But At Least Regarding Behavior, We Can Rely On Professionals Like Veterinarians and Vet Techs?​

You Can, But Should You?

This is part of a ‘Food For Thought Series regarding the unregulated world of dog breeding and training’. More, but not exclusively for people thinking of getting a puppy or dog so they can avoid some of the more common ‘before the purchase’ mistakes. It’s also for those that have a dog and are wondering why things may not be working out.

  1. Series Introduction To: Bad Companion Puppy and Dog Training Advice (Pseudo-Science) Is Now More Common Than Good Companion Puppy and Dog Training Advice (Science)
  2. But At Least We Can Rely On Professionals Like Veterinarians and Vet Techs?​
  3. You Say You Researched The Breed, The Breeder, The Training Or The Trainer…
  4. Questions To Ask The Breeder Or A Rescue Before Deciding This Is Where You Want To Get A Dog
  5. Questions You Should Ask A Dog Trainer – Especially If They’ve Given Themselves A Fancy Title

Dammit JimParticularly disconcerting, at least to me, is when the otherwise admirable professions of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Registered Veterinary Technician, when asked and when not asked, provide companion puppy and dog training advice.

I find this disconcerting because almost without exception, neither profession includes in their formal education anything specific to animal behavior and especially canine behavior as it applies to science related to uncontrolled settings. The advice is seldom based on legitimately related science. It is instead is based on what they are now incorrectly being taught in school. Highly cherry-picked to support ideologies born of the ‘R+/All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/Skinner Meant Two Quadrants Not Four/Everyone Gets A Trophy/Don’t Wreck The Dog’s Self-Esteem/Sit Down And Talk About Our Feelings’ approach to dog training.

Ironically, in the clinic setting, not a single veterinarian or vet tech can say that a single day of practice has passed where they practiced what they are taught to preach. Examining a recalcitrant dog or cat typically more often than not involves some element of, ‘I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.’ But take the dog back to your own home, and their clients are supposed to embrace a model for teaching tricks. In spite of the shear reams of science supports and millions of years of evolution that say otherwise. The loving authority figures of all higher-order social species (dogs, wolves, apes, humans, etc.) use a very different approach to teach life-skills.

Imagine if our parents took our veterinarian’s and vet techs ‘New and Improved Humane’ Behavior Modification’ advice in our rearing,? Most of us would end up dead or in jail. It’s no wonder that most dogs are mostly living lives of house-arrest. 

It should be noted that, at best, education-wise, related to behavior and never species-specific, veterinarians and RVTs typically have been exposed to 3 hours during their schooling. I have examined the veterinary curriculum offered by several universities and colleges teaching veterinary technicians. The very minimal that is being taught with regard to behavior is more ideology and not science if the context that it is to be applied is taken into consideration. It’s excellent for teaching tricks but not life-skills.

It’s worth repeating. Not a single higher-order social species embraces the minimalist view currently being taught to our veterinarians and vet techs. No research supports what they are taught and advising clients when it comes to the real-world settings of the average companion dog owner. Left out of their curriculum is science related to ethology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, etc.

This lack and misdirection in their education are to a certain extent due to the insidious cancel culture influence of ‘R+/All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/Skinner Meant Two Quadrants Not Four/Everyone Gets A Trophy/Don’t Wreck The Dog’s Self-Esteem/Sit Down And Talk About Our Feelings’ dog training. These ideologists will simply not allow real-science to be taught to the very people that could do so much good were they better equipped.

As a result, it has become close to impossible to find a veterinarian, vet tech, dog trainer, (any of the ‘experts’) that now know how to implement the concept of ‘No!’, when training a puppy or dog in a manner that is tailored to the dog’s maturity, personality such that the puppy or dog comes away understanding, ‘Oh! So, I’m not bad. You’re not bad. But, that behavior is bad.’

Ethics

There may be no regulations yet for dog trainers, in the companion puppy and dog training industry, but there are in the professions of veterinarian a veterinary technician. Even were there not, professional if not personal ethics should kick-in.

If before a person’s name it says, “Dr.,” and after “D.V.M.,” or “RVT”, and they provide clients with or write about companion puppy or dog training and behavior, and they don’t preface that advice with, “Now keep in mind just because I am trained in caring for your dog’s physical health, it doesn’t mean I am trained in the field of behavior. In fact, I have no formal training in this area at all, so you might want to seek guidance elsewhere.”, I would argue a serious breach of ethics has taken place. Giving incomplete, incorrect, misguided advice about companion dog obedience and behavior problems, that is based on ideology, as opposed to science, is no joke. It causes all sorts of problems. It causes heart-ached. It costs lives. Professionals are encouraged to say, “I don’t know.”, “Not my area of expertise.”, “Let’s see who we refer to …” (Or maybe not? See below.)

In other equally legitimate professions (doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.), it is unethical to use credentials in a manner outside the scope of expertise, if the credentials might erroneously add credence to what the professional says or does when they, in fact, have no training in the area they are advising. In fact, the associations that oversee professionals begin disciplinary action should their members behave in this manner. Especially if the advice provided might potentially be useless or worse cause problems as is almost always the case when it comes to what now passes as companion puppy and dog training advice. 

The bottom line is that on average, veterinarians and vet techs are not educationally qualified to provide companion puppy or dog advice, and yet they do, and they do it often, and they do it incorrectly. Until they are educated to at least know what they don’t know, (and encouraged to say so) and are exposed to behavior from the scientific disciplines mentioned above, one might make the argument they are not qualified to determine to what dog trainer they should refer.

Back In The Real World

Once, they get out in the real-world of practice, many if not most veterinarians and vet techs start to get an inkling that the behavior component of their curriculum was for a world very different from that of day to day practice and the reality of their client’s lives. I would dearly love to see pressure exerted on the institutions charged with educating veterinarians and vet techs, along with their associations, by their own alumni and members, to ditch the ideological curriculum and get back to real science.

The reason why is that I  believe that these two professions are perfectly positioned to do so much good when it comes to influencing puppy owners concerning the shaping of temperament and instead of embracing – avoiding the pseudo-science of ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat, or it’s evil twin, ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank) training. They don’t need to know how to train a dog or resolve a behavior problem. They just need to know how to point their clients in the right direction.

Veterinarian and Registered Veterinary Technician Continuing Education Credits

If any veterinarians or vet techs happen to read this that would be interested in organizing a Zoom-based continuing-education credit seminar to learn more about the science and pseudo-science of companion dog training, I have one prepared.

Contact me at

John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade

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The Entire Series...

Noteworthy Addendum

As a member of the veterinary medical profession, I solemnly swear that I will use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society. I will strive to promote animal health and welfare, relieve animal suffering, protect the health of the public and environment, and advance comparative medical knowledge. I will practise my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I will strive continuously to improve my professional knowledge and competence and to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards for myself and the profession."

Canadian Veterinarian Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

American Veterinarian Oath

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