So I’ve been having a “discussion” on Facebook with a self-proclaimed balanced trainer about my last blog. And following my policy of being honest and telling the truth on my blog here goes.

She brought up some interesting points and arguments.  Unfortunately, they were laced with prejudiced judgments about me and the value of my goals with my dogs.  It turned out that it was really not possible for me to have a true conversation with this trainer as she threw so many statements and questions at me that it would take months to thoroughly explore them in a thoughtful and intelligent way.  I am very willing to discuss with people who are open and honest and interested.  But when someone engages you with the sole intention of making you “wrong” there’s not much to be gained from that.

Early in our exchange she asked me about my goals for my dogs.  I gave what I considered a complete and thoughtful response.  My main goal is to have my dogs work with me as willing and enthusiastic training partners.  Ribbons, awards, and titles all follow as possible side effects of that main goal.  But my need for external validation of my training abilities is minimal.  From that the balanced trainer determined that I have “given up” on obedience competition because it is too hard.  She feels sorry for me for letting my dogs down in this way.  She believes I have given up on competition because I was not very successful at it.  But she does state that its a shame because I seem to be a talented trainer.  That’s a lot of assumption!  This person only “knows” me from a few postings.  Yet she has made some very negative and specific judgments about me and about my choices for the dog sports and venues I choose.

I found her main analogy very interesting.  Apparently, competition obedience is like the Olympics while rally is like going to  Curves.  Judy goes to Curves regularly and thinks it has been very helpful to her, so she doesn’t really get the analogy either.  I’m thinking it is supposed mean that one is easy and the other hard.  And apparently, the Olympics is a worthy and important goal, but not working out at Curves?  OK.

None of that really bothers me.  I am way past the point in my life where someone else’s opinion of me matters.  What I find much more interesting are the numerous conflicting statements she has made.  She stated that she would love to minimize or avoid aversives; but then says she is willing to cause her dogs discomfort to reach her goals.  She states that one of her dogs really dislikes retrieving and then states that she uses an ear pinch; yet apparently she sees no connection between those two things.  And she states that her dogs have fun and love to show; but that one of her dogs requires very severe scruff shakes as corrections for poor heeling.  Hmmm.  She wants “proof” that positively trained dogs can earn high scores.  But when told that a certain trainer with two totally positively trained OTCH/Sch3 dogs is doing a seminar in her area says that she wouldn’t attend unless said trainer’s students were also earning OTCHs.  OK.

At that point I realized we were not having a productive discussion.  I’m not sure exactly what the point of the exchange was from her end.  My guess is that she wanted to catch me in lies and inconsistencies and prove me wrong so that she can feel justified in how she is training.  Honestly, that isn’t necessary.  If she’s comfortable with what she’s doing then good for her.  Have at it.  But apparently she’s not or she wouldn’t need to “talk” to me.  Karen Pryor says quite a bit about being a “change maker” and the stages people go through in the process.  Some of that seems to fit here.  This whole exchange has been very unpleasant, but I think it indicates that I’m on the right track.  If something I write makes people that uncomfortable there must be a reason.

Unfortunately this online exchange ended in rudeness both towards me and towards others posting on the thread.  That’s too bad.  It did nothing to bring either of us closer to understanding the perspective of the other.  It’s not my goal or responsibility to change the minds of people that don’t want to be changed.  That really isn’t my intention.  I’m speaking to those with a small growing doubt or feeling of unease about what they are doing to their dogs.  I’m speaking to those who have a hope that there can be a better way, even if they don’t see it in those around them.  If I can help at least one person “cross over” to more positive methods then I’ve done what I set out to do.  I am not here to argue with anyone.  I’m here to provide information and support to those that want to change.

That reminds me of the one joke I know about psychologists!

Question:  “How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer:  “Just one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change!” :-}

People can train their dogs any way they want.  This is the United States of American and I don’t have the right to tell anyone else what to do.  How I wish I did, but I don’t :-}.  But I do have the right to state my views loudly and often, and that is just what I intend to do.  If you disagree fine, disagree.  If you think I’m full of BS, fine, ignore me.  But don’t waste my time with nonsense disguised as discussion.  I am open to any honest exchange on dog training any time, but not to personal insult or hidden agendas.

I started to say that this picture has nothing to do with this post but I was wrong.  I pulled it up just to have a nice dog picture to attach, but then I realized that it actually does apply.  Part of our discussion was about her need to use a shock collar on her young dog so that he could have freedom to run.  She stated that she felt puppies needed to free run and she couldn’t possibly take 3-6 months to teach a good recall first.  I stated that a big part of my definition of success in training is to  have my dogs under exquisite verbal control without the use of pain or threat of pain, or even the need for external devices like leashes, to gain compliance.  So here are my dogs enjoying their freedom at a lovely park.  There were actually a number of other people and dogs around, yet my dogs chose to hang out with me and to do what I asked them to do.  To me, that is all the evidence I need that my training methods work, and work very well at that!