For many pet owners or aspiring dog trainers, the more you read, the more confused you may become. The field of dog training and animal behavior goes beyond facts and goes into opinions, theories, ideas, and of course differing opinions. Propaganda is not meant to simply inform, it’s meant to influence. Two of the traits of propaganda is using selective facts, and using emotional ploys to produce influence. It appeals to emotion rather than intellect.

If you are reading about dog training the most important skill you’ll need is critical thinking. You will read one article that says walk your dog twice a day to reduce anxiety, then another that says don’t walk your dog if they’re anxious. You may be left even more confused. Remember that good dog trainers don’t need to use emotional ploys or guilt. We don’t need to take a broad stance saying discipline is cruel, because it depends on many factors. I will give you two examples of loaded statements:

TRAINER 1: “Giving your dog treats is bribing. Don’t be a pushover, use our method to be your dogs Alpha leader, roll him on his back so he will submit.”

TRAINER 2: “Modern science shows using punishment in dog training is cruel and will damage your relationship permanently. Use our positive method.”

Both are ploying on your emotions. If you use treats, you’re a weak pushover and your dog is walking all over you. You’ve gotta step up, but how? Trainer #2 makes it look like some unknown study has shown it as fact. If you use discipline, you are a bad person and you’re hurting your dog. Either way, you’re going to feel like a bad dog parent.

Well, I love using food rewards in training, it’s a great tool, and I also use time-outs, witholding rewards, and corrections, which are all technically forms of punishment—so I wouldn’t be interested in either of these trainers.

Truth is, ideology is a lot different than reality. We don’t live with a “theory,” we live with a dog, and each one is unique. You can read about theories all day long, but what is the practical application for your dog? The author has not met you or your dog. Don’t fall for the rhetoric, and don’t allow “big-mouths/small-minds” to ploy on your emotions. If you are gathering information, consider the source. Anyone can write a book, anyone can skew statistics, and in this day everyone loves to chime in with their opinions on the internet.