Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why Debate?

I have been known, from time to time, to get involved in debate over dog training topics in various online forums and discussion groups.  The main point of disagreement in the vast majority of these debates has been the use, or lack thereof, of "corrections" in training.  And I will freely admit that I generally enjoy those debates.  Sometimes they degrade into flying accusations and personal insults, but when the discussions happen with a mutual desire to understand the position of the other side, I find them to be fascinating conversations.

One observation that I have made within the context of these debates is that there are almost always participants who object to the very discussion itself!  These folks tend to jump in with, "why are we having this discussion again?" or "nobody will ever change their mind, so why bother to talk about this?" or something to that effect.  I always wonder why, if they object discussion of the topic out of hand, those particular people choose to get involved with it, but since they always do, these are questions that bear consideration.

Why have the debate?  Why participate?  What motivates those who do so?

Why have the debate?

It is true - there are those who are set on their particular position.  I will readily admit that I am one of those people.  No matter how many times somebody tells me that they prefer to incorporate correction into their training, for whatever reasons they care to share, I am not going to choose to do so.  And I recognize the fact that many of those who incorporate correction into their training are not going to choose to learn +R ways to train in place of use of correction based on anything that I have to say about the matter.

Should we not, therefore, separate into our particular "camps", do what we understand to be best, and leave it at that?  I would say . . . no!

First of all, we don't live in isolated bubbles.  Typically, we train in the same training centers, we compete in the same venues, those of us who teach classes are colleagues with those who choose different training approaches.  Many of us work with students who have worked with instructors who promote different approaches.  And, of course, when we choose to discuss training online, there are always members of a particular group who have a different point of view.

In addition, I firmly believe that, in spite of the differences that exist, there is much that we have to learn from each other.  I consider it to be a good thing to understand the motivation behind why a trainer would choose a method that I personally would not, even if I cannot, in the end "agree" with their personal training choices.  I believe that it is beneficial for those who do not have a good understanding of what +R based training is actually capable to consider the possibilities even if they cannot "agree" with my personal choices.

Sometimes a particular criticism that is made by those who choose to incorporate correction inspires me to learn to train smarter and train better.  While I am not personally a "high level" trainer, I do want to be the best representative of those who choose to train primarily through +R that I can be.  Having an awareness of valid criticisms of the practices of +R based trainers can give me information that allows me to avoid those types of errors.

Why participate? What motivates those who do?

I would imagine that the reasons why people get into these particular debates is as varied as the individuals themselves.  Some are looking to change people's minds.  Some are crossover trainers who want to share something good that they have found.  Some are intensely interested in the subject and just want to discuss it.

Personally, I find that I get drawn into this debate when a misconception about +R based training is being put "out there" or promoted in some way.  When I read things like: "+R based training doesn't work when (insert situation here) . . ., "+R training kills dogs", "+R training produces a dog who can never do anything without food", "+R trainers are really punishing their dogs, but they just don't know it", "+R training produces dogs who cannot handle pain/stress/difficult situations", and the like, I end up jumping in to try to provide clarification, present an alternate point of view, or even dispute the claim.

I am well aware of the fact that doing this annoys or even angers those who promote those misconceptions, that there are those who are not going to be open to consideration of another perspective, and some who are going to hear what they want to hear instead of what I am actually saying.  But I am also aware of the fact that there are those who are open to consideration of a different point of view.  They are not typically the most vocal participants in these debates - often they choose to lurk altogether.  But I know they are out there.  And I am convinced that those who are open to consideration of objective facts have a right to hear both sides of the argument so they can make their own informed training choices.

When I participate in training methodology debates, my comments really are for the eyes and ears of those who are open to learning the facts.

Also, I am intensely interested in the subject and I want to discuss it.

In Conclusion

There have been times when I have regretted entering into these debates.  I have been accused of lying, of creating straw men, of saying things that I never said or implied.  One time I needed to change the address of a blog that I was keeping and to make all of my youtube videos private after someone who disagreed with me started to share them on a forum, making derisive comments about them.  I've been told that my dogs don't actually know things that I have trained, that I've ruined my dogs, and that I am not qualified to have a position on this matter.

In spite of that, I still believe that this topic can be debated objectively and in a manner that does not include accusation, innuendo, or personal attacks.  And when it is handled in that manner, it is a debate that I thoroughly enjoy taking part in.  I always learn something about those on the "other side" and learning is always worthwhile.

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