The Importance of Being disEarnest: Taking Dog Training Too Seriously?

If you don’t have a sense of sarcasm or humor or humility or your ego can’t be put aside for just a minute, stop reading and run…run while you can!


I often talk to my clients in my counseling practice about the theory of mind and how we believe it works. One of the concepts that we boldly approach is the idea that we aren’t necessarily who or what we say or think we are. “If you can notice your thoughts, you cannot be your thoughts.” Dare I say that we are lying to ourselves! Emo Phillips is often quoted in the work I do, as he once said, “I used to believe the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.” Take it for what it is worth: perception is not always reality. Keep this afloat as you read on.

Go ahead, throw 'em at me! Photo from:
Go ahead, throw ’em at me! 


Oh, how seriously we take our lives and the stories we tell about ourselves – I do it, you do it, your friends do it (your dog doesn’t do it, so don’t kid yourself). I’m not trying to be judgmental, I’m only being honest. And that goes for our dogs too – the story-telling anyway – the way we personify them and take our dog interests waaaaaaaay too seriously sometimes. Come on, be honest with yourself. Here we sit, living in a Postmodern world – everything seems relative but really its all about me, myself and I, right?  I digress…What happened to just living with your dog in peaceful harmony without worrying about what the experts have to say? Why do we have to analyze our four-legged pals to the extent that we do (cats included)? What’s this systematizing the nature and use of a dog (haha, good luck trying to systematize a system you can’t possibly systematize)? Why do we pick apart our dogs the way we do to the human “self”? And the whole world disappears around us as we bask in this mental struggle. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I admit I analyze as much as the next person but at least I’m asking “the good questions!” I kid.


So it begs the main question(s): why do we take dog training so seriously? Are we in it for the glamour? Ha, yeah right (here’s looking at you Discovery Channel and National Geographic).  Are we in it for the attention? Are we in it in an attempt to gain advantage over others (i.e. “my theory is better than yours!”)? Is it because we care so much – that we have this deeper sense of altruism toward canine’s? Are we that convinced? Do we really know them? There is an Eastern thought that says the moment you claim you know something is the moment you don’t really know anything at all – whether you realize it or not it is a simple, yet difficult task to truly understand (I don’t know). But before sounding like a total fraud, being totally honest, I must say for those of you who are true dog trainers AND it is your livelihood, you have my utmost respect. The dog training business is a tough one and it takes a lot of time, energy, money, sacrifice, and emotion to do it successfully. As for the rest of us novices (if your name isn’t Kevin Behan, then yes, you are a novice), the bottom line is this: are we in it for our dogs? We as humans get so carried away with this and that and we forget there’s a dog in the picture.


What are all these rules and regulations? We are driving ourselves (and our dogs) farther and farther away from where we need to go. Our dogs feel this. So why bother with the latest collars and boxes and fancy leads and fur-chaffing harnesses and tie-outs and toys and food pouches and portable water bowls and expensive crates and brushes and premium food and world-class veterinarians and the latest organizational ranking and…


Dog training: what do we really have to offer and who are we really offering it to? Which begs the next question: why do you love dogs? But wait, don’t answer it because you’ll miss the point.

Hup Hup!

At this point you may be asking aloud, “is this guy serious?” And my answer would be: it depends on who’s asking. And you might also be saying, “where this is coming from?” And my response would be, “it is coming from nowhere, and yet everywhere.” I certainly welcome the possibility I’m out of my mind, but before we go making assumptions, I would ask you to entertain the notion that if you are feeling offended or judged or accused, you honestly look yourself in the mirror and find out where those feelings are coming from – hint, hint, your dog will show you! It truly is amazing how serious we take things sometimes – and that’s the intent here, to ask in a “unique” manner in order to elicit a particular response.

Atta Boy!

Okay we get can to the point. Of course, I do not intend to be judgmental or accusatory. Ultimately, most of this was a poor attempt at rhetoric but I hope you caught the serious points and read between the lines where necessary. I’ve posed an exhausting list of questions and I truly hope you answered none of them. Why? First of all, the mind will be the first thing to say something in response to an experience and oftentimes that mental chatter is not always how we truly feel. And how we truly feel is really the only thing that matters when it comes to our relationships with our dogs – and humans too for that matter. So many things in the dog world distract us and we lose touch with what we should really be in it for in the first place: the dog. Second of all, because I wanted to find out for myself and for anyone who was genuinely curious, how carried away we can really get when it comes to our dogs – myself included. Of course, there’s a lot of sarcasm in this post but at the same time you just might have caught yourself taking a curious, honest approach. Just maybe, your tongue made contact with your cheek. I think one could take anything said so far and laugh about it just as much as one could take it the other way. But who am I to believe I could get away with such creative writing?

And I’ll leave you with this: throw out everything you think you know about dogs and just watch…feel. Just as an experiment, don’t put a single name on anything your dogs does and see what happens within you – observe. Now, go outside and play with your dog…”earnestly.”

Good dog…and rub-a-dub commences.

*Photo from:



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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being disEarnest: Taking Dog Training Too Seriously?

  1. I’m very glad I found your blog. Thanks for the sensible critique. I and my friends were just preparing to do a little analysis about this. I’m very glad to see such good information being shared freely out there.

    Kind Regards,
    Elayne Taylor
    Read More

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