It's so damn confusing out there! Am I right, or am I right? No matter where you turn there is a dog owner or trainer that is using definite terms with regard to how you should handle or train your dog, and then there's another giving the exact opposite advice with the same definiteness in their delivery. In all honesty, I'd really hate to be a new or even seasoned dog owner looking for help online for my dog. The only thing I'd hate being more than that is a dog trainer that uses only one way or method to train dogs, but I digress.
Okay, so why exactly is there so much conflicting and contradicting advice and recommendations when it comes to training your dog. In a nutshell, the people giving the information are actually both right AND wrong at the same time.
It has worked for them at some point. Unfortunately, when something works, they tend to stick with that approach and apply those same methods used whenever they encounter or hear of any dog that displays behavior similar to the previous dog they've worked with. Hence, whenever they speak about training or give advice, it would seem as if there is absolutely no room for modification or a different approach because it works for them. It's the same when people lose weight on a diet, they swear by it and usually condemn all the other diets out there.
Some trainers cannot abandon their ways because it's good for business and they'd end up looking like liars and hypocrites. So, they continue to spew blanketed information as if all dogs are created equal, which they certainly are not.
The truth is that some things work for some dogs and not for others. There are so many variables to consider when training a dog in ADDITION to the fact that each dog is a unique individual with their own experiences that drives their motives and creates their behavior. Every dog has their own set of likes and dislikes, things that motivate them to do something, and things that motivate them not to do something.
I'm reminded of a time when a client asked me for advice on how to deal with their dog when pulling up to the park; he would bark uncontrollably and pace back and forth. My first thought and suggestion was to have a slip leash on him to better control him and quiet him. They messaged me a few days later excited to tell me the problem was solved. To my surprise, it was not due to my suggestion. It was because they squirted him with water from a squirt bottle. That was it, they did it twice and it changed their dog. I couldn't believe it. I would have never suggested a squirt bottle for two reasons. 1. I've had other clients tell me that their dog became aggressive after pointing at and squirting them. 2. I didn't think carrying a squirt bottle around was a practical solution. Was my advice bad? Of course not. Was it bad that they used a squirt bottle? Nope. But if they had asked me about using a squirt bottle, I definitely would have explained the potential risks involved considering what had been reported to me by previous clients. I'm not opposed to using them, but it can worsen a behavior.
This story is a perfect example of how what works for one dog and family may not work for another. As a balanced trainer, I keep all options open and consider all tools when it comes to addressing and solving problem behaviors and if I've suggested or tried an approach that does not work, I recommend the next practical solution.
So the next time you're looking for advice online on how to train your dog or work through a behavior problem, remember this: gather as much information as you can on the topic and apply first what resonates the most with you, makes the most sense and you are comfortable doing. If that doesn't work, move on to the next instead of trying to shove that approach down your dog's throat. Stay away from right/wrong and good/bad and focus more on what works and doesn't work for you and your dog.