In this politically correct world we get caught up in what is nice rather then what is honest; what is socially acceptable rather then what is truth. The focus on being non offensive rather then being fair.
How can there be a difference? Wouldn’t nice be right? How can you offend and yet be honest? Doesn’t society dictate the correct manner of interaction?
First lets look at socially acceptable not being truth. Socially acceptable is, in modern society, the flavor of the month. It does not have to be truth, it just has to be accepted by the majority. It is really mob mentality. The more people accept something as fact the more it is expected that everyone should follow it. An example of this might be the witch hunts. The more people believed there were witches present the more people would hunt them and accusing others of being one; mobs formed and often discovered too late, the accused witch was actually just like them. Being a member of the socially acceptable mob did not make the premise any more true.
Not everything socially acceptable is wrong. It just requires a little common (or now a day, not so common) sense. There are socially acceptable things that do make society better but it is important to not jump on every band wagon just because the masses are. Society can be changed by people who draw a line in the sand and do not just follow the masses if they think the mass is not correct; the people who stand up for what is right, be it acceptable socially or not. If you take a stand make sure it is for what you truly believe is right not just what feels good.
The other two are combined. Nice is probably going to be non offensive. So how can nice and non offensive not be honest and fair? It is actually simple, neither is necessarily kind.
Kind is not always nice and nice is not always kind. We all see people who are nice to our face only to find out later they are talking behind our backs. This person on the surface appears to be nice but are in-fact, far from it. Truly nice people are actually kind people. Kind people will be the same to your face as they are to your back. A kind person does not always tell you what you want to hear but will always tell you what you need to hear ( in the nicest possible way).
So how does this apply to dog training?
The dog world is filled with nice people but is short on kind people. The nice people are out doing things that make themselves feel better. Some of them have no cruel intentions but may be so kind hearted that they end up being nice rather then kind. The kind hearted people that end up being nice rather then kind are not in it to make themselves feel better. Both nice and kind hearted people end up not truly being honest and fair.
Kind people will be honest and fair with their dogs. To be honest and fair they have to treat their dogs ethically. Ethically means we set the dogs up to succeed. We teach them their boundaries so they can fit in to the human world and thrive. The example I think of with this is people who think it is not nice to keep a dog confined. I have dealt with this on a lease property I had some cattle on. After a snow or ice storm the neighbors would feel their dogs had been confined for too long so would let them out to run. On more then one occasion I came to find the dogs harassing calves or cows calving. Animal control gave me permission to shoot the dogs if I caught them again. The people in trying to be nice to their dogs actually put them into a situation where their lives were in danger not to mention not being nice to my livestock. As a note, I found it easier to give up the lease then to deal with the dogs as animal control suggested. In a way, not truly being kind to the neighbors, the dogs, or the next lessee… But I was nice.
When being honest and fair with our dogs we allow them to do the things that are acceptable but prevent the things that are not. We do not have to be control mongers to do this but we must take responsibility when the dog makes bad choices to be sure appropriate consequences happen. The same applies to good choices.
In being responsible that consequences match the choice we are always looking for a balance. As much as necessary yet as little as possible. Too much reward for a good choice is no more fair then too little correction for a wrong choice. Being fair with consequences will help the dog become more responsible for its choices as well as helping us learn kindness over niceness.
Nice can stab you in the back at any time but kindness never will. As you work your dog strive to be kind. Set them up for success rather then dependence.
Be honest, fair, and kind and go enjoy your dogs.