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Beware of The So-Called "Internet" Pet Experts!

By ToniShelbourne. | Dog Info

Before the World Wide Web existed, we relied on books or knowledgeable professionals to help us figure out problems and gain understanding. It is true that once a book is printed it is already out of date but the same can be said for information on the internet.

These days we don’t often reach for a huge tablet of an encyclopedia, we google it instead, but anyone can upload their opinions. It is the same on social media, dog owners are increasingly turning to dog-related Facebook groups, to seek out help for that behaviour problem or health issue our dog is suffering from.

I don’t doubt there is a lot of experienced owners and trainers on the net, but for every good one, there are often ten more who can dish out the wrong advice, advice that can sometimes be downright dangerous to you and your dog. Too often I see people diagnosing the problem from scant information; no in-depth history means the real route of the issue or that vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle can be left in the box. In the worst case scenario, dogs can lose their lives due to bad advice given by keyboard experts. You may think I am exaggerating but believe me, I am not. The trouble is, if you need to ask about why your dog is doing this or that and how to stop it, it means you lack the knowledge to weed out the bad advice. That isn’t a criticism, I don’t know how my fridge works…….

We also seem to be increasingly living in a society that wants something for nothing. People don’t think they should pay to help their dog overcome his aggression problem or separation anxiety; we want a quick fix. However, does that solution involve looking at the dogs' emotions and anxieties and asking,What can I do to support you in this’ or does the advice you follow mean your dog goes on suffering because you have covered up the problem with a Band-Aid?

I cannot tell you the number of times people quibble at the price of a good trainer or behaviourist. They don’t see why an hour’s lesson or a package of sessions should cost so much. What people fail to note is the time outside the session the trainer spends working. First there is the initial conversation and booking process, some trainers may have to travel miles to see you, (taking up more time), we work with you face to face, often putting ourselves at risk in doing so they have to travel home and write a detailed report and be on standby for any questions or support you may have going forward. Just one dog from one session can take a good eight hours of our time. Not only that, professional trainers have spent thousands on gaining an up to date education in their field. They have paid money joining organisations which show they are ethical and work to a high standard, and have to continue to do as much as 40 hours a year of continued profession development to stay current with the latest research and methods (How many occupations can you say insist on that to stay qualified in a professional guild?).

So when looking for help, spend time doing your research before following someone’s advice or booking a trainer.

  • Does the person have a qualification in training or behaviour and to what level?
  • How long have they been working with dogs?
  • Do they have testimonials from clients on their service?
  • Are they a member of a professional organisation and if so, what are the ethics and mission statement of that body?
  • Do you like how they interact with you and your dog?
  • Do they have several ways to train the same thing, if one way isn’t working for your dog, can they be flexible and find a way he can learn?

Just be careful who you entrust your precious pooch too, after all, you wouldn’t ask an unskilled person to fix the brakes on your car now would you!

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toni shelbourneToni Shelbourne

Animal Behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor & Author

Toni has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP. 

Over the last two decades, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and blogs. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with co-author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled HELP! My Dog is…. Titles include, HELP! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks, HELP! My Dog doesn't Travel Well in the Car, HELP! My Dog is Destroying the Garden and HELP! My Dog has a Canine Compulsive Disorder. All are available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon. Toni and Karen have many more titles planned under the banner of Skinny Dog Books – named as they both own sighthounds and the books are small and concise. Visit for more details about Toni, her work and books. Facebook: Twitter: @tonishelbourne


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