The Ramifications of Honesty
Should we say what people want to hear; or say what they need to hear?
Let me start with the scenario. This dog is covered in scars, has full-on dog aggression, and had killed a donkey. He had zero interest in his owner and had just been returned from a failed rehome and his owner was scared to have him back with her other dogs. His owner wanted him rehomed, but upon me giving the reality of the situation, was seeking approval on euthanasia being the correct decision.
I agreed to take him for a week to see if her decision of Euthanasia was indeed in the best interest of the dog.
Upon taking him, I didn't need a week. Every time I went near him the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I had two other experienced dog people look at him, and they both agreed that he was scary, both with dogs and the way he eyed up people. Plus, he wasn’t happy either.
I let the owner know I supported her decision. Training could never make this dog safe in her home or public even with a skilled handler, let alone a novice. While management could be put in place, each error may have dire consequences. And, for the safety of her other dogs, she did not want to live with him. A dog like this should not be rehomed; People looking for a dog want a pet, not a tiger.
But this isn’t the ending. I wasn’t near that fortunate. I was harassed on email and the phone, taken to court where her complaint was deemed unfounded, and still years later I continue to get harassing comments on social media.
Just like no good deed goes unpunished, honesty will often get you in trouble. Had I accepted the dog in board and train, done a piss poor job, but told her he was lovely, she’d of left happy.
As a society we reward what we want to hear, even if it is untrue. Our gut knows it, and our brain sees warning signs and a lack of progress. But so long as our heart is full of kind words and hope, albeit false, we’ll keep paying that business for a long, long time and will be happy doing so, even though our goals are never met.
In dog society, those that speak what we want to hear are valued. Most dog trainers, at least where I live, fall into this camp. I fear my profession have become used-car salesman endlessly listing off how great Johnny is, but failing to mention he threw sand in a kid’s eyes and stole someone’s lunch money. And it isn’t about to change. Rather, more truth-speakers will learn its easier to avoid unfortunate news. Trust me, I’ve debated it.
But me, I’m still holding out for the client’s that want the truth and results- some are still out there! And I will always be a trainer that tells you what you need to hear. Whether you want it, or not.
Author of As A Dog Thinketh