crazy too since I regularly hold conversations with them, fully convinced that they can understand my banter.

Anyhow – with the advent of personal computers, cell phones, and tablets, information gets to us at lightning speed. Add to that social media, email, and social networking, and it seems like we are living our lives through a variety of machines, abandoning social graces and manners in exchange for another like or share, becoming more competitive and more lazy all in the same breath.

With the widespread reach of the internet, not only has it become possible to make friends continents away, it’s now in fact commonplace. But with the adoption of this new, ever-evolving technology, we find ourselves flung into a world where instant gratification isn’t instant enough, and social and political correctness have been replaced by the phenomenon of over sharing.

Think about it. How many hours, between work and daily life do you spend online? How many minutes or hours are you spending perusing social media sites, checking your email, and responding to texts? And do you ever find yourself diagnosing your most recent cough after a good read on WebMD?

The internet is an incredible tool that allows us to cross borders, create previously unimaginable networks, and research products and services with the simple click of a mouse. But with all of the advances that come with technology, also come some very serious and, at times, inconspicuous pitfalls.

With the internet, anyone can be an “expert”. Marketing has replaced authenticity and, in turn, the most successful marketers are now teaching their students the art of being more authentic. It can become overwhelming to sort through the flashy websites and the automated, but seemingly personal email campaigns whose goal is to build credibility through a handful of words and images.

As I spend my days both training dogs and working online, I feel the impact of the technological revolution more than many. I see spectacular training websites that have marketing down pat, but that lack substance and solid information, yet still manage to sell their product. I see some of the best trainers fail to advance simply because they don’t have the knowledge or capacity to compete with the others who can throw money at fancy marketing and PR firms. And I hear customers and colleagues day in and day out citing articles they read online, taking trainers’ words for gospel…..trainers they’ve never met….trainers who I know first hand are using automation to personalize their sales funnels….trainers that hire ghostwriters.


Information Overload

Dog owners, customers, and even other trainers find themselves swimming in a sea of websites, articles, and information that, more often than not, gets confusing and overwhelming. With the widespread reach of the internet and the ability to distribute information through a number of low cost or free venues, dog owners find themselves inundated with massive quantities of data, most of it contradicting in nature, its authenticity questionable as the cost of doing business in the digital age plunges.


Instant Isn’t Fast Enough

Because of advances in technology, not only are we overloaded with information we aren’t quite sure if we can trust, but we are also being inadvertently conditioned for unprecedented levels of productivity. Instant gratification has become King, obliterating what little patience we may have had, replacing it with an urgent and ongoing need for the “now”.

Fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and other brick and mortar businesses find themselves fighting to keep up, offering promises of speed in order to attract more customers, further reinforcing a culture of impatience as they do.

More than three people in line? We’ll open another check stand. In fact, we’ll install self service checkout stations four deep, so you can do it yourself if you don’t want to wait (FYI – I never want to wait).

Waiting for fast food? Take a look at that clock that counts the seconds at the drive thru window. Now tell me how irritated you become when it slides past the two minute mark. Two minutes for my food? The nerve!

Ever tried shopping on a slow website? If it takes longer than 30 seconds to add an item to your cart, you’re likely to abandon the process altogether.

Find another website and “Click-Treat!”….you’ve been rewarded for impatience.

The problem with the push towards advancement in technology and the perpetual reinforcement of the culture of “NOW” is that we are applying these expectations  to areas in our lives where perhaps we shouldn’t be.

I can tell you first hand that instant gratification and dog training don’t mix. As productivity and innovation advance at unprecedented speed, we find ourselves in search of the “easy way out”, trading hard work for the newest gadget or app. If we put something to the test and it requires we roll up our sleeves and put in some good elbow grease without an instant, visible reward, we tend to abort the mission, writing off our methods before we’ve even given them a chance.

Instead of teaching our dog to walk on a leash, we purchase a variety of products designed to make walking easier by doing the work for us. Instead of teaching our dog manners, we slap an electronic collar on his neck so we can correct him for things we’ve never really taught him were wrong, all from the comfort of our couches. And instead of actually working with our dogs, we grow impatient, frustrated even with their lack of compliance with rules we’ve never established.

The result is an ever growing population of unruly, anxious, aggressive dogs who have never really had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals, to have a clear understanding of the world, and most importantly, to build a relationship with their handler.


The “Experts” Want You to Second Guess Yourself

I can honestly say that one of the biggest problems I find in working with my clients is that they second guess themselves in their training. They read article after article from well marketed, self proclaimed “experts”, and they question their choices. They read about dominance theory and a moment later, they read about the power of positive reinforcement and that dominance theory has been disproved and replaced with more “humane” philosophies. What they fail to realize is that many, if not all of these websites are trying to do one thing and one thing only – they are trying to sell.

Even if they don’t know it themselves, dog trainers are trying to sell you on their ideology, their services, or their products. And for them to do that, you have to NEED them. By creating a perpetual dissatisfaction with the current tools, philosophies, or techniques available, trainers market themselves into a place of job security.

But is that really what’s best for your dog?


Trust Your Gut!

There are plenty of resources online available and waiting to tell you that what you are doing is wrong. Remember, without dissatisfaction, it becomes impossible for dog trainers to sell their philosophies, opinions, products, or services. Don’t use this wealth of information to support the insecurities you already have with your training.

Select a method, trust your gut, and stick with it for long enough to see if it provides value. Keep in mind, you must fully understand and master it to truly test its efficacy.

It’s far too easy to attempt a training philosophy, and the moment the instant gratification requirement is not met, to jump online looking for the next piece of training advice or the newest piece of information that inevitably contradicts everything you’ve already been doing.

“Click-Treat!”….you’ve been rewarded for your impatience.


Evolve…Don’t Abandon

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years is that every dog trainer comes from a different frame of experience. I’d venture to say that we can learn something from each and every one of them, and for this reason, the Internet becomes an incredible tool.

Instead of sitting in a seminar, taking an online course, or reading a paper from a trainer that subscribes to a specific ideology, jumping on the bandwagon and abandoning all other training methods in the process, single out the tools that you can hold in your toolbox, effectively evolving your processes as you do.

Alternatively, don’t jump to conclusions, pass judgement, and write off new trainers or different methods. Even if you fundamentally disagree with an opinion, I guarantee you can find some take away to grow and evolve if you simply open your mind and check your ego at the door.


Use the Internet for Good, not Evil

There is a time and place for research. I certainly don’t believe you should walk into training blindly. Instead, do your research and find a method and a training style that makes sense to you. At the end of the day, YOU are the one implementing the training regimen…not your social network.

Peer pressure and bullying doesn’t just happen to kids in school yards. Don’t let others pressure you into adopting training methods that you don’t like or aren’t comfortable with. Dog lovers are a passionate bunch, and they will likely try to persuade you that their way is the RIGHT way. But they aren’t training your dog – you are. Pick your method and STICK with it. Don’t jump ship the moment it gets hard. At times you may have to alter your path, but be sure you’ve given your techniques a fair chance before you do.


Dog Training is Hard

I hate to break it to you, but good dog training is work. In essence, you are creating a language from scratch – teaching your dog the meaning of your words one by one. It takes patience, strength, and perseverance. While training is great fun and incredibly rewarding, it can seem painstakingly slow at times. Don’t let your need for instant gratification, reinforced by the massive amount of opinions and information available online sway your resolve. Roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Your dog will thank you if you do.

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    1 Response to "Click-Treat: Cultural Impatience in the Digital Age"

    • Penny Bodenhamer

      Yes, we live in a state of microwave mentality: too accustomed to expecting instant results. While that works great for food, not so much for dogs. Thank you for this reminder. Your click-treat references to self-reinforcement are brilliant. Trust. Commit.

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