Who’s Fault is it Anyway?

Dog training has gone through (or is going through, depending on who you talk to) a revolution. Previously, the onus of good behaviour was on the dog. It was their responsibility to behave, to mind read what we wanted and to avoid things they disliked as a result of that. Now, the onus is on the handler to teach their dog appropriately, set their dog up for success and reinforce what they like. As a result of this, there can be a culture or way of thinking that now places the blame of any errors on the handler. I think this is deeply unfair. 

Everyone, no matter who they are or what methods they use, is doing the best they can with the information they have at the time. No one can be blamed for that. Assigning blame really isn’t helpful when we come down to the crux of the issues anyway. I look forward to the day where clients don’t come to me in tears thinking that they caused their dog’s problems. Very few of my clients blame their dogs but it seems that absence of blame is immediately shifted onto themselves and there’s no need for it. 

I want to make it clear that I am being a huge hypocrite saying this. If Pumba or Timon react or have a bad day, I’m the first to say “Oh I should have done that instead”, or “I knew I should have given them more space”. Not only do I do this with my own dogs, but I do it with clients as well. If someone comes to be saying they’ve had a bad week with their homework or they’ve gone backwards rather than progressed on something I immediately think how I could have broken their homework down into smaller stages and set them up for success more. At the end of the day, assigning blame, no matter how much our human brains want to do it, doesn’t help solve the problem. Assigning blame gets in the way of saying what we need to do now and delays the process of fixing the issue. Next time you find yourself having a go because of something going wrong with your dog, take a breath and say “Well that was a shame. What can I do to prevent that happening again?” and if you don’t have the slightest clue about what went wrong or how to prevent it from occurring today say “Well that was a wild ride. I need to write down the events, a note on the environment and write Emma an email to ask what’s going on here so that I know how to prevent it in the future.” 

Do you struggle with blaming yourself when it comes to training your dog? How does it make you feel? Have you found anything that helps reduce the blame and make sure you’re being nicer to yourself? Let me know down below!

Photo by Andrew Southam

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