Think that social media is really heating up these days? That in fact some people truly have zero filter behind a keyboard? That Facebook/Instagram/TikTok/Twitter/news may even be toxic, causing more harm than good? Y’all haven’t been in the dog world the past decade online, have ya? I will admit though, beyond the regularly scheduled programming of dog and dog training drama, we are becoming a nation of nasty.

What does the title mean? Before you go blow up someone’s Facebook post, ask yourself your intent. These are hard times. If you say they aren’t, how proud do you really have to be? What are you trying to prove? Be hopeful, yes. Call a stranger you never met before a curse word over the internet… no. Are you confident on the issues you’re speaking on? Have you actually trained thousands of dogs yourself? Are you being polite? Would you want your parent to read your response on that thread… your child? Are you proud of what you said?

Stay in your own lane.

And the second half, when I say muzzle, I don’t mean mask. I’m happy the president is wearing one now, but I smile at everyone I pass in public under my mask whether they are wearing one or not. Do you see how some of these employees are being treated who are required to ask customers to wear a mask? Did you see the video of the woman spraying mace on a couple and their food for eating outdoors without masks? What is going on? By muzzle, I mean control yourself.

And why muzzle these poor abused racing dogs? Because they have drive. Because they could go off on each other at a moment’s notice. But they are wearing muzzles so they can safely play the game they want to play… the game they need to play. Where is your muzzle? And why aren’t you wearing it? Another reason these dogs wear muzzles is because they have thin skin. It’s a well known fact that Whippet and Greyhound skin is basically as strong as a high grade paper stock at Staples. Which brings up an even better point, if you yourself have thin skin, it’s even more important to wear your muzzle around others who could potentially have even thinner skin than you!

Am I saying be silent? No! So many dog people are careful about not saying something online because of too much backlash. So many dog people say way too much online. Why are strangers asking other dog owners how they could even be friends with a balanced trainer? Sexist remarks were recently made at a dock diving event. Racist remarks often pop up on various threads. There is a difference between freedom of speech and polite and productive conversation.

And in that same vein… scrolling by works too. Or asking a thoughtful question but then don’t turn that into a pissing match. Do I unfollow people, YES! Do I unfriend people, not often. Do I delete threads and comments when they get heated, no. Do I post disclaimers like, “If you bring up xyz, your comment will immediately be deleted,” never. Similarly, if we never speak, please don’t write me to let me know that one of our mutual Facebook friends said something or did something and suggest I unfriend them. I don’t have to support what that person did, but I can make my own choices for my own friends list. Tunnel vision works great for these dogs pictured above in this moment; tunnel vision isn’t going to help us progress as a nation. Observe what other people are saying. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a trainer? Observe behavior?

Social media can also be amazing! You can connect from afar with friends and family. Sometimes you get an awesome recommendation for a show (cough… Suits). I personally love clicking on a hot topic post and watching someone express themselves eloquently rather than meanly. I have even written a few people on Facebook to thank them for their consistent controlled candor. Sometimes you scroll past something funny… or inspiring. Sometimes you find something you can truly connect with. But, ask yourself, are you connecting with angry or sarcastic (or insert your own feeling here)? Or are you being intentional?

We have drivey dogs. I would bet if they all lived in the same house with another family, some of them might have to be muzzled. There are a select few dog savvy folks who could manage our pack, but a large majority of these so called competent trainers seem to be most confident behind their keyboards. When someone gets judgmental on Facebook about dog training, I would love to have a few stats next to their name. One interesting stat would be, how many dogs have you trained- not just personal dogs but you actually held that dog’s leash and assisted in its training? Another one could be, how many aggressive dogs have you trained or rehabilitated? These are baiting questions, so I rarely ask them, but why did you specifically feel the need to unnecessarily step in here? We own a Malinois titled in French Ring, Border Collies that are tightly spun, difficult rescues, and we have a 13-year-old Pomeranian who absolutely runs the show. She keeps me on my toes more than I ever realized a 3 pound dog was capable, and she was actually just featured on our podcast yesterday with a live animal communication reading with Joan Ranquet if you want to check her out!

Our dogs are a lot. But they are wonderful. They are quiet. They can settle. They listen. They are incredible workers. They are sweet. They complete us. Is your house quiet? Are your dogs social? Can you groom each of your dogs yourself? Do you trust your dogs off leash? Can your dogs walk on a loose leash on flat collars only? Do they settle in crates? Do they settle on beds? Can they stay on their beds when guests come? Can they sleep in the bed? Can they go a day without exercise and not be on the verge of a complete breakdown? I’m not saying that you have to check every box here or that this necessarily is the best comprehensive list to work from… but think before you type speak.

Some of this may sound sharp. Some of this needs to be said. Life is too short. Why are you unnecessarily criticizing that dog’s structure publicly? One of my Facebook friends posted the other day she is literally changing breeds because of the drama in her current breed. There are people who critique world class movie trainers. Why? Because of the fallout of showing the public something? I’d like to see footage of the last time a random stranger ruined its puppy’s hips because they trained it to jump rope too young. If you don’t agree with something for your own dogs, fine… move on! If you often find yourself only using the angry or laughing emoji (more sarcastically than literally), maybe ask yourself why. How are you contributing? How are you feeling? Are you making someone else feel bad in the process? Are you really just being an ass? And if your response is, “Who cares… Trump is an ass!” How are you any better?

Stay in your own lane. Wear your muzzle. Don’t be an ass. And try to repeat. And then, if you’re going for extra credit, be grateful. All this change you preach about starts with you- in relation to dog training and the world. I’m going to close with this passage below that we read before morning meditation today:

This Brief Lifetime

“How are we going to spend this brief lifetime? Are we going to strengthen our well-perfected ability to struggle against uncertainty, or are we going to train in letting go? Are we going to hold on stubbornly to ‘I’m like this and you’re like that?’ Or are we going to move beyond that narrow mind? Could we start to train as a warrior, aspiring to reconnect with the natural flexibility of our being and to help others do the same? If we start to move in this direction, limiting possibilities will begin to open up.”

-Pema Chödrön

Stay well.

<3, Jess