Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
I’m tempted to suggest you refrain from seeking dog training advice on the internet altogether. That, however, would make for a very short and unrealistic blog piece. It would also be hypocritical. I search Google for advice and information all the time. It’s the world we live in now.
I do have some advice, though, about how to evaluate the dog training information you find. What do you adopt and put into action? What do you throw out as garbage? All the tips below have one thing in common: consider the source very carefully.
Seek credentialed sources. Generally speaking, individual vet behaviorists and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists post legitimate information. So do the Veterinary Behavior Technicians. Everything they teach (and post) will be grounded in solid behavior science. The Academy for Dog Trainers and Karen Pryor Academy also post great practical information grounded in science. Articles about peer-reviewed research on behavior and training techniques are definitely worth of a look. I’ve noticed that this kind of information is most often shared by certified trainers. Look for the CPDT or the CDBC attached to the trainer’s name. None of this alone guarantees every bit of information you find will be gold. But, it does mean you are on the right track.
Confirm with at least two additional sources. Back before the internet, journalist like myself were trained to confirm all information with at least two other trusted and reliable sources. Example: if a politician said something we’d check her claim against official documents or subject matter experts. You can do this with things related to dog training and behavior that you find on the internet. What if I have information about dogs who jump on guests? Maybe you trust me as a certified trainer. Still, look for at least two other credentialed sources to see what they say about it.
Avoid vagueness and mysticism. Sources with nonspecific “certified dog trainer” references should be cast aside. Which certifications are we talking about? Who certified you? Similarly, steer away from information providers who proclaim a propriety method. I use the proven and perfected Billy Bob Method and trained directly under him. Behavior science is a century-long collection of reliable and verifiable data with countless contributors. Mystical guru dog trainer methods are bunk. Give them no credence. Move on from folks who claim their own messiah status. I’ve trained thousands of dogs and dozens of dragons and have never lost a case. Um, okay. Show me your data.
The most valuable dog training information on the internet teaches positive reinforcement training. The research suggesting the benefits of positive reinforcement training is vast and becoming more irrefutable by the day. The risks of using fear and pain in dog training are considerable. That said, there might still be some value in reading the dissenting opinions. Hold them to the standards above and see who presents the best evidence and makes the stronger case.
If you are working with a professional dog trainer, a certified dog behavior consultant, or a veterinary behaviorist, bring what you have found on the internet to us. We have hundreds of hours of education and we can help you quickly sift though what is valuable and what is junk. If we are doing our job right we aren’t going to shame you for trying to help your dog. There is good information out there. We might just have to wade through some muck to find it. I, for one, am happy to put on my boots and be your guide.
Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston TX. He specializes in fearful and aggressive dog training.