Updated: Nov 30, 2020
I want to start off with a disclaimer: no one on my friends list is guilty of this right now. There was no single inciting incidence. If you feel yourself starting to get defensive, this post isn't calling you out for a specific instance. But if you are starting to get defensive then it's worth examining if you're guilty of this.
Unpopular opinion: I AM DONE TO DEATH WITH CALL OUT CULTURE. DONE. This literally woke me up in the middle of the night, it's been bothering be so much lately.
Legit. If you are a person who starts a post with "Cute baby, but...." or "Cute dog but...". Keep scrolling. Snooze me. Unfollow me. Unfriend me. Block me. And if you don't, trust I might be doing so soon. If that offends you, that's your right, but I don't ever have to stand for random criticism and unless I'm asking for help (something I'm very good at), I pretty much categorically don't want unsolicited advice. Ever.
You know what I am super okay with? A private message politely saying: "Hey, I noticed something, do you mind if we chat about it?" Or even publicly: "Do you mind if I mention something I'm curious/concerned about? " Or: "In my experience with my own dogs, I've found x, y, z. Are you finding that to be the case?" Or: "Do you mind elaborating on the reason you're taking this approach?"
You know why I'm okay with those questions? Because they allow for me to say: "No thank you. I'm not interested in hearing criticism right now." They allow me to have agency and give consent. They imply that you understand I'm competent and have a reason for doing what I'm doing.
Do you know why I hate unsolicited advice or criticism? Because it automatically makes the assumption that other people are incompetent. It assumes other people don't know better and that you do. Often it's just ego-stroking. Sometimes it's actually from a place of concern, but it also assumes that the person you're criticizing doesn't have a reason they're doing something.
Example: I don't run Anubi for a tug in flyball or agility. I also largely don't run him for food. Gasp! Why? How could I not reward my dog?! Tugs and food largely aren't motivating for him. You know what is motivating? Getting out and working. Doing something and being praised and then being allowed to keep working. Don't you think I've tried the very fundamental steps of rewarding with food or building tug drive? Doubting that implies you don't think I know what I'm doing and haven't considered the obvious. There is a reason why I am doing something a particular way. Don't assume otherwise.
I don't want to hear that:
My muzzle is too big. Or too small. Or you hate muzzle conditioning. • You know who has the right to criticize? My trainer. My vet. My colleagues. • What are some reasons why the muzzle fit might appear objectionable? The dog is in training and swipes the muzzle off and the muzzle will be looser later on. The muzzle is just for conditioning and won't be spending a lot of time in the muzzle and thus doesn't need full pant room. The picture of the fit is deceptive. Etc. Etc.
That I'm socializing my puppies wrong. Or placing them in the wrong homes. Or that you wouldn't do it that way. • You know who has a right to complain? My mentors. • What are some reasons I'm socializing or placing how I am? Over much trial and error I've found that's what works. After much research I've found that's what works. I don't actually agree with the belief that a fenced yard is what makes a desireable home. Etc. Etc.
That my dog is overweight. Or underweight. Or needs more muscle. • You know who has the right to object? My vet. My breeder.
• What are some reasons my dog might be at an undesirable weight/fitness? It's a new rescue. My dog's been sick. My intact male has been off his food with a housemate in heat. I know the correct weight of my breed better than you. I've had a run of bad mental health and haven't been able to exercise my dog. The weather has been terrible and I haven't been able to exercise my dog. Etc. Etc.
That I'm running *my* dogs in agility wrong or flyball wrong. • You know who has the right to question? My instructor. My teammate • What are some reasons I might be doing what I'm doing? I tried it your way and it wasn't working. I enjoy this way more. My dog enjoys this way more. Etc. Etc.
That my dogs' nails are too long. • You know who has the right for concern? My vet. My trainer. • Why might my dogs' nails be long? A picture is deceptive. My dog is actually flexing their feet. It's literally nail day. Life has been crazy and I'm behind on nails. Etc. Etc.
How could you use x, y, z training tool (prong, gentle leader, front clip harness, e-collar, etc) on your dog?! • You know what. Unless you're my personal dog trainer, it's none of your damn business.
Notice a theme? The people who get to outright criticize me are the ones I've entered into a social contact with. A social contract where they get to give me advice and I get to learn from them. That's why if you join a structure critique group or proper nails group or baby raising technique group or dog training technique group it's a different ball game. You've entered into a social contract that invites critique. Now...You've joined a breed enthusiast group that is largely for posting cute picture and sharing updates? I feel like criticism becomes less inherently appropriate.
I get it. People are often idiots. But I try very very hard to assume people's best intentions. I try very hard to assume there is a reason for something. I try hard to assume they've put research into something because I know personally I spend hours and hours and hours researching the majority of my decisions. Any time anyone does something I mentally go over the reasons why they might be doing something that particular way. 59/60 times I can come up with multiple reasons and even when I can't there's usually still a reason. Is this hard work? Yes. But it means that I can empathize and see other people's viewpoints better. It means when someone else criticizes a friend I very often can explain why my friend is doing something a particular way just by analyzing the situation.
And when in doubt: just keep scrolling. Don't passive aggressively laugh/mad react or tag some sarcastic tag group. If you find it egregious enough, just unfollow or unfriend a person/group. Just walk away. Isn't that our parents try to teach us as kids?
People should be able to post pictures of themselves, their kids, their dogs without having to preface them with statements like: "I know it's not a great angle...But I like this picture." Or "I know my dog appears fat but she's actually in false pregnancy." Or "I know my dogs' nails are long right now. Please don't judge me."
In case you can't tell, I despise unsolicited advice. Potentially above literally anything else. My entire life is devoted to being above reproach and I have worked incredibly hard to be able to listen and adjust to solicited, polite criticism and feedback. I think I'm even decent at it when a person gives me time to mentally switch into feedback taking mode.
In the immortal words of Thumper's mother: "If you can't say something nice to say, don't say nothing at all"