I can’t tell you how many times I publish something and people get angry.
I think it’s a function of just being on the Internet.
It seems that, no matter how tolerant I try to be, there’s always that handful of people whose opinions differ from mine, that will inevitably go on the attack.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE reading everyone’s comments. And I love a good, productive and respectful discussion on techniques or theory. I don’t claim to be right all the time. And I’m a sucker for learning and exploring alternative perspectives.
But there always seems to be a few that take it too far.
I always find it funny, when they attack me personally when I write something they don’t agree with.
Attack my voice, my hair, or clothing. Like that is a constructive use of time.
That, or I’ll get threats, and people telling me I shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs.
LOL…okay….nevermind the backyard breeders and the dog fighters. The large number of dogs that die in shelters or are otherwise homeless. But THIS person who clearly loves dogs and dedicates her life to them but disagrees with my fundamental ideology should lose her rights to dog ownership! Nice try.
I guess there will always be those people that can’t deal with someone that has a different opinion than they do…
But that’s beside the point.
I think, one of my favorite arguments I see however tends to be the one that starts out with…
“You’re wrong because Scientific Studies say…”
This one is my favorite.
Because as a college level statistics tutor and a biochemist by degree, I know there are no absolutes in these types of studies. And I’ve learned that studies like these are simply a jumping off point for further exploration and analysis.
I’m not wrong. We simply have different opinions and experiences (which believe it or not, is okay!).
Here’s the (perhaps hard to stomach) truth.
Blindly following science is irresponsible.
There, I said it.
It’s prudent to stay current on the latest studies. It’s good in any profession to continue to evolve and progress.
But I’m here to tell you that scientific studies are not the foundation upon which you should build your relationship with your dog.
Here’s one of my favorite examples.
“Science says dominance doesn’t exist”
Well, that’s not really what it says, but that’s not the point.
Truth is, decades ago, science said otherwise. And people blindly followed the research, until it was disproven.
Despite the fact that all those years back they were wrong, THIS time they’re right…right?
Why leverage your entire training ideology (and your relationship with your dog) on behavioral studies that will probably be challenged, disproven, proven, and argued for eternity?
(Guys, don’t lose focus. I’m not arguing for or against the idea of dominance here. Don’t take this as me saying we need to revisit dominance and pack theory – that’s not what I’m saying, and that’s not the point. It’s just an example)
And the truth is, science happens every day in your home.
In your interaction with your dog.
Because no scientific study featuring a sample of Golden Retrievers or Labradors, or any mix of pet dogs for that matter, regardless of how big the sample is will effectively represent my Malinois’ behavior.
Or account for my lifestyle…
Or account for many of the other variables that simply can’t be accounted for.
I see it every day…
One study says beer is good for you in moderation…
Another says you should never drink…
One study says to consume coconut oil on the regular for improved health…
Another cautions against it.
Guys…back in the day cigarettes and Coca-Cola were thought to be GOOD for you!
So should you follow science?
Don’t automatically discredit it – that isn’t what this is about. To remain effective, you should always be in the practice of learning and evolving your method.
Instead, stay current. Read and understand the science. (Or if you aren’t really into it, align yourself with a dog trainer that is.)
But your direct experience matters just as much as some scientific study.
Actions and reactions speak louder than any journal publication can.
So don’t overthink this.
Rather than second guessing yourself, or blindly following protocols that are subject to be disproven at any given moment, instead, do what works for you and your dog.
Whenever you are implementing your training, perform your own “not-so-scientific analysis”.
- Is what I’m doing working? Am I getting the results that I want?
- Is what I’m doing supporting my end goal?
- Do I (and my dog) feel good about what I’m doing? Are we generally happy after training?
If the answer is yes to all three, stay the course – even if a scientific study or a very opinionated (and sometimes downright mean) dog trainer says otherwise.
In my opinion, one of the hardest hurdles to overcome in training your dog, and the one thing that regularly obliterates progress and the human K9 bond is overthinking and second-guessing yourself.
And it can be near impossible to avoid if you truly care about your dog and want what’s best. It can be challenging, even for the best dog trainers and handlers to overcome the very loud opinions criticizing everything you do and citing scientific studies to back up their claims.
But the truth is your experience matters just as much as a scientific study. So don’t be afraid to trust your gut.
Do it because it improves your relationship with your dog. Not because a scientific paper, or an Internet bully somewhere told you to.