Know Better, Do Better

I was recently listening to a podcast and was reminded of this lovely quote by Maya Angelou;

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

As do most things in my brain, I jumped to dog training when I was turning this over in my head.


I spend most of my time with "positive reinforcement-based" or "clicker trainer" trainers, both in person and when learning from others online. The vast majority of people I have the fortune to spend my time with are dedicated learners. They always want to know, and be able to apply, more, better.

The irony however, is that regardless of what "camp" we live in, "positive-based" especially, is that sometimes it can be challenging to converse with someone--whether that person is another trainer, or a client, or someone on Facebook--whose ethics seem so drastically different (or sometimes even just slightly different!) from our own. It can be tempting to "preach" at someone, or scold someone who is using what could be labeled as "harsh". It's human nature to divide others into groups--"you fit in that box, I fit in that box," "my box is RIGHT, yours is wrong...," etc., etc. 

I think its critical, especially for dog trainers to remember, that if we want to help clients, and even better, change their behavior to apply methods that will be easier and yet still effective on the dog, that we need to be kind. And open, and less judgemental.

There is always a reason why a client may walk into a lesson with a dog on a prong collar. A friend or neighbor may have recommended it, or maybe even another trainer whom they paid for their expertise. Maybe they have used that tool in the past, and it worked. People are always just seeking a solution, using the knowledge they have.

Nothing feels worse than being shamed for a "wrong" you didn't know was wrong. So, dog trainers, take a deep breath, and ask the client the question; "how is this tool working for you?" And then LISTEN. Which is easier said than done.

It is our job, as professionals who people are hiring for our advice and our knowledge, to freely and kindly share that knowledge. Leave the blame and judgement at the door, and teach our clients WELL, so we can ALL be better.