This is something that has been a “bee in my bonnet” for a while now. This book. “Dog Training for Dummies.” I know it’s a cute trend in publishing and it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But at a slightly more than superficial level, doesn’t it offer some clue to what we’re up against when we try to help dog owners do a better job? Sadly, it’s a very popular book.
I makes me wonder if the target market of the “Dog Training for Dummies” book should even HAVE dogs. Sure, there is no law that says you can’t own a dog. But there is also nothing preventing someone from juggling chainsaws. But if they manage to maim themselves in the process, at least no one else gets hurt. If you were a bystander, you would be within your rights (and smart) to run far away from that juggler. Dogs aren’t so lucky. If they live with a “dummy”, a dog generally can’t run away. They are a captive audience.
I don’t have an answer for this but…at what point should we say, “Maybe it’s not the best idea for you to have a dog.” People get dogs for all kinds of reasons and they have lots of unrealistic and impossible expectations of their dog. Then, to make matters worse, there are all kinds of sources of information that say, “Sure, your dog can be exactly what you want! Just [take this class, read this book, go to this website, watch this video] and everything will be great!”
What if we were allowed to say, “Hang on there, friend. You need to get smarter about dogs before you have one in your home”? Imagine how many shelters would close, how many rescue organizations could change to dog activity groups, how many dogs would not end up euthanized, how many people would NOT get bitten, and how much stress and anxiety for both humans and dogs could be avoided. Pleasant thought, isn’t it?
But things are the way they are. We do the best we can. We can’t stop people from getting dogs and we can’t force them to learn. I don’t think it helps to just go along with unfounded optimism or social politeness. Not everyone who struggles with their dog will figure it out. Not all the “dog training secrets” and clever training tricks will help the dogs. It’s not always going to be “all right.” Should we really just cross our fingers and look the other way?
Sometimes I think the best thing would be to just tell the truth.