There’s a horrific picture doing the rounds shared by a vet at the moment. You can see the post here. It’s a photo of a dog under sedation being treated for wounds on his neck that clearly were inflicted by the use of a “prong collar”. The description says that the dog was sent to a trainer for live in training for a number of weeks and was returned like this.
Obviously, as a professional trainer you see posts like this doing the rounds on social media and cringe. As a dog owner, you see posts like this doing the rounds and think, what if that happened to my dog?
From animal lovers, decent human beings and professional dog trainers, there would be anger. There would be blame. Directed at the owner there would be questions like “how could they send their dog there? Didn’t they know?”
Directed at the trainer, the same. “how could they do that? Didn’t they know better?”
And it’s easy to think badly of both these people, the owner and the trainer, and we could jump up and down on social media from behind the safety of a keyboard or your phone. And people are, as people will.
My challenge to you, is to look at both individuals with compassion and empathy.
The thing is, every one is doing the best they can with what they have.
Every one is doing the best they can with the information and the education they have.
Every one is doing the Best. They. Can.
Including the owner and the trainer of that dog.
I doubt that dog trainer got into their line of work because they hated dogs. I doubt that they intentionally set out each day to injure and damage the dogs in their care. They are doing their job to the best of their ability with the information that they have acquired so far in their lives.
Can you imagine that? If you are struggling with that thought, consider what you thought was appropriate 5, 10 or even 20 years ago, what training you used to participate in with your beloved dogs or horses, that now you cringe with embarrassment or want to hide in shame? Or even just feel stupid about?
I trained my first two dogs using choker chains, and thought that was the best I could do at the time. I had experts teaching me telling me so. It was the best information I had at the time.
I fed my dog slops out a can every night, and never questioned it. The experts assured us it was the best.
I rode and schooled horses in side reins and draw reins, while I was unstable myself in the saddle. I was instructed to do so by riders and trainers far more experienced than I, so who was I to question it?
I bought my Bessie beagle from a pet shop, and was assured she came from a lovely “home breeder”. The sign said it, the owner of the store told me, and I’d had friends buy from there as well. At the time, I thought it was ok.
I rubbed my dogs’ nose in their mess inside, I smacked them, I yelled at them when they were bad. I pulled on my horse’s mouth to get him “in a frame”, I smacked a young horse on the backside repeatedly to make it go on a truck, I helped a rider “rap” their eventer…
I did it all because the information I had at the time left me thinking I was doing the best I could.
We’ve all done stuff in the past that we look back on and wonder, WTF was I thinking? This journey called life is nothing if not continual learning, growing and searching to be better, to do better.
So I challenge you, rather than to jump online and lambast the owner or even the trainer of that poor injured dog, I challenge you to feel empathy for them.
They, like you, are doing the best they can with what they have.
If photos and stories like this made you want to do something, then do something positive and more impactful than commenting nastily on those social media posts.
What can you take responsibility for in this? How can you reach more people and educate them? How you find more people to help in your way? What if that owner had of come across your marketing talking about a kinder, safer, scientific way and had the chance to choose you over the person who uses force? What if that person didn’t even know there was an alternative to choose between? (they probably didn’t) What if you were letting people down by not being better at telling people about what you do? By not selling them your services?
I don’t believe that things like this happen on purpose very often. Sure there are assholes and weirdos who get their kicks out of inflicting pain on another creature, be they human or animal.
I do believe though that most of us are just doing the very best we can.
It’s up to us to take responsibility to continue that journey of learning, and to take responsibility for the mistakes we made in the past, to make peace with that, and to promise to do better next time.
You can take responsibility for each and every person you come into contact with through your business and your work having the best information, so that they can make the right choice for themselves.
Do the best with what you have, but always be striving to do better.