"Internet Experts"-A Rant

This forum is all about training and behavior. Everything from potty training to working titles!

Postby DemoDick » October 1st, 2009, 11:56 am

The internet is an amazing tool, allowing us instant communication of the most mundane things with people a world away. Internet forums allow sociopolitically disparate and geographically dispersed groups to come together and discuss common interests. This board is a testament to this. The internet forum has brought us closer together and enabled friendships to form across state borders and even across the world that never would have happened otherwise.

But there's a downside to all of this available free for the reading, and that is the emergence of the "internet expert." It's the same in all fields, really. If you go on a tactical gun forum you're likely to find a few cops, civilians, military, even Special Forces combat veterans. Go on a car-audio forum and you'll find installers, company reps, etc. Same for a hunting or basketweaving forum. All of these people are worth listening to, and note that none of them claim to have all the answers. They know what they've been trained to do, know their capabilities and defer to experience when necessary.

And then, in that same environment, there's the "expert." He owns a lot of guns with every available accessory, knows the current lingo and which names to drop (i.e. "Clint Smith told me once..."). The "expert" can tell you what the metal-to-metal tolerances of his tactically outfitted Space-Ranger gun in thousandths of an inch. He refers to himself as an "operator," "gunsmith," "specialist," or whatever. To everyone else, he is a "mall-ninja." A fake. A poseur. In his little circle of tacticool friends, he's a big fish, but in the big pond of the Real World, where big boys do real things, he is a joke.

It's the same thing with dog forums. Before the internet, in order to call yourself a "dog trainer," you had to actually be able to pick up a leash and get results. You had to have enough experience and know-how to actually work with dogs and handlers to help solve problems in the real world. You may have had to actually (gasp!) earned a few titles on a couple dogs. Those days, dog trainers worked primarily by word of mouth and reputation, and there were comparatively few of them. Sure, there were poseurs then, but they really didn't last long unless they did something like snag a job at a shelter who would basically take anyone they could get.

Then came the internet. Suddenly, anyone with enough spare time to read the currently-in-vogue training articles, learn the buzzwords and go on message boards to recycle it all was a "dog trainer." Some even started businesses and got real life clients. Of course, their product (i.e. what they are selling to their clients) was not tangible results in behavioral changes or titles. Their product was, and continues to be, "good feelings." Deluded (but temporarily happy) clients fall in love with the idea that they are doing the best thing possible for their dog by taking him to a real-life, honest-to-god dog trainer, when in fact, they are paying for and taking the advice of a "mall-ninja" who has NO CLUE what they are doing.

If you call yourself a trainer, then you'd better be out training dogs to do something, and you'd better be getting lasting, observable or tangible results. The longer you do it, the better you get...IF you're doing it right. Be prepared to have your abilities questioned when no one online has seen what you have done. Good trainers enjoy the opportunity to discuss their credentials. If I question someone's credentials and they get huffy...big red flag. Smacks of insecurity.

I am not a dog trainer. I do not run a dog training business, do not charge people for training, or have the necessary experience to honestly call myself a trainer. I am a handler, and I train my own dog. I take him out and teach him things as I am able and seek the advice and counsel of those who have more experience and knowledge than me for whatever problem I can come up with. Once in a while I help others who ask me for it if I feel I am capable.

I am also not a "behaviorist." I do not conduct scientific behavioral research and publish my results in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Looking at a dog and hypothesizing why he is doing what he is doing based on personal experience or internet aticles does NOT make one a behaviorist. If reading material of dubious quality, hypothesizing and postulating were all that is necessary to make one a behaviorist, then I am surely a qualified fighter pilot, as I have seen the movie Top Gun, played flight simulators, and built model airplanes as a child. No formal training or experience necessary.

But then again, maybe I'm not a fighter pilot after all. It would be quite foolish to put an unqualified pretender at the helm of something that powerful, and I'd hate to get someone hurt.

Caveat emptor.

Demo Dick
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Postby Marinepits » October 1st, 2009, 12:02 pm

Brilliant, Demo.

Same thing goes for people offering medical and/or veterinary advice.
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Postby Pit♥bull » October 1st, 2009, 12:13 pm

As the old saying goes "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, just baffle them with bullshit".

Nice post Demo. :)
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Postby HappyPuppy » October 1st, 2009, 12:23 pm

You are such a solid voice of reason, Demo, when you do find time to post! :rock:
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Postby Malli » October 1st, 2009, 12:26 pm

Marinepits wrote:Brilliant, Demo.

Same thing goes for people offering medical and/or veterinary advice.

I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day, tomorrow doesn't look good either.
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Postby HappyPuppy » October 1st, 2009, 12:39 pm

We know one of those know-it-all gun guys, too, (who thinks he knows everything about everything else)... and it drives my fact-/reality-based husband into a tizzy to listen to him ramble.
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Postby BigDogBuford » October 1st, 2009, 1:30 pm

It's rampant on the fireworks forums as well. Every pyro out there thinks he's an 'expert'.

You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
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Postby Pit♥bull » October 1st, 2009, 1:39 pm

I'm an expert "Instigator" but I didn't have to advertise it :|
Someone did it for me :P
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Postby Leslie H » October 1st, 2009, 8:04 pm

Well said Demo.

One of my jobs as teacher is to help my students learn to be critical thinkers. It's very hard for them to not take everything they read on the internet at face value. I think the internet has been an incredible boon for the horse-traders and crap slingers.
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Postby juniper8204 » October 1st, 2009, 8:17 pm

Great post and defintely worth the read! :clap:
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Postby iluvk9 » October 2nd, 2009, 6:38 am

OK...so I will stop giving cooking advice. Geez.... :sad2:
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Postby maberi » October 2nd, 2009, 8:43 am

Very well said Demo

I'm glad to see this was made into a "sticky". Although you should take anything you read in life with a grain of salt, I wish I would have read this disclaimer prior to dog training 5 years ago.
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Postby hugapitbull » October 2nd, 2009, 1:15 pm

The voice of logic....My HERO :dance:
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Postby mnp13 » October 2nd, 2009, 2:25 pm

When we were at the DSO this year I listened to Cheryl Carlson while she was on a phone call. The person on the line asked her about a dog training magazine that she used to publish, and why it was no longer available. Her response "With the internet, everyone with a keyboard is a dog trainer. It wasn't worth my time to keep publishing it. I'd have to be in front of my computer for 24 hours a day just to keep up with it all."

It's sad really, because I'd love to read her stuff. Hell, I'd pay for a high speed connection to her house if she'd write an article a day every day! lol (Demo, put the credit card away.)

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Postby Marinepits » October 4th, 2009, 6:05 pm

Never make someone a priority in your life when that someone treats you like an option.
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