I don’t know everything.
I said it.
It’s so liberating to be able to shed responsibility for knowing everything! And the prospect of learning about the things I don’t know is absolutely exhilarating!
Why am I writing about what I don’t know? For someone who bases her livelihood on expertise, I bet that sounds pretty bizarre. But if I’m going to be professional, and responsible, then I’m going to be really clear about what I know and understand and what I don’t.
This little diatribe is inspired, in part, by the seemingly never-ending instances of people on social media looking for hive knowledge about stuff they should be seeking professional help with. But folks, when it comes to potentially life-threatening issues such as medical issues, nutrition, diet, exercise and so much more, the hive does NOT have enough specific knowledge to give you back the best information you can get. And in these times when real expertise is so accessible, there’s no excuse for FaceBook questions like “I ran over my cat’s foot with my car and I can see bone. What should I do?” (Hint: the answer does not include coconut oil.)
As a dog behavior consultant, I get hit with questions all the time I could answer, badly, but I don’t. Some of them include:
- Dog nutrition questions. Dog nutrition is a huge, complex and technical subject. I would like to think I’m at the reasonably well-educated about dog nutrition at the high-functioning pet owner level. Which means I’ve got enough great information I’ve gleaned from people far smarter than me to make good decisions about what I feed my dogs, but am not smart enough to give advice to anyone else. My best and most frequently offered advice on dog nutrition is to recommend a subscription to wholedogjournal.com, whose science-based, laboratory analysis of commercial dog foods I’ve relied on for many years to feed my dogs. But not enough smarts to style myself as a dog guru. Except for Ol’ Roy; I have a definite opinion about that!
- Medical advice. I’m continually amazed by how many questions I get soliciting medical advice. I do have quite a bit of education on common medical issues dogs experience, as well as their potential impact on behavior, so I can send my client back to the vet for a good health screening. I have studied quite a bit on behavioral pharmacology, so I have a good idea about when a dog I’m working with might benefit from some medication. But whether the dog is a good candidate for medication, and what type and how much is something I rely on the veterinarian to determine. So please don’t ask me about a suspicious mass, a bald spot, a funny gait or odd odor emanating from one (or more!) of your dog’s orifices, unless you’re OK with me saying “Get to the vet!”
- Grooming questions. The more I learn about grooming, the more I know I don’t know. I know just enough about good grooming to keep my own dogs fresh and trim, but always defer questions about which brush, comb, shampoo or conditioner is best for each dog to someone with expertise in that area. So if you want to know about the best way to groom your dog, please ask me so I can hook you up with someone who knows what they’re doing!
- Training stuff I do not regularly train. Dog training is a world of many disciplines and activities, and I don’t know any trainer who’s completely well-versed in all of them. I’m really good at pet manners/obedience (basic through advanced), many service dog tasks, some Rally, Treibball, fetch games and a lot of husbandry behaviors. I also spend most of my time working on behavior problems, including quite a few that are very serious. But I don’t know much about agility, fly ball, protection, scent work, hunting stuff, ring sport, detection, military or police K9, guide dogging, skijoring, mushing, and dog knows what else. And I don’t expect you to know what I know and what I don’t know, but I’m always happy to answer what I can, and refer you to someone who’s expert in the areas I’m not.
So please bear with me if I tell you “I don’t know.” But I’m always happy to link you up with someone who does!