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Practice What You Preach

Holly Leake
When I first started studying canine behaviour,
I had no idea about the constant battle that rages between dog trainers.
In all honesty, the dog industry can be quite a hostile and intimidating place. Even trainers that advocate for kind and ethical training, can fail to practice what they preach when dealing with clients and other dog professionals. This continual conflict really muddies the waters when it comes to educating others about the importance of kind and ethical training. While it's important to promote and defend our principles, there's certainly a right way to do it.
"If you are willing to abandon your principles for convenience or social acceptability, then they are not your principals, they are your costume".  Nitya Prakash
You may be part of many training groups/ organisations that have a host of group pages on social media. These groups are meant to be a place to ask advice, share experiences and bounce ideas of others, however they can often become home to arguments and even bullying. You may often see members wanting to engage in so called 'friendly' debates, but in reality, this is rarely their intention.

Debates very quickly turn from sharing opinions to passive aggressive comments, and toxic retorts, that are designed to tear down another's expertise or beliefs. Sadly, there will always be those that relish the drama and participate in the onslaught to feed their own egos and usually they are repeat offenders. However, those that enjoy tearing others down do not really practice the principles they claim to live by in their training. It's really a facade, which many will see through.

Sharing your thoughts and opinions, can be a dangerous game, leading many to avoid social media as much as possible. Nevertheless, it's easy to fall into the trap of involving ourselves in these disputes, especially when we want to defend our training methods. We may have the best intentions, but when there are trainers advocating methods that can only be described as abusive, it can honestly bring out the worst in us. Emotions can run high, and we can say things we later regret. Once we have posted something online, it's hard to take it back and such comments could reflect badly on us in the future.
"Remember to not only say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing in a tempting moment." Benjamin Franklin.
Before we comment, we must read the room and consider whether our comment is offensive and if the manner in which we express ourselves is going to overshadow the message we wish to share. When we defend positive training by being sarcastic and insulting, we are being hypocritical, regardless of whether the person is deserving of such comments.

While it's tempting to point the finger and claim they started it, it’s unreasonable to hold others accountable for standards we also fail to uphold ourselves. We must practice what we preach and be kind and positive. We know that a lack of kindness and respect negatively impacts a dog’s ability to listen and learn, so how can we expect to educate others about ethical training methods by being malicious?

We also have to be careful about entertaining negative energy. In effect, becoming involved in aggressive disputes invites negativity into our lives, which can permeate everything we do. It can bring us down and influence how we feel for the rest of the day. While we should continue to educate and promote scientific and ethical training, there will be times when it won’t be worth our time.

There are ones just craving a fight and it doesn’t matter what evidence you provide; they will continue to argue and insult all those that disagree with them. In fact, this is the case with people that aren’t even professional dog trainers. One of the most infuriating challenges of the 21st century, is the endless Facebook experts, who profess to know more than the professionals. These ones roam social media to tear others down, in order to elevate themselves and nothing we say will get through to them.
"I believe that if you put negative energy out there, that is what will come back." Persis Khambatta
It’s true that negative energy is almost contagious. We can receive it, spread it and invite it into our lives. However, when we only entertain and give out positive energy, we can shield ourselves from those who wish to compromise our principles. Thus, its best to conserve your energy for something positive and worthwhile and focus on educating those that want to learn. We know that inflexible ideologies are the main trigger of such conflicts. There are those that hold onto debunked theories and punitive training methods and understandably, this is a source of frustration for many positive trainers, nevertheless, we need to tread carefully.
To some degree we should be open to new ideas and respect other’s beliefs and opinions, regardless of whether we agree. However, the only thing that should be inflexible are our principles, since they guide the way in which we treat others. We can never agree that using punitive training methods is an ethical or scientific way to train dogs, but we can express our opinion in a tactful and kind way. That way, we may plant a seed in the person’s mind, and they may remember our kindness, making them more receptive in future.
So when we are discussing dog training with others, remember that how we treat others, will reflect on the message we preach. Approaching a difference of opinion with respect and positivity, demonstrates that our principles are evident in everything we do, and that may be pivotal in converting others to ethical training.

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