Collaboration for Education
Opportunities to educate the public about animal training and behavior sometimes find you. On October 17, 2015 The Daily News from Batavia, NY printed an article entitled "Wyoming County 'dog whisperer' teaches owners how to be the 'Alpha Wolf.'" (click here for link to article) The article was filled with inaccurate and outdated information based on a profile of an area "trainer." The article was filled with quotes based on the premise that humans must be an "alpha wolf" in order to curb the desire our canines have to control us. Sadly, the individual profiled even is quoted as saying, "I'm kind of bullying them..."
After reading this article in her local paper Melissa Henchen, owner of Paws Perrydise in Perry, NY felt the need to respond. She sent me the link and indicated her desire to provide more up-to-date information to the public. It was then that the proverbial lightbulb went off in my mind. This was a perfect opportunity to begin to mobilze many individuals to present a united front. After writing a response, Melissa and I reached out to trainers, rescue leadership, veterinary professionals and other interested parties to get their feedback and to ask them to join us as a united group to present more current, science-based information as part of a letter to the editor of the paper that published the original article.
After only 24 hours, a strong group had been gathered who agreed to present a different, more up-to-date view of dog training. The letter (see below) also quoted position statements from various groups including AVSAB, APDT, and AAHA. This group proved ready to stand strong and no longer allow outdated, inaccurate, and potential dangerous information to dominate the headlines in the media. With 22 signators, Melissa sent the letter to the editor on October 22, 2015. We hoped they would take our position seriously enough to print our letter. We were happy to see the letter, in its entirety, printed in the paper on Saturday, October 24, 2015. They even included the works cited and groups mentioned in a call out box at the end of the letter. I'm not sure the response would have had such an impact without the 22 signatures of the individuals willing to step up and be heard - together.
Social media has been afire with support for our group and our message. We have had likes, comments and postings from all across North America. It has been shared on personal and business pages. Supporters have even gone to the actual website with the online version of the article and added their own names as signators supporting our group's message. (If you are interested, you can do so by clicking here: Our view: 'Alpha wolf' training an outdated concept") It is amazing that this group came together to quickly and easily to take advantage of this opportunity.
Collaborating for education of the public was our goal. We did not allow anything to deter us from that goal. I'm hoping this group will use this momentum to continue to collaborate to educate the public in Western New York about science-based training focused on positive reinforcement alongside the most current knowledge of canine behavior. I also encourage all of you to take advantage of opportunities to educate the public - collaboratively or individually!