By Sean O’Shea
Few industries have as much contentious, friction-filled, vitriolic, opinionated, near-religious beliefs being flung around as does the dog training world.
Opinionated owners and trainers will noisily (and nastily) condemn the tools, training methods, and approaches being used by others. It might be pure positive trainers (or believers) cursing prong collars, e-collars, and/or any form of correction – or even saying “no” to your dog – or perhaps it’s “balanced” trainers slinging mud at each other for perceived poor training, or training that doesn’t mesh with their beliefs.
Regardless of what camp you belong to, what tools you do or don’t endorse, and what philosophy you subscribe to, it’s all talk until you show your work. Until you show proof of what you speak.
And in this day and age that should be easy enough, right? Everyone has a video recorder in their pocket today. So if anyone has some super strong beliefs, concepts, techniques, alternatives, man, I’m all ears. But first, I’m all eyes. First, show me. Don’t tell me. If your approach gets great results, show me. If you’re tools get great results, show me. If your revolutionary process creates revolutionary results, show me. It’s easy enough.
Don’t show me scientific studies, or site science-y sounding rhetoric. Don’t talk to me about the how’s and why’s and benefits of a certain method. Don’t offer strongly felt opinions. Instead, show me. Show me truly troubled dogs, before training, and show me these same troubled dogs transformed, or at least tremendously improved, after training. And show me a lot of them. Don’t show me your dog, or one dog, or even three or four dogs, show me over and over your approach creating great results – and the owners getting the same results.
If you’re getting great results, this should be easy enough to do. I know it’s work to capture before footage and after footage, and to edit it and all. I get it. But if you want your opinion to have any legs, and any chance of being entertained, that’s the price of admission today. If you want anyone to listen, to care, to change, to adopt something, simply show us its value. Easy peasy.
And just to be clear, I’m not being a chest-beater, and declaring everyone needs to show their results (even though that sure would be nice for consumers!), it’s only for those who shout, scream, bully, belittle, or not-so-cleverly undermine others. Those who shout about alternatives – alternative tools, methods, approaches. If you’re shouting, you should be ready to share your results, your proof. And lots of it.
Because here’s the thing, talk is cheap. Everyone can talk a big game. We all can declare certain tools or approaches to be the worst, or the best, but only results matter. Only results are real. Only results walk the talk. Everything else is just the easy part…talk and opinion.
P.S. If you’re an owner trying to make sense of all this stuff, my suggestion is to follow the results. But be a conscientious consumer, and be aware that video (especially those using the trainer’s own dogs) can be made to look awfully good! Many dogs shown in the positive only camp are very specific dogs (Border Collies, Aussies etc.). Dogs who enjoy chasing a ball or frisbee or a treat more than they do chasing, attacking, or freaking out on another dog, or person. And in the balanced camp, watch for high-drive working dogs (Malinois and GSD’s) who were bred to work and do amazing stuff. In both of these camps these special dogs get used for showy videos and demos, but are not showing reality – they’re showing “ringers”. Not that these breeds can’t be a mess as well, but dog trainer dogs are usually picked for their exceptional temperament and good behavior, so it’s not a good reflection of the reality of what your dog’s behavior will look like. Make sure you see actual client dogs making progress. And make sure you see the actual clients duplicating that process.
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