Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why a Celebrity Dog Trainer is Ruining My Love Life

My marebag, Lady - like butter wouldn't melt, right?
My marebag, Lady – like butter wouldn’t melt, right?

I’m not a dog trainer – I’m a well educated dog owner. Science is my mistress. I have a first class honours BSc in Animal Science to my name, which heavily included animal psychology and behaviour. I worked in dog rescue for 3 years. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve read a lot and I’ve applied a fair bit in practice with dogs in the rescue, and my own mare of a bullmastiff. I’m no expert, but I know what I know.

My views in training dogs are much like you would care for a 2 year old child. You manage unwanted behaviour by making sure there isn’t anything silly your dog can get into trouble with – it might be chewing inappropriate items, or it might be putting the dog behind a baby gate when visitors arrive so they don’t have the chance to chomp the guest. You teach the appropriate behaviour with clear instruction, kind words and plenty of rewards when they manage to make good choices thanks to your consistancy and patience when teaching the dog what you want it to do, rather than punishing it for what you don’t want it to do. If the dog isn’t getting it, you’re doing something wrong – it’s on the owner (or trainer) to make sure their teaching is appropriate for the dog.

We all learn through conditioning processes, classical and operant. Birds do, chimps do, dogs do, humans do. There’s no magic involved. A rottweiler doesn’t need any more of a ‘firm hand’ than a chihuahua. Motivations might vary though, but that’s a different article, for a different time maybe.

So, why is a dog trainer ruining my love life? The general public, even if they know very little about dogs, have almost all watched dog training TV programmes. Some are better than others, but sadly not a lot of people extol the virtues of Victoria Stillwell. It doesn’t always happen, but often when I’ve mentioned having an interest in dog behaviour and training, a certain celebrity dog trainer has come up.

It’s difficult, particularly when you’re so passionate about something to explain why (in the most sensitive terms) the person they learned everything they know about dog behaviour from is spouting absolute bullshit. And here comes the problem. How do you do it without alienating this shiny new person you want to get to know a bit better? Or do you even want to get to know them better if they watch this show for entertainment, or maybe even advice?

I get where the layman is coming from with this  – before I learned what a stressed dog looks like, I thought the gleaming toothed trainer was alright. I didn’t understand that during filming dogs were wound up, pushed past their threshold to the point of ‘red zone’, and then punished for the actions of the trainer. Who would even think they would do that?

I came across this today. I tried to light heartedly mention that the trainer was a bug-bear of mine, and (semi) briefly, why I thought that way. I spoke about Mech* and his original article about wolves’ social structure and how it was dismissed by Mech himself because the study was inherantly flawed, and then how I would prefer dogs were treated. The guy must not have read what I had written and went on about how dogs form packs…like wolves. *keyboardface*

Now I’m in an interesting position. I don’t really know how to respond to that. Just brush over it like none of the conversation had happened? But, I won’t be happy in a relationship where the other person is happy to use punitive measures on a dog, my dog in particular. I could wind up doing that whole ‘talking at’ thing, as I discussed in my first post, Being Talked At: The Death of Conversation. I could presume he did in fact read my musings and he actually means that dogs form a family-centric ‘pack’ relationship with us, their owners, as I mentioned wolves do with their family unit.

Semantics is diffcult, when dealing with a layman. Different people, hell even different trainers have different ideas for what the term ‘pack’ means. For me, the term comes with baggage, especially when united with that celebrity trainer; if dogs form packs (they don’t), this means that they will try to climb the hierarchy (so many lols) and need to then be ‘put in their place’ with ‘calm assertive (punitive) energy’. That’s a lot of baggage for a simple term to hold, isn’t it?

So…when the short Mexican is mentioned, I tend to die a little inside, even though I was once that person who really didn’t know any better. I grew, I was educated by a fantastic lecturer, and I further educated myself.

I think I need to remember that with every interaction with another life-form be it dogs, people or anything with a brainstem for that matter, that Pavlov is always sitting on my shoulder so the saying goes.

If I go on a rant at this poor unsuspecting guy about the horrors that the self-educated, calm-assertive energy espousing micro-man imposes onto poor dogs who are afraid of going up the stairs, then the silver-coiffeured pseudo-trainer will definitely ruin my love life.

* Here’s a little article if you were wondering Who the Hell is Mech?!




ask me xxx

So…online dating. You have a profile, it has information in it in the hopes of attracting a like-minded mate. You might pore over it, making sure it really reflects you as a person. You give a few of your likes and maybe dislikes (not too many of these though, you don’t want to be *that* person). Then you receive a message…exciting right??

“hi how r u”

OK, so…several problems with this. The grammar, or lack thereof. Txt spk – ‘nuff said. They clearly haven’t looked at your profile or if they have, they were too lazy to ask questions or attempt to make conversation based from the information you quite generously gave them to use in order to make it easier to connect. They’ve probably used the same message to contact every other person in their dating radius. Hell, they might have even lacked the energy to type for 3 seconds and instead copied and pasted the sentiment!

But let’s just for a moment ignore those glaring errors in dating etiquette and have a glimpse at their profile. You wouldn’t want to give up too easily, right? Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, right?

“ask me xxxx”


Why do people use internet dating? It can be really daunting trying to generate conversation out of nothing when meeting in a bar, for instance. You could compliment their shirt, or hair, or maybe even the choice of drinks. You could start talking about the bar itself, and drop in that ever so corny line ‘Do you come here often?’. It’s difficult, unless you know something about that person.

Which is why internet dating should be so much easier. It doesn’t take much, just a couple of sentences about stuff you like, then it gives someone a chance to gauge whether you would be a good match or not, and it also allows the chance for your interest-related conversation to blossom!

I often wonder why people don’t seem to like filling in that section – is it arrogance? ‘My picture is enough to get interest’ (often, not the case). Do they really have no interests? I refuse to believe this is a possibility. Or is it based in low self-esteem?; ‘no-one wants to hear about me.’

Whatever the cause, I don’t give these profiles the time of day. They can’t be bothered to write a few lines about themselves, they can’t be bothered to ask any questions about my interests or even mention their own, and I can’t be bothered to pretend I’m really interested in them based on a picture.

Being Talked At: The Death of Conversation

“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That‘s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers rarely meet.” – Truman Capote

I’m inclined to agree. I have recently discovered that I seem to attract people that ‘talk at’ me than ‘talk to’ me. What do I mean by that? They monologue at me, my part of the conversation is non-existent. The point of me actually being there, being involved with this ‘conversation’ is negligible – I am literally there to hear what this other person has to say – they may as well be talking to themselves.

In conversation there should be give and take, questions and answers, turns taken in talking and listening; it doesn’t always have to be in equal parts. Information should generally be exchanged, commented upon and the conversation often ends up going in tangents onto other subjects as one party or another interjects with a related piece of information. You know how it goes.

Some previous articles on this phenomenon have called those people that talk at you as broadcasters, they monologue, like the villain in a movie. When in the grips of a ‘broadcaster’ you feel about as helpless as Mr Bond strapped to a table with a laser slowly inching towards his junk. There’s little you can do to stop a broadcaster from monologuing. They don’t care if you’re bored, they won’t pay attention to the fact you stopped listening half an hour ago, they won’t notice your eyes wandering, your hands fidgeting or even your attempts to interject with questions, comments or opinions of your own.

It’s impossible to have a conversation with a broadcaster, I’ve found. I have been dating a broadcaster for approximately two months; the amount of actual dialogues we’ve had can be counted on one hand. I wrongly assumed that this monologuing would subside, and conversations would be borne from the rants and we would get to know each other.

The broadcaster’s diatribes tend to be rather superficial; about interests, or hobbies, or things they want to advertise about themselves; never about the intimate details of their lives. If you’re lucky enough to share the interest the broadcaster enjoys rambling about, you might be able to enjoy their company. But it wouldn’t matter if you lacked enthusiasm; the ‘conversation’ would remain the same. Mostly, the speech is not altered for your lack of understanding on the subject.

If you feel the need to comment, several things could happen. The broadcaster could wait for you to finish speaking and continue with whatever they had to say before you had any input, clearly having not acknowledged your ‘part’ in the conversation, giving perhaps a small nod, ‘mm’ or ‘yeah’ before continuing what they were going to say before you rudely invaded their monologue. More often than not, they would begin to talk over you after you begin to speak. You could either stop and let them carry on, giving up on your attempt to interject an opinion or observation, or they could talk over you louder and louder until they have effectively drowned you out.

When I met this man that I’m dating I admired his passion about the interests we share, at first. I put his behaviour down to perhaps meeting someone who shared his interests, wanting to show off his knowledge a bit and mainly, down to nerves on the first few dates. As time wore on I started to realise that it’s incidental whether I was interested or not, and actually; this outgoing, confident, passionate man, was incredibly socially awkward and did not know how to carry out the give and take of a conversation. I empathised, being a little socially awkward myself, and waited it out to see the more we got to know of each other, the more he would relax and conversation and intimacy would blossom.

Two months later, after a lengthy dialogue with a friend of mine, I’m giving up. I still know little of him, and despite my occasionally getting to interject with some of my experiences, he knows nothing of me. All I can wonder is, what is my point in all this?

With some people it seems like bragging; I understand this, to a certain extent. When you discover something new and exciting you often love to share this new found whatever it is (a new boyfriend, a diet and exercise regime or a hobby for instance) and it can end up being a bore to your audience. I’ve done this on numerous occasions! But this doesn’t seem to fit the bill here.

With other people, it can come across much more as egocentrism; their monologues have a self aggrandising, narcissistic tone. It appears as if the role of the audience in this relationship is to affirm their opinions, massage their ego, laugh at their antics and admire their insight. It seems at first glance as a person who thinks a lot of themselves! However, I feel this ‘broadcasting’ is a sign of poor self-esteem, and certainly a sign of lacking self-awareness. A lot of these episodes seem to be seeking validation; validation that they are smart, that they are knowledgeable and that they are perceptive.

Perhaps this is why true conversations never come; perhaps the insights of the audience may be threatening to the broadcaster; the audience is not allowed a plinth in these monologues as it would undermine the broadcasters’ own observations, either because the audience came to the same conclusion as they did and the significance of their ideas and opinions are less noteworthy as a result, or because by disagreeing this renders their search for validation void.

It seems innocent enough, however…However, what about the psychological impact this type of behaviour has on the you, the audience? You do not have a part to play, you are the audience; a faceless mass, an observer. You could be anyone! If you speak, you are spoken, or indeed shouted over. Your comments are left unaddressed. You may have learned something from the monologue, but you would not have imparted anything. Your opinions are not worth hearing. You have nothing to say that is important enough to be heard. You are nothing.

It is most likely subconscious on the part of the broadcaster, but spend enough time with one without being heard, and you begin to feel belittled, and perhaps a little worthless. You add nothing to the relationship, after all. It’s a slow process of eroding the audiences’ self-esteem.