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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.
Social Media & Dog Training:Wading Through the Swamp of Information

Social Media & Dog Training:Wading Through the Swamp of Information

Let me start this off by stating that while I do work in the video business and we use social media at work I am writing this as a dog trainer and my personal social media usage.  

I’ve been training dogs in some fashion since the mid-1960’s.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time, for me it was just learning how to communicate with my best friend, the family dog.  What I really wanted was a horse but since my parents couldn’t get one for me, I decided to train our Doberman to be a horse.  I didn’t teach her to heel, I taught her to walk behind me on a lead and I made all kinds of saddlebags and harnesses for her and we spent many hours out tromping through the woods and swamps. She was an amazing dog and put up with a lot from 7 year old me.

By the time I was 13 I had a dog training business going.  I didn’t try to start a business but a few neighbors were watching me work with my dog around the neighborhood and approached me about working with their dogs every day.  I had the dog training equivalent of a paper route.  Each day after school I would go along my route, pick up the dogs one at a time and teach them to walk nicely on leash, sit and down. I’ll never forget those dogs and their owners for what they taught me. I also was paid 50 cents a day per dog.  They paid me to train their dogs! I was in heaven.

I had no formal training or even any idea of using food or toys to reward dogs. My only reference material was a book my mom had on the shelf. It was written by Blanche Saunders and was titled  Training You to Train Your Dog.  It was published in 1952 and I haven’t read this book since the early 70’s. In those days you used a chain slip collar, leash corrections, and verbal praise.

Around the time I was 14, my parents gave me real dog obedience lessons as part of my Christmas present.  These classes were held in a church basement in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.  I was hooked.

I worked with our poodle every day and while she had sketchy temperament she was a pretty darn good obedience dog. One of my dad’s friends was at our house and saw me working with her and said “you know I compete in AKC obedience, you should look into that”  I had no idea there was such a thing! I didn’t compete with that little poodle but my next dog ( a Shetland Sheepdog named Sam) was the gateway into all kinds of training and eventually competition in AKC and CKC obedience, IPO, and Mondioring with a number of different dogs.

Since that time I’ve learned many different methods of motivating dogs and used many different tools.  I like to think that I have evolved and learned something new from each dog I work with, hopefully, something that makes me a better communicator.  I feel fortunate that I was not exposed to social media in my formative years as a trainer simply because I learned so much through all my hands on experience as well as traveling and watching so many other trainers. I never heard the terms learning theory or quadrants or operant conditioning when I started out. I had to find my way by observing and comparing.  For me, the hands-on personal experience  (whether doing or watching others in person) kept me focused.  Video clips are great and technology has made many things easier but at times I get an uncomfortable feeling about the sheer volume of material.

The material itself is not the root of my discomfort entirely, it’s also the commentary surrounding it.   I feel that people are ruder and snarkier online than they might be in person.  I know and am well acquainted with the saying “the only thing 2 dog trainers can agree on is what the third trainer is doing wrong” but this goes beyond that.

I’ve witnessed people tearing apart a new trainer online when they post a video and ask a legitimate question or for feedback. I’ve seen some trainers post caveman style methods and then justify the abuse the dog has had to endure.

There are also some very misinformed and/or inexperienced people out there presenting material on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.  The problem with this is that new trainers may stumble onto these videos and believe because of the flashy production that the material is valid. The truth is that anyone with a smartphone can create pretty professional looking video these days and it’s hard to sift through all of it. The editing that takes place in many of these videos also gives a false and unrealistic sense of the actual time and breakdown of the exercises.  As a dog trainer,  I want to see all the problems as they happen, not just the successes.

Now that I’ve written all that, I definitely have seen and learned from some amazing trainers via social media and there are some excellent training methods being used.  Some of these trainers live in a distant location and I would never have the opportunity to see what they are doing without social media.   It’s also very possible that without social media, you wouldn’t even be reading this right now.  

It’s a fact that the worlds’ attention span is getting shorter and we are bombarded with media from every angle these days.  I find myself getting distracted and agitated sometimes, just because of all the information being thrown at me.  I find this affects my motivation at times. 

  I often wish for a simpler less “noisy” existence. I’m making a conscious effort to unplug myself from my devices more often and only use them for a limited time each day.  That has certainly helped to create more calm and quiet in my mind.  If I want my dogs to be calm and focused then it starts with me being in the right emotional state before I ever pick up the leash.

For me personally, I’m really glad I didn’t have to wade through the swamp of social media as a brand new dog trainer.

I know that everyone is different so I’d love to hear how social media has affected you and your dog training journey, both positively and negatively. 

Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog.

Comments

  1. Janice
    November 1, 2017

    Thank you, as I started as you as a dog trainer. This puts so much in perspective for me. My dogs are elderly now and I’m thinking of getting another one day. I like to compete. However, I’ve recently found myself questioning whether I can still train a dog! All due to the influx of social media! Makes me wonder how we ever got our UD’s not knowing all this information! It’s all good again. I too am putting a limit on social media training. I’m also “unfollowing” the training groups from now on.

    • Cindy Rhodes
      Cindy Rhodes
      November 1, 2017

      yes, this is how I feel at times! ! Can I still train a dog? Great points!!

  2. Diann Yandrich/Two Bears Dog Training
    November 4, 2017

    Wonderful commentary. I began training dogs, in 1964 at the age of 10, as a junior volunteer at the ASPCA in Manhattan. They also used the Blanche Saunders method then. Over the years I have been exposed to many styles of training and many well known professionals. I have learned something from each one and together with my husband have developed our own style of training. We did this by handling dogs, not by watching videos. True, media is invaluable for learning from persons you can never actually meet. In our training business we have our clients send us video so we can troubleshoot between sessions. We also provide video of exercises so they can watch over and over. However, handling hundreds and hundreds of dogs is how you learn and grow. When we had a dog walking/pet sitting business it allowed us to handle many dogs. Also, volunteering and working for a local humane society provided us with learning about different dogs in a stressful situation. Nothing beats hands on experience. It is sad that in this day and age young people can almost never get this opportunity because of “liability” concerns. I have worked with a host of different species both domestic and exotic and yes, I have been bitten, kicked, scratched, clawed, stomped on and injured by many of them, that is animal work and I would not have changed the experience for anything.

  3. Joseph Andrews
    November 29, 2018

    Amazingly said Cindy great blog. BIG fan of yours!!! I acually follow alot of people mainly on youtube and am always finding new people just to veiw what people are putting out there. Ive looked at many buissness connect to these videos and am blown away with what people are paying for if its not inflated pup prices to halfass trainning, or halfwit trainners. i just dont know anymore. But leerburg,Micheal ellis, tyler muto have taught me amazing things and continue too and i am forever greatful to have discovered. Wish i could acually afford micheals school and would love to shake youre hand one day. Thanks again yours truly

    • Cindy Rhodes
      Cindy Rhodes
      November 29, 2018

      Thanks Joseph, we appreciate the kind words and support ! C

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