Ethics are subjective and what is acceptable to someone else may not be acceptable to you. But the ethics of dog training seems to be an area of great confusion.
Arbitrary rules and old wife’s tales are rife and everybody seems to have a neighbour, work colleague or friend who ‘knows a lot about dogs’. But never underestimate the power of your gut instincts.
If something in a training method feels wrong to you then it is wrong. Checking out a prospective a dog training group class? Go and visit without your dog. Observe the class, notice how the learners and their dogs are. Are they all having fun? In the same vein, never be afraid of hurting the feelings of strangers down the park who assure you their off-lead dog is friendly or that you need to ‘Show your dog who is boss and put some manners on it’
We’d all like to think we’ve been brought up with good manners and we’re told from a young age to be polite but compromising the wellbeing and comfort of your dog to please a stranger would test the resolve of even the finest of etiquette experts.
Embarrassment is also a huge factor in how we behave and advocate for our dogs. Two dogs who don’t know each other absolutely do not need to ‘say hello’ just to get it out of their system. Especially if one or both are on a lead.
Along with the Dog Whisperers down the park we also have a deluge of information available to us on the internet. Again, use your common sense and your gut instincts when trying to find training solutions to a problem. Most dog trainers will welcome a phone call and some enquiries and it will be far less confusing than asking Google.
There are no arbitrary rules with dogs yet there are still outdated philosophies out there that are doing great damage to dogs, humans the relationship between the two.
Dogs are here for us to build relationships with. They are domesticated animals, not playful wolves that we need to tamed. There is real joy in building your dog’s trust us in you. Nobody, animal or human is at their best or able to flourish when they are living in fear or behaving a certain way to avoid being punished.
I’m not saying don’t have rules. Just make them your rules, not those of a book written half a century ago.
What behaviours does your dog need to know in order to make both of your lives better? Once you know what they are, teach them to your dog.
Don’t teach something just because you thought that’s what everybody else did.
If you have a problem behaviour with your dog manage the environment so they can be successful and if the opportunity arises, train the behaviour you want your dog to offer instead.
Stand up for your dog because you are in this together. Your relationship will be better for it.