I am not a regular reader of or contributor to Reddit.com. But somehow I started receiving “digest” emails concerning dogs – it’s possible I subscribed for some reason that I can’t remember. I guess I can unsubscribe; I hardly ever read them. But every so often, I see a “subject” headline on the email that tempts me into clicking on the digest. Things like:
“Is it possible?”
“Please help, I’m desperate.”
“My vet said she has never seen anything like this in 20 years of practice.”
But it never takes long to click away from the post and all the advice that is offered by (mostly) well-meaning Redditors. Again and again, I find myself mumbling, “Oh for dog’s sake, please hire a trainer!” or “Why are they asking ordinary humans? Why are they not taking that dog to a veterinarian (or another veterinarian)??”
I see this on Facebook, too – people asking for free advice about their dogs on pages devoted to dog training or health. And more recently, I’ve begun seeing dog trainers of unknown education or experience posting training advice for dog behavior problems on Tiktok.
There is a lot of terrific support to be had online and on social media sites – but advice concerning a specific dog’s health, behavior, or general well being that is offered by people without credentials or references should be taken with a block of salt. On any given post, you’ll find (at best) a mixture of (often) conflicting information: good advice (often badly described) side by side with terrible, potentially dangerous advice. Sometimes, commenters will weigh in, “voting” for which tactics seem best and arguing with people voting for the conflicting tactics. Yikes!
I would just like to say: Please don’t solicit advice from the general public about your dog’s health or behavior! It’s rare that genuinely qualified people will offer sound advice for free on the internet – and what’s more, a well educated, experienced professional wouldn’t be caught dead handing out advice to someone without a thorough and individualized intake process that includes many questions tailored to that specific dog and his situation.
If your dog has a mysterious lump or strange response to a food, it’s your responsibility to get him to a veterinarian! If his behavior isn’t what you’d like it to be, don’t ask your friends for advice, but for a referral to a canine behavior professional. Ask why they hired a trainer and whether the trainer’s approach worked to improve their dog’s problem behavior, and whether the dog liked the trainer and the tactics or exercises prescribed by the trainer. And then ask for the trainer’s professional qualifications and experience. It should be more than just professional affiliations; a good trainer will have actual credentials and/or certifications.