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Two Truths & A Lie

Let's play a game. It goes like this: I'm going to tell you two truths and a lie, and you'll guess which one is the lie. Ready?

1. I competed in a professional eating contest in Georgia.

2. I was thrown from a horse in the Mexican desert.

3. I worked on a fishing boat in Alaska.

Can you guess? The point of the game is to make the lie hard to detect. Kind of awful, right? Luckily, it doesn't really matter because facts about my life aren't going to impact yours. (If they do, we should sort this out.) Let's try another.

1. You can make a nervous dog more scared by using dominance.

2. You can worsen an aggressive dog by sticking with positive reinforcement.

3. You should instead be using positive reinforcement with the fearful dog and dominance with the aggressive dog.

Is this one a bit harder? I got these statements (paraphrased) from the blog of a very popular "celebrity dog trainer." It's actually two lies and a truth. It has more problems than that, but let's stick to the point: mixing truth and lies make the lies more believable.

If you're playing a silly game, there's no harm done. But when you're seeking advice that will impact your life, your dog's welfare, and public safety, those lies can get you—and your dog—into trouble.

Now, I'm probably being dramatic by calling messages like this "lies." The sad truth is that a trainer like this may genuinely not know all of the side effects of their methods. But if they don't know, should they really be charging people money for their services? Should they really be on television spreading damaging misinformation?

Training an animal and watching them learn can be downright magical. It's even more incredible when you understand the intricacies of how behavior works. It is really, really cool, but it's slow. At least by the media's standards.

TV shows, well they rely on drama to make things interesting and draw viewers. They show gnashing teeth and terrifying barks. They speak of dominance and alphas. They turn the dog into your adversary. And they sprinkle in truth to sound credible. Mixing good and bad advice doesn't make the information better; it makes it more confusing.

The truth is you don't need any of that to get a dog to behave the way you want. (Yes, even the scary-barking, teeth-gnashing ones.) And you shouldn't have to sort through the nonsense to figure out which messages are helpful and which are harmful. You deserve better. Your dog deserves better.

Since the dog training industry is unregulated (at the time of writing), you'd be better off learning from a professional who has voluntarily sought out a high-quality educational foundation, certification, and continuing education opportunities. Look for credentials.

Don't waste your time—or risk the fallout—taking dog advice from a TV show or celebrity. Or from anyone who gets their information from a TV show. Not when there are books, blogs, videos, classes and consults from educated, experienced pros who are invested in your and your dog's welfare. When it comes to your baby, choose your sources carefully. You don't have to play games. You don't have to try to spot the lies. We're here to cut that crap for you.

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