Cults and Hero Worship in Dog Training: a.k.a. Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid; It’s Fattening.

16 Sep

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably active in the dog world and more to the point of this blog… involved in internet dog culture. Yeah… that’s a thing. (Either that or you were Googling sex toys and got confused.) And if you’re reading this… you likely have a training ideology that you subscribe to. That’s cool. We’ll let you keep that if you insist. We’re really not invested in your life, so too bad for you.

It really is. My upkeep amazes me.

Here’s the thing… this clinging to one idea of dog training tends to lead itself to a cult-like mentality and in some cases… hero worship. Stop that! We’ll tschhht you if we have to. We could name names here but we’re classier than that (fine, we’re not, but we’re going to try to resist) and really the tendency towards pulling at each other from the middle is annoying and fattening, and we mean that in the broadening sense.

So much clinging!

When extremes start pulling at each other the ends get bigger while the middle gets thinner and thinner until what supposedly connects the two is punctured like swiss cheese. We love cheese (No seriously… we LOVE cheese), but in general we don’t want to be compared to it.

It’s Holey in every sense.

The internet somehow enables us to get to know our heroes. In most relationships that degree of familiarity breeds contempt. We would really prefer not to see your man boobs in Cabo, or the nude shots of your grandchildren, or worst of all, Candy Crush solicitations. This should be a disillusioning experience. These are not the heroes we build up from reading their books (or blogs or watching videos) but it seems to have the opposite effect on some people. What they should by all rights find annoying is suddenly cute and endearing. It’s like the honeymoon period that never ends.

But I own her books! It’s totally normal to arrange a romantic vacation for us.

This kind of bizarre Jonestown following is what  leads to cults of dog training with sycophantic followers that are willing to pay to lick the feet of the ‘The One, The True, The Light, The Dog Trainer™’.

So true it hurts.

The Quality of the  TOTTTLTDT™ varies. Some of them might actually be decent dog trainers. They’ve proven themselves in the field, they have dogs with titles, and they started off as someone that was just getting what they had to say about dogs out there. With these types, the fame has sadly gone to their head. They rant and they rave and bring up how wonderful their own dog is constantly. The other type is worse. They start off with little to no real talent. They take in other people’s opinions and spout them out as their own. They are so adamant about their own talent that they somehow convince others to follow them, despite little experience or talent. Their dog training presence is only seen on the internet. In their everyday life, their own dogs are less than impressive.

He’s perfect!

Not only that but TOTTTLTDT™ is an internet sensation. They don’t just have followers, they have beasts of argument burden. Rather than hold these pointless internet demonstrations themselves, they are wont to only popping in with encouraging quips for the troops fighting in the trenches. The most apparent fact of their presence however is that they don’t actually care about helping their followers/cannon fodder, it’s all about their rightness that must be proved and damn the torpedoes. Semantics and circular arguments are no-win situations, but if you’ve got thousands of people willing to throw themselves down at your throne, what’s a couple hours of snickering over a keyboard.

He went to Lane Bryant,

We get it, we do. These extremes are seductive. They offer instant friends, people to back up what you’re saying (however obtuse it may be), and people to commiserate with when things go wrong. A black and white world is a lovely tempting place to live. Things are simpler and you never need question what is right. What could the middle possibly offer you but a wedgie and a nasty rash?

Try buying an ointment for that one.

Well the good part about finding yourself outside of the extremes is your ability to learn from others, be they in agreement with you or not. Consider it making yourself a well-rounded person. Learning to listen and not just react is probably a good goal.

Wrong kind of rounded but we like her style

So what, you ask is the point of all this? Well, kids. We’re annoyed. Dog training comes up frequently in our conversations and we can safely say it has never actually resulted in name-calling (or at least not lame-ass names. If you’re going to name call, show us you mean it.). We fully accept the premise that you can learn something from everyone; even if it’s what not to do. The idea that someone can’t learn is foreign and weird and frankly makes us question your inbreeding coefficient. We don’t like rude; we really don’t like nasty, and we really really hate extremists. So basically, if you can’t make your point without ripping someone else down, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board and find a new point.

Is there a genetic drawing board?

What we’re really trying to say here is put down the Kool-aid and trying using the brain you were gifted with. Seriously,  if you’re going to worship someone on the internet… it should probably be us.

It’s on Wikipedia so it’s a fact.

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23 Responses to “Cults and Hero Worship in Dog Training: a.k.a. Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid; It’s Fattening.”

  1. Julia September 16, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Must say this is one of your absolute best. And I am not being sycophantic, really. I LOVE you. Can you come over for dinner?

  2. Jennifer September 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    *try using

    To be serious, though, hear hear! I immediately discount the opinion (not the potential kernels of information, mind you, but the opinions) of any dog trainer (or other dog person) who tells me they have nothing left to learn. And by tell, I mean that actions speak louder than words. Telling me simperingly to my face that I’m so interesting and then telling others behind my back that your way is soooooooooooo much better than mine and that I could learn sooooooo much from you? Yup. Says to me “I have nothing left to learn, I am The One, The True, The. . . Well, you know.

    Come to the gray side of dog training, kids. It’s so much more fun here. And trust me when I say you can do so much MORE here.

    • Jennifer September 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Also, damn your coding for killing my sarcastic html tags. It totally made my piece. . . Readable. *pout*

    • Paul September 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      YESS, every dog board has it’s trainers who know they are the way and the light…you don’t use a crate because you never had a use for one? Obviously your lack of owning one regardless shows your ignorance and total disregard for your dogs well being…yes come to the gray side…we have cookies!

      • Bill September 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

        “yes come to the gray side…we have cookies!” Love it.

  3. strayluvr September 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    I considered training my dog once but I was afraid it might hurt her feelings. Besides she prefers White Russian frozen Daquiris over Kool-aid, so…

  4. Ann September 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Major Kudos for not naming names! I couldn’t have pulled it off. I love this blog so much my husband, best friend and dog are beginning to get jealous.

  5. Marjie Alonso September 16, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Excellent. Of course, everyone liking and agreeing with this will think it applies to someone else, and not themselves. Except me of course. Totally different…

  6. Diane September 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for clearing up a mystery for me. For a while now, I’d been seeing (hearing) clients at the vet clinic where I worked making “tschhht” noises at their dogs. I had been familiar with the theories and practices of a certain dog-training television personality (you know, Whatshisface, the one with the hidden remote controller in his pocket for the shock collars that some of his “clients” wear?) but not being a TV watcher, I’d never seen his show. Now I know where that sound comes from. I’ve always found that a sharp “ehhh” works pretty well; my husband says the sound would stop a clock. It even sometimes almost stops many Irish wolfhounds from sticking their heads in dinner plates. And speaking of old Whatshisface, in my own humble opinion, he’s set back dog training 30 years.

    • Krissy September 17, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      Diane, I am a big fan of the “ehhh.” I use it on my dog and my fiance! Sometimes, I also make “pst” type noises at Murphy, but as a way of getting his attention, like I’m going to tell him a secret… which is mostly because I’m physically incapable of whistling…

      • Jamie September 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

        Krissy, I have the same issue – not being able to whistle. My dogs recall is a “trill” that was originally supposed to sound like a penny whistle.

  7. Rosemary Hoffman September 17, 2013 at 1:31 am #

    The more I learn about training and living with dogs, the more I realize I don’t know very much. I’m not a serious, accomplished trainer, just someone who has been doing dog stuff since 1974. There is always something new to learn and I’d run from anyone who said differently.

  8. laurie September 17, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    The blog kinda lost me for quite awhile but I finally got the gist, I think: There are trainers out in the public eye that really have no credentials except rv appearances and books written…ones who are never seen working their own dog..they are put on pedestals by their worshiping public. That makes them feel superior and “all knowing, all seeing”. I have been training dogs since I could walk (slight exageration perhaps but it has been well over 30 years). Training has been my life and passion. My degrees and research make me a bonifide “behaviorist” yet rarely make a big deal of it. I let my dogs and client dogs’ successful speak for my ability.. I am highly annoyed by those trainers” who are archaic in their understanding of how to create a wonderful PARTNERSHIP between people and dogs. I have almost literally spent my life studying it. I’m continually adding to my “bag of tricks” and insight. Sometimes new comes from a clients statement or good question… but in anycase, good trainers alllow themselves to stay openminded and are continually evolving. I hope I never quit learning more to better understand man’s best friend.

    Really loved the statement about certain “trainers” setting training back 30 years! More understanding of the altruistic (all for one, one for all) pack would help certain cult leaders and their followers understand that the pack leader doesn’t have a suppressive “lord/master & slave” relationship with his pack members but a partnership where he is the senior partner guiding, leading his junior partners!

    • Theresa September 19, 2013 at 12:24 am #

      I know you probably meant “tv” appearances . . .. but I find the idea that some trainers make “rv” appearances wonderfully amusing!

  9. ThePayferPack September 17, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    Love it! Learning is a journey and if you keep your eyes open and listen carefully, you can learn something from everyone! Heck, I am friends with people who, while I may not agree with their chosen training style I still learn tons from!

    Plus, my dogs and my clients and their dogs teach me something new everyday too.

    Great post guys!

  10. Brad Griggs September 17, 2013 at 4:57 am #

    A very well written article – I am constantly besieged by the far left and far right of the spectrum, and by people at both ends that refuse to see the value in the practices of the other side. As with so much in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

  11. Evie September 17, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I am a trainer who is passionate about high standards of animal welfare, and minimizing the stress we cause animals during training whenever and where ever possible. I joined a training community online, made up of other humane trainers. They criticize Zak George and Victoria Stilwell for minor things and say that they are really bad trainers. They are openly pessimistic and rude to anyone who disagrees, which kind of goes against the whole point of the positive dog training movement.

    When a shock collar trainer(only tool he uses, for everything, even puppies) openly criticized clicker trainers, they treated him the same way they treated Zak George. Now, because morals are serious business to a lot of pet owners, I have to say that I think shock collars are cruel. I would wanted to educate this man as much as possible, and focus my efforts on people like him, rather than attack trainers who are open to discussion, involvement with other trainers, and are genuinely trying their best to be humane. But that group thinks differently…

    • Gary March 16, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

      Evie, Victoria is a failed (or washed up) actress turned dog walker turned television entertainer. She’s not a trainer. Her information is purloined from others who she thinks are experts. (or those found by production assistants of her television show. ) Criticizing her as a trainer would be inappropriate because she is not the author of what she says – other than that lovely clip on YouTube where she claims to be God…and the one where a husky humps her backside while she talks about ignoring behaviors to make the go away. That is some funny television.

  12. Joyce Gamsby Kesling, CDBC, CACBC September 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on Responsible Dog ~ It's all about dogs and commented:
    Cults and Hero Worship in Dog Training: a.k.a. Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid; It’s Fattening.
    If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably active in the dog world and more to the point of this blog… involved in internet dog culture. Yeah… that’s a thing. (Either that or you were Googling sex toys and got confused.) And if you’re reading this… you likely have a training ideology that you subscribe to. That’s cool. We’ll let you keep that if you insist. We’re really not invested in your life, so too bad for you.

  13. NotTheTrainerYouAreLookingFor September 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    It’s not so much the trainers themselves but their “acolytes”. Every trainer out there who has ever done a blog, video, or seminar, they have got them. The acolytes are the ones you need to run from. It’s okay to listen to the trainer, hey you might learn something.

  14. Mom2LiveDog September 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Maybe people just have a need to compete. It would be so much more pleasant and civil if they did it with their dogs in the ring instead of with their egos in internet pissing contests.

  15. Bev Arnold September 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    I think this could be applied to many of the other posts especially the political ones.

  16. Katie September 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    I will happily waive my right to having opinions on dog trainers and their methodologies in exchange for my neighbour constantly going “tssssst!” at her barking dogs. It hasn’t stopped them one bit, but now I get an extra irritating addition. The one dog training opinion that I will be a proud extremist about is that “tssst” is one of the most irritating noises ever. I’d honestly prefer a vuvuzela.

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