Eventually everyone online will encounter Trolls. Online trolls are bullies, and they can be quite irritating, annoying, occupying, and sometimes even threatening. Every online critic these days is an “expert”. They will claim unearned reputation, expertise, wisdom and credentials.
Online trolls think they are entitled to provoke strife and trouble. Their posts are inflammatory. They want to make you angry or upset. They want to tear you down. And they seek to hijack your legitimate posts and make themselves the center of attention.
I’ve encountered several types of Online Dog Training Trolls. Here are some examples.
The Competitor: Late one night, I received an angry email from a dog trainer. I was his target that night. He wanted to provoke a fight over dog training philosophy. At first, he started out with a few challenging statements. I was dumb enough to honestly answer them. I didn’t answer in a hostile manner. But that wasn’t enough, he then escalated the statements into an angry inquisition. I eventually had to just end it. What was the point? What’s his problem? I don’t know, and it wasn’t my job to find out.
With over 20 years of dog training, I’ve had plenty of these types of online encounters. It used to just be either anonymous phone calls or emails. These have now morphed into social media attacks, which brings in a larger audience to feed their nastiness. I’m not the only trainer who has been vomited on by competitors. I’ve had private conversations with them and each has had their share of nastiness. Sometimes I have researched these trolls, and I usually find out how goofy they really are. Most have questionable credentials. Many have none at all. Many have troubled lives. Many are envious and jealous, and when they find you, they are going to lash out at you. They are losers, and they hate you if you are not a loser. Instead of working to create a true record of success, they attack the successful, somehow thinking that makes them higher in societal ranking.
I never check out competitors. I really don’t care. I don’t compare myself to others. I study and work to improve for the dogs I’m working with, the dogs I will work with, and for the people who need good advice. That has nothing to do what some other trainer is doing. It is irrelevant what they are doing. What some trainer is doing 500 miles away isn’t going to fix the separation anxiety, pooping, biting, jumping, pulling, etc. issues my new student might be dealing with.
The Fanatic: I have also received attacks from dog training fanatics. These cult-like critics adhere to some extreme dog training philosophy, and often will recruit their other cult members to gang up on you online. I’ve also seen this in the animal welfare community. For example, there is the extremist who believes it is abusive to ever even make physical contact with a dog when training. Seriously. If you won’t exclusively use a clicker and treats, you are a horrible person. For some, even using a leash is abusive. Another type of extremist is the types that turn dog training into some New Age religion. In these cases, they will attack you because you won’t do some kind of spiritual ritual on the dog, owners, and or home. I had a student who had an encounter with one of these types. She said the reason their fearful dog was biting workmen in the home was because their multi-million dollar home was possessed by evil spirits. Her solution was to burn a variety of weeds and then to spread the ashes all over the exterior of their home. The third extremist is the type that thinks that it is acceptable to use as much terror and force on a dog to get it to do what they want the dog to do. They advocate a practical torture chamber of methods and tools. If you don’t do it their way, you are not a “real” dog trainer. Only they are the real deal, you are a phony.
You aren’t going to convert a cult member. These types are convinced of their righteousness cause, you are the infidel, and they are coming for you.
I’ve never claimed I know it all. I don’t. I don’t think anyone knows everything. There are always new things to learn, and that is what makes working with dogs and people so rewarding. A closed mind won’t discover new knowledge or wisdom. I never want to think I can’t learn new things and that I know it all. Dog training isn’t a religion and shouldn’t be treated as a religion.
The Unstable: According to statistics, approximately 1% of the population is clinically unstable. These types range from the irritating to seriously disturbed. I know of one case where a “trainer” so intensely spooked some people in the animal rescue community that one woman started sleeping with a gun by her pillow! There are abusive trainers out there, sometimes they will end up in the news. If you read my articles, you’ll see some of the stories. I change the names, etc. just so that they don’t get more business and so the public doesn’t get taken advantage of. There are also fakers, who pretend to be someone and hide behind one or more fake identities. Any abnormal type of behavior can follow. Welcome to the 21st century.
In conclusion, there are online trolls for every person and topic. You pick the person or topic, and someone out there is trolling and wasting everyone’s time. My advice is if you see someone trolling, scroll on by. You might get involved, however, that troll might then try to contact you, too. None of us are here to counsel trolls about their troubled lives. It is the new reality that comes with doing so much communication online. Yes, that phenomenon even pops up in the dog world.