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The Dark Side of the Dog Industry

Working with dogs seems to hold so much promise. It's fun and exciting and many believe it's a career with few drawbacks. No doubt it’s a wonderful and rewarding occupation. For some of us, it's a way of life, but unfortunately like all industries, there is a dark side to the training world.

There are wonderful trainers, both in the lime light and behind the scenes that are improving canine welfare for the pure love of dogs.  Unfortunately, this industry attracts those who would jeopardise canine welfare, in equal measure. For as long as we can remember, there has always been a fight between good and evil and while that seems dramatic, it resembles the industry's current state. 

Many have been shaken by the ongoing war between those that will only use ethical methods and those that will use any method they deem necessary. Efforts to bridge the gap has only created more division, even with those upholding the same ethics. Worse still, social media is a place to create content that is intentionally designed to humiliate or create animosity amongst those respected in the industry. 

There are endless groups and pages where people can tear each other apart whilst being hidden safely behind a keyboard. Disappointment in those we looked up to and continual abuse for our ethos and creative content, can chip away at our soul and cause us to call in to question what we are doing with our life. 

It’s a huge challenge to gain anywhere near the same popularity as balanced trainers or those that post controversial material. This is why some dog trainers have suddenly decided there's much to be learned from balanced trainers. They recognise that neutrality widens their potential client base and is more profitable as a result. Understandably, it is incredibly disappointing to see one's we look up to that have jumped on the band wagon and decided to consider all methods of training. Sadly, they've demonstrated that they are operating exclusively for profit and followers. The shock of losing those that were well known in the force free field and the attacks on our so called ideologies and expertise has significantly impacted our mental health. So, what can we do to stay strong in this industry? 

“Choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice values rather than simply professing them”. - Brenda Brown

We have to choose what is right and have courage that we are on the right side. When we feel lost, we have to focus on the dogs we do help and be proud that we did everything in our power to provide training that never triggered fear or pain. 

We also need to practice our values rather than just professing them. Passion can easily turn into anger. Scrolling by and removing ourselves from these arguments is not defeat. It's an acknowledgement that there will be no friendly debate or fair exchange of knowledge with those that continue to abuse dogs or create division in the training industry. We also have to avoid turning on those that share our ethics. We have enough battles to fight without tearing each other down and mocking our efforts. 

It's also important to educate others and improve training standards. That being said, bickering is of no benefit to you or others. We can easily forget that there are real people with feelings and potentially mental health struggles behind the comments and posts. Bullying is something we associate with our school years and it's not something we should engage in or personally be a victim of. Although social media seems a small and isolated part of our daily lives, the negativity and anger we experience can bleed into our reality, causing us to feel emotionally drained. It can cause chronic stress, impact our health and even influence our outlook on the future. 

There’s a proverb which states that we each have an eternal battle of two wolves inside us. One wolf is evil and represents anger, hatred, ego, jealousy and lies. The second wolf is good and represents joy, peace, kindness, love, humility, empathy and truth. 

The wolf that wins is the one you feed. Continually involving ourselves in these disputes is only feeding the evil wolf. It breeds more hatred and impacts our emotional wellbeing. It can also inflate egos, which we all know is a massive problem in the dog industry on both sides. While we are definitely justified in our strong stance against punitive training, we have to be careful that we are not placing ourselves in situations where ridicule and bullying is likely to occur. 

We should defend dogs and force free methods, however, there is a way to go about it. The stand you take in this battle reflects the ethics you live by. The best way to promote positive dog training is to be kind in everything we do, even when it is undeserved. In fact, this can cause haters/trolls to become incredibly frustrated because they thrive on bullying others and inviting their friends to join the onslaught. If we don't respond to them, we don't feed their arguments or create more activity and following on their business pages. After all, we don't want to increase their popularity. Readers are also attracted to drama and rather than educating dog guardians we may inadvertently be steering them towards aversive trainers. 

We know that the dog training industry desperately needs regulation and hopefully it will happen and put an end to all these disputes. Until then, we have to focus on our mission to help dogs. By all means we should denounce aversive methods and make our stand clear, however we shouldn't waste our energy on those that can never be reasoned with or use our platform to tear down those that share our ethos.

Do your best to be kind to others, to diffuse rude and offensive posts. While it will likely make no difference to balanced trainers, the public will be watching and may be more convinced of our message and methods when they read our respectful responses. Be selective in the groups you choose to discuss canine behaviour, to try and avoid personal attacks or to prevent drawing followers to those that abuse dogs in the name of training. 

Finally, be kind to yourself. Life is hard enough without inviting abuse into your life. Take breaks from social media and spend quality time with your dog. Choose your battles wisely and know when to walk away/scroll by. And when you do advocate for dogs online, make sure you aren't causing burn out in the process. Don't let anyone rob you of your joy from working with dogs and remember, there are dogs out there that need you far more than the trainers that prioritise profit over welfare. 


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