Is Social Media Putting Our Dogs in Danger?

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Bad Advice

You don’t have to go far to find a post or social media update where someone is asking for advice or someone is giving bad advice to pet parents. Most commonly this free advice is being given by pet owners regarding house training, gaining dominance over an “aggressive dog” or what to feed dogs. Sometimes unsolicited advice pops up, with the caveat that the person administering the advice is a dog trainer/behaviorist. Who are these people?

Well, paint me purple and call me Barney, but 1. A dog trainer is not a behaviorist, and 2. Professionals don’t simply go around on social media doling out free advice (because it’s not professional). So while someone may hide behind a keyboard and claim to be a dog trainer/guru, don’t even bother taking a grain of salt with their advice, just scroll on! Nothing to see here.

Same goes for people who go online to extol the virtues of the diet they feed their pet. It’s reminiscent of celebrity endorsed fad-diets, more hype than science. In my opinion, it’s more fiction than facts, all from people who have no business in giving advice. If you have concerns about your dog’s diet, bring it up with your vet.

Medical Opinions

The worst kind of social media advice has to be veterinary advice. Shame on those seeking and shame on those giving. Yes, that’s a big heap of Double Shame!

If your dog is experiencing a health problem, get them to a vet… you know, the expert who has years of professional medical experience treating our precious pets. A medical opinion shouldn’t come from an online know-it-all who knew someone whose dog had similar symptoms 10 years ago. If you’re unsure if your dog needs to actually see the vet, err on the side of caution. Even if it’s a mild medical issue, it’s far better to treat it early than let it fester and become a larger problem.

A veterinarian has the tools and training to properly diagnose whatever ailments may plague your pup. Access to this quality of care simply can’t supplied online.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

While I’m up here on my soapbox, let me rant a little longer about how silly behavior from a few can become a trend, spread via social media. In some ways, social media is the great equalizer. It gives everyone a platform for creating, commenting and sharing experiences and ideas – which is totally is cool.

It used to be that experts honed their skills over years of practice, training, and failing. By the time they achieved expert status, it was well earned from their dirt, sweat, tears, and scars. With some of the “experts” we find on social media, it’s more self-proclaimed than actually experienced. The problem being this: before the experts started dishing out free advice, or calling themselves a trainer, they had limited experience in the area they are now giving advice on. See the problem? Enthusiasm is awesome, but it does not make up for experience.

These enthusiastic, inexperienced people post pictures of some ideas which may not be all that well thought out. Sometimes they only do the deed for the sake of a picture! Consider a dog shooting down a waterfall in a kayak, posing on the edge of a cliff, a tiny dog pulling a sled, or a pack of dogs running off leash through a nature preserve. They make great pictures, but these situations were not for the dog’s benefit. They were taken solely for attention they would receive on social media. Why would someone put their dog at risk for a few seconds of social media “fame”?

Even worse, people see these pictures, follow suite and soon the behavior is considered normal. Often it is a behavior that should never have happened in the first place and it’s now the standard across social media. If someone with more experience or common sense dares to question what they are seeing, they will be promptly put in their place and told “I have been doing this for months, and there have never been a problem.” I mean, you don’t need to be a dinosaur to have gained lived experience, but experience does count for a lot. The more you live, the more you get.

We have come a long way as pet parents. We have worked together to encourage spaying and neutering, more dogs than ever before have left the shelter and found their forever families. Dogs are enjoying better quality of life than ever before So let’s work together in promoting responsible pet ownership in this new digital age.


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