I have been asked several times recently why I will not or have not gone on to a podcast or live debate with other high profile dog trainers.

Two years ago, I was asked to debate a controversial host on a podcast, and for several reasons, I turned it down. I was asked repeatedly, bordering on harassment, even though I gave what I believed was a sufficient answer.

Politely I answered no. The first part of my answer was that I have limited bandwidth, and I place my efforts where I feel I have the most impact. The other part of my reasoning was based on the following:

Live Debates

Going onto a podcast or a zoom meeting or Facebook live with another person to embark on a discussion where opinions differ, the topic is or can become emotionally charged, and there is a lot at stake, in my opinion, is just not a good idea.

I would only recommend that you do this if you have ample time to prepare for the encounter and possess highly effective communication skills supported by a comprehensive understanding of the facts, logic, and reasoning.

To do this correctly, factually, and logically would require I embark on so much preparation that I just cannot see how the impact would justify the effort!

My preparation would require the following:

  1. A thorough review of the scientific literature
  2. A summary of the research and factual positions
  3. A comprehensive factual understanding of the topic so it can be recalled quickly and under pressure
  4. The ability to communicate all of this in a coherent and non-emotional way

Without this preparation, I would be in “no man’s land.”

No man’s land is where you find yourself when you know the other side is engaged in disingenuous arguments. Yet, you cannot push back adequately as you do not have the facts or the ability to clearly and unambiguously argue the point.

Understanding others’ viewpoints in life is essential. Humans have inquiring minds. Our brains are social organs, always looking to connect and engage with others. But as individuals, we need to determine on what grounds we engage and under what circumstances.

To fully understand somebody else’s position requires trusting the other person to engage using facts, logic, and reasoning. If any or all of these elements are missing, one must wonder why bother just to become a fallacy detective.

In my opinion for me, there are better ways to advocate,  engage, and influence than a live one-on-one debate with no rules, moderator, or fact checker. For you, your choice.  We each must do what we feel comfortable doing. But let’s choose carefully so we give credibility to our positions, methods, and philosophies.

In closing – rule five of debating states, “he who asserts must prove. In order to establish an assertion, one must support it with enough evidence and logic to convince an intelligent but previously uninformed person that it is more reasonable to believe the assertion than to disbelieve it. The facts must be accurate.”


Rules of Debate (condensed from Competitive Debate: Rules and Techniques, by George McCoy Musgrave. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1957)

Recommended Reading

  • How to Spot Dishonest Arguments Joh T Reeds
  • The Fallacy Detective Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn
  • How Highly Effective People Speak – Peter D. Andrei

The following were posts I received on my Facebook thread in response to this blog. I am posting them here as I feel they articulate so well what I was not able to put into words

From Simon Wooler- Sociable Dog 

BBC news in the U.K. has a policy of “impartiality”. Unfortunately that means that they feel the need to always give a rebuttal opportunity to an opposing argument on any topic. They see it as giving “ balance” ( there’s that word again) and objectivity. The problem is that in some cases the difficulty in finding someone to put the opposite “ argument” is so great as to make the comparison absurd. But, by giving the counter-argument a platform 1:1 as it were, they give it credibility and imply equivalence where there isn’t any. In effect they trash their own impartiality base because now they’ve elevated a claim that isn’t equal to a position of equivalence. They have to hunt a hay stack of people , for example, who agree that the world is spherical, for the one needle who says it’s flat. By bringing those two people together to “debate the issue” they give credence to two ideas. One that there is a debate to be had and two, that there’s any “issue” in it. The striving for  balance in reporting has resulted in false equivalence. That’s where we are now in dog training.

In my view, what we should be doing is telling the world what we do and not invite the dog world’s equivalent of climate change deniers into the room to “discuss” it.  When they shout at us through the door, briefly describe them to the listening audience as wrong and talk again about how healthy, rewarding, ethical and *effective* it is to train dogs in a way that keeps them happy and safe. Our message of efficacy. Our message of healthy relationships. Our message of evidencial practice. As little mention of the noises off as is needed to prove their irrelevance. If pushback is needed from time to time then frame it in terms of new understanding superseding the old. Otherwise we might inadvertently imply there’s a debate to be had.