The Curse of Knowledge – What Force-Free Trainers Need to Understand

dog training, curse of knowledge

The last two years have truly been a blast. I love sharing what I learn as I improve my dog training skills and have enjoyed your support and encouragement. 2014 has brought new realizations to me and so the blog will be taking a bit of a twist. As I learn about dog training, I’m learning more and more about people – myself included. I will continue to share my experiences with my dogs, Loker and Clark, but I also want to dive into the human aspect of dog training. The human aspect of this industry is vastly ignored. If you are a dog trainer, I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you purchase a copy of The Human Half of Dog Training by Rise VanFleet and read it as soon as possible. It could revolutionize how you work with clients or communicate with other trainers.

Throughout my transition, I’ve observed how people interact online through all the different social media groups. It has been eye-opening and disturbing. People make assumptions and jump to conclusions without batting an eye. They repeatedly have the same argument over and over, and over only with different people. Each argument increases their frustration and makes them even less tolerant when the next person comes around.

Let’s be honest – most dog trainers become dog trainers because they want to train dogs, not people. Unfortunately, people are all around us and usually own the dogs we seek to work with. It turns out that effective communication and people skills are a necessity to be a successful dog trainer. 

Now, let’s go back to the judgmental social media group members. It’s easy to judge others when you are not in their shoes. Specifically, when you can’t imagine why in the world they would think the way they do.

The Curse

I recently learned about a phenomenon that needs to be brought up to the force-free dog training community. This phenomenon was discovered at Stanford University and is called the “Curse of Knowledge.” The Curse of Knowledge is when we learn about something and then we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind (the time when we didn’t know what we know now).

I have found that many crossover trainers are in disbelief at what they used to believe. I cannot understand why or how I fell for all that alpha/dominance stuff that is spouted by the Dog Whisperer. How did I observe hours of hanging and kicking dogs and think that was appropriate? My knowledge has cursed me. I am now looking through a new set of glasses and will never be able to see through the old set.

What I understand, though, is that I should not judge those who have not acquired a new set. They simply have not had the same experiences as I and genuinely don’t see what I see when we look at the exact same situation. I urge the force-free dog training community to focus their energies on to those who want to learn more. Give people the information they need to better themselves. You can’t force it on to anyone who isn’t ready to learn.

Do you remember your first experience with a force-free trainer before you crossed over? Share what it was like in the comments below!