Today, we live in a world in which technology and seemingly limitless amounts of knowledge can be found literally at our fingertips with just a few keystrokes and a click. In some ways, this can be a saving grace, and in others, an accident waiting to happen. This is especially true for dog training and veterinary care advice. How do you know who to trust, and in the end can you really trust them?
There are many websites out there devoted to Do-It-Yourself and How-To’s, and while many of them strictly feature experts in the field with a verifiable background on the subject, others let any registered user chime in. Websites such as us at Examiner, or About.com and Expert Village only allow content writers and video producers with an extensive history in the field of dogs to release content to readers on their site. You can generally trust their advice and take the knowledge to heart. Other places, however, must be taken with a grain of salt. Message boards, such as those found on many dog-related websites (IE: Dogster), YouTube videos, How-To article sites, and even Yahoo Answers community allow just about anyone with an opinion to give their two cents.
Say, for example, you have trouble house breaking your dog, and two housemates are constantly fighting. If you do an internet search on the relatively easier training issue, “How to housetrain your dog”, you’ll for the the most part get a slew advice that generally is consistent on how to go about housetraining and with various methods that do indeed work. Dog aggression, however, is a much different story. No two cases of dog aggression are ever really the same, and there can be all sorts of underlying factors as to why one dog in the household may fight with the other. Medical problems, fear, anxiety, post traumatic stress, hormones, resource guarding, the list goes on, all these can contribute to two dogs fighting. Consulting an online expert, watching some videos and posting on a message board seeking advice will yield answers from all over the place with every person sharing a different experience of their own and advice on how to deal with it. The important part to note is that while for the most part these informants’ advice is well-intended, they do not know you or your dog personally. They are not there to personally see the dogs in action, pick up on any present red flags, and can only go by your description of what’s going on. It’s very similar to self-diagnosing an illness on the internet. You could have the sniffles and use a symptom checker online and be given a huge list of what could be the cause of your sniffles: anything from a cold and the flu to allergies and a sinus infection. You can say, “Oh, I must have a cold” and treat it as such, only to realize weeks later after the symptoms are still present that it’s definitely not a cold. Only by going to a doctor and being seen in person and given a thorough examination would you be able to tell what’s actually going on with your body.
The same applies to serious issues of dog behavior such as aggression. Only a trip to the veterinarian and consultations with a trainer / behaviorist can really get down to the nitty gritty details behind why the dogs are fighting and displaying aggressive behaviors. You could be thinking that your dogs are territorially aggressive, only to find out that one of them has an injury or ailment causing them pain which in turn makes them irritable and snippy towards other dogs in the house. Aggression always has the possibility of being behaviorally motivated, results of an underlying medical condition, or both. Dogs can’t tell us exactly what’s going on, and sometimes it takes more than one person to see the big picture.
So the next time you have a behavior or medical question concerning your dog and use the internet to seek out information, please keep the following in mind: In the end, only you know your dog and your situation. Use your best judgment, always err on the side of caution, and remember that while we on the internet do our best to inform the public to the best of our ability, nothing on the internet can ever replace the sound advice of a professional that can see and observe your dogs first hand.