Recently an article came out that challenged a very common dog training/raising technique.

I’m not interested in discussing the merits of the author’s thoughts.  What I found much more interesting were the reactions of people reading the article.  I got the feeling that people were mostly upset about the fact that somebody would dare to challenge a popular technique.

What’s up with the sacred cow thing?  Just because an idea has been around for a long time does not make it right.

Dog training is evolving.  We will all discover that we’ve been wrong at various points in time. The ability to do a bit of reflection – recognize that maybe we were wrong before and might need to change – is a skill worth developing.

And there is another, equally valid, possibility!  Maybe our combination of personal experience and research suggests that we should not change; that the evidence does not support this new direction.  And that’s great too!

But what is not great is hardening ourselves.    When controversy rears it’s head, we need to look.  Every time.  Think about it! Mull it over a bit.  Respond calmly and rationally or don’t respond at all.  Maybe the article’s fallacies further reinforce what we know to be true – that’s fine – support your beliefs. Maybe the truth of the article reinforces what we need to learn to evolve; that’s fine too – it might be time for change!  And finally, maybe the controversy is enough to get us thinking but not enough to change.  Again, a wonderful conclusion that allows for more discussion, thought and research.

What worries me is a response of “this is wrong because it is not what I learned but I refuse to explain why” or “because I don’t agree with this part we must shut down this discussion altogether.”  There’s nowhere to go with that; no way to learn or consider what one might have missed.  Ultimately, being right or wrong doesn’t matter nearly as much as a willingness to engage the hard questions.

If something makes you uncomfortable and you decide you don’t agree, take a moment to explain why and state your sources (which may involve personal experience).  Keep an eye on your tone; the goal is to disagree, not to stop discussion or to shut down a person’s willingness to think and share. OR… stay out of the discussion altogether! But an argument that says you’re wrong but I don’t have time/interest/inclination to explain it? Or an argument that says you’re wrong in one part so I can’t possibly engage the rest of your discussion?  That’s not a winner.

On another note…

Looking to advance your dog training skills?  Check out Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.  We have 33 classes and registration opened yesterday; maybe there is something for you!