Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tribal Language

I was confronted this week with an issue I was well aware of in the dog training world, but have never faced personally. Anyone who trains, competes, shows or works in rescue are probably aware of the great division that lies between these tribes, and within those worlds lies more layers of tribes.

Within trainers there are methodologies, philosophies and personalities which can either divide or unite. In the shelter world it can be measured by the time one spends with shelter dogs, not dogs in general, that determines their knowledge base. In the breeding world there are divisions between 'pet people' and 'competitive people' which I think is a little strange because I would like to think that a buyer who is going to compete is also a 'pet person.'

I guess my point is that because these divisions exist, they can sometimes get in the way of accomplishing something bigger than ego or territory. Perhaps an awareness of these divisions can make us, in the dog world, be able to talk about them and even look beyond them.

I am certainly not perfect. I also look at trainers with a critical eye and pass my judgements (a certain popular TV dog trainer comes to mind). No, I have no plans to hold hands with this "celebrity" and sing 'It's a Small World'... but I am making an effort to see some value in what he tries to communicate on TV. When asked about his training methods, I tell my students that taking dog training advice from a TV dog trainer is like taking child rearing advice from Roseanne Barr. So, thanks to them, ... I get a joke (albeit a bad one) and initiates a conversation without my hackles going up.

I have found that having the opportunity to collaborate with others in the training world has not only opened a lot of doors, it has also given me this fantastic network of friends, colleagues and mentors that I can reach out to.

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