Since one of the many hats I wear is that of a writer, it would be rather foolish of me to “poo poo” people who do research via the written word when getting a dog. As a matter of fact I think it is an excellent idea to have a bank of knowledge to draw from when you are taking a swan dive into dog ownership so reading up on the subject is a great idea. The problem with the written word however is that once it is written, well….there it is…sort of like the ones you are reading right now.
For some people anything that is in print somehow becomes “gospel”. As a result there is a tendency to ignore their intuition because what they think they should do may not be in accord with the gospel in black and white in front of them. I have a problem with that since those written words do not apply to every dog and therefore following the gospel may not be applicable in that exact moment with that exact dog. Let me explain….
I now have two Vizslas in the house. Luke who is my awesome adult male and my daughter’s new puppy Zigara (aka, the hellion puppy). My daughter and I are in constant dialogue about the discipline technique for Zigara. My daughter has heard me say many things to students over and over through the years about house training and chewing and crate training so she has the routine pretty much down reference this puppy. But as she is finding out what worked for many (including Luke just three short years ago) needs to be modified for Zigara, and I find myself hearing “but you said” and I have to say “I know, but in this situation with this puppy it does not apply so try this instead”. If she didn’t have me available to talk with, if she was just reading a book, she would have the mentality of “doing what the book said no matter what” I can see that very clearly in all the “but, but, but’s” I hear.
Her confusion comes in that Luke was a very confident puppy while Zigara is much more reserved and sensitive. Therefore a correction during house training that worked for Luke that he handled just fine has Zigara running for cover and looking like she will never trust us again. These are concepts that are next to impossible to understand from a book (i.e., the written word). Does a dog need to be house trained and taught not to chew, etc., etc? Yes. But the technique used needs to apply to the individual dog for the best success, not what is written in static words on a page in that training manual you picked up.
So while it is important to have a baseline of information to get you started you need to be able to think for yourself too. While there are many standard aspects of dog behavior that can be discussed in print, dogs are as different one to the next as we are. Therefore the best thing is to do a little reading and a lot of hands on work with a professional. And if reading is your only option then read a lot of books by a lot of authors who have actually accomplished something in the dog world prior to putting their advice in print (and that counts for the internet too)! Remember written does not always equal true or even applicable.
About the AuthorBetsy Newman owns Moosehead Trail Boarding Kennel and Back to Basics Obedience Training in Newport, Maine. She is a professional groomer, trainer, show handler and a retired Animal Control Officer, veterinary assistant and breeder.
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