There is a trite but pervasive saying in the dog training industry that goes something like this- The only thing two trainers in a room can agree on is that the third trainer is wrong. It’s unfortunate because it leads to the impression that if trainers can’t agree on much there’s not much for us to be in agreement about, and nothing could be further from the truth. It also implies that since we can’t agree on anything there isn’t a better or right way to train dogs, opening the door to all kinds of training advice ranging from nonsensical to dangerous.
Animal training, when performed by professionals who have a background in behavior and learning is based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. Behavior has been studied for decades and the body of research has produced a profession that has improved the quality of life for captive, wild, domesticated animals and people. The challenge for pet owners is that in order for them to to be able to spot the flaws in a trainer’s argument regarding how they handle dogs, the owner themselves need to know as much or more than the trainer. Few other service professions require this of consumers.
A trainer who doesn’t understand the fundamentals of learning and how behavior works may find solace in the thought that they are the third trainer in the room, but it doesn’t mean that how they are training is the most humane or efficient. Or that the other two trainers don’t understand a thing or two they themselves have chosen to remain ignorant of. In this day and age, with access to information readily available to us, remaining ignorant about how behavior works, is a choice. Where we go for information is a choice. And though whether we have much choice as to what information we swallow, is up for debate, we do choose whether or not to consider why those two other trainers agree we’re wrong.