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Seek professional help, not people's opinions

The phone call ..........

I received a phone call this week, it went like this: Hello, are you the dog trainer "Yes, I am. How can I help you?" My name is John and my dog has issues, can you fix him? "Ok, why don’t you tell me about the issues?" Well, it’s a long story. He barks all the time. Like when I go out he barks a lot but he also barks when I am at home. He will bark at anything, birds, sounds, people going past. It is driving me crazy. My next-door neighbour told me to put an electronic collar on him. It worked for a while, but now it doesn’t. It cost me a couple of hundred bucks. I think it’s made him worse. "Ok. What else is your dog doing?" Well, he bit a guy a few months back. I don’t know why. He has always been a bit iffy with males. We were walking and the guy came over to pat him and he nipped him. He didn’t do much damage. I took him to the vet and they said he didn’t have a pack leader. They showed me how to be the alpha dog. I have to pin him down and lay on him with my body until he stops trying to get up. "Oh ok", I say Yeah, they said he doesn’t have a clear pack leader. He thinks he is the dominant dog. But the problem is now he tries to bite me when I pin him down. "Ok, go on", I say.

Well, there is one other thing too. He destroys everything when I leave him by himself. I have to go to work and he has eaten part of my door. Then I started to leave him outside instead of inside and he jumped the fence but in the process got his foot stuck in between the picket fence. He broke it and I had to take him to the vet. That was a couple of thousand dollars because he had to get operated on. So after all of that, I called the breeder I got him from to see if she could help me. She said to give him this stuff called ‘Behaviour Stop’ or something and I just order it online. Well it did nothing. So can you fix my dog? He has cost me a fortune so I don’t have much money left. Wow, what a journey this poor dog and man have been through. This is not an uncommon phone call and I would say, I receive a couple of these type of phone calls each week. Well intention, the male owner sought advice from his neighbour, his vet and the dog’s breeder to try and help his dog. He clearly understood that his dog had issues and tried to get him the help he needed.

So what's the problem? Well the problem is he did not seek advice from a professional, someone who was qualified, knowledgeable and experienced to do so. Of course, I understand that is hard as an owner to know who that would be. So naturally, this man took advice from his neighbour. They had a relationship, had been living next to each other for years now. He thought, well the electronic collar seems like a good idea, he wanted to help his dog, so went out and bought one.

Then he went to his vet. Unfortunately, this vet had no qualifications in behaviour and recommended he pin down his dog. He trusted the vet and did what he was told. Lastly, he called the breeder. The breeder gave the advice of the products he could buy online. The advice he received from all these people were not qualified to do so. They were not qualified to give him advice on the dog’s behavioural issues. The problem is, the dog suffers! And here lies my problem, this dog has continued to suffer because these people (with probably well-meaning intentions) gave advice they shouldn’t have. Now some people might disagree with me here. But as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said "you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts." What this dog needed was help from a vet behaviourist or a vet that has done further studies in behaviour medicine. I could have followed suite and told him I could help his dog, booked him in for a consultation and took his money. But instead, I recommended he have the dog assessed and diagnosed by a veterinary behaviourist. Because from the information he gave me, it looks like this dog possibly has a medical condition (an anxiety disorder is a medical condition). Dog training is based on science, not opinion A medical condition is a medical condition Training issues are training issues And I completely understand that these people wanted to help this man and his dog. We as human beings want to fix people’s problems and help them. We feel it is ok to give advice to help someone’s dog. But think closely about that. Giving opinions does damage What if you had recommended to the owner that he pin his dog down (basically sit on his dog) until the dog stopped trying to get up and the dog stopped breathing and died because of your advice? What if you had recommended to the owner that he put an electronic collar on the dog and he did this which resulted in the dog becoming so severely traumatised, the dog had to be euthanised. What if you had recommended to the owner that the dog take a certain type of formula that would help with his behaviour issues and the dog had a reaction to it and was left brain damaged?

Giving advice is innocent until it’s not. And does that owner then have the right to sue you for giving advice that you were not qualified to give, which directly lead to the death of his dog? I am not sure, I am not a lawyer but it could very well be a possibility. I am not a heart surgeon so I don't give advice to people with a heart condition I am not an electrician so I don't give advice to people about wiring their house I am not a psychiatrist so I don't give advice to people about their mental illnesses There has been a rise in the past few years with people giving dog training advice on social media platforms. The keyboard warriors see themselves fit to give advice on dog issues but when someone mentions they shouldn’t, oh dear, the knives come out. For dog owners, think carefully about the advice (regardless of how well-meaning) people give you. Your dog cannot speak for him/herself and relies on you to keep them safe and be their advocate. Always seek professional help from someone who is qualified to do so. If you are needing help with your dog, please reach out through our Training and Behaviour page! We are more than happy to help! Dogaholics Dog Training and Behaviour Services (Dogaholics is a dog training and behaviour service located in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area of NSW.)


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