In the expansive world of dog training, a practice as ancient as our bond with these dogs, I’ve observed an unsettling trend over the years: the act of copying the hard-earned work of others, adding a new label, and marketing it as a groundbreaking invention. This blatant plagiarism raises a multitude of questions about the integrity of trainers, their respect for innovation, and how the industry should approach the delicate matter of intellectual property (IP).
My journey in this riveting domain began in 1996 when I had the privilege to work alongside two iconic figures in the field, Marian and Bob Bailey.
The Baileys and their Animal Behavior Enterprise (ABE) trainers were undoubtedly the best in shaping animal training practices. They dedicated their lives to transforming the animal training industry from the 1950s. Their pioneering efforts — from employing bridge signals to advocating positive reinforcement techniques, leveraging video recordings for analysis, creating detailed protocols, to introducing data sheets — were not just innovative; they were revolutionary. And they were the best teachers I have ever met! These techniques heralded a paradigm shift in our approach to modern dog training, championing a more compassionate and practical methodology.
But along with the celebration of growth and the evolution of more empathetic training methods emerged a concerning trend: trainers, both newcomers, and veterans, began replicating and repackaging these novel methodologies without giving due credit to the original innovators. They claimed these ideas and techniques as their own, undermining the blood, sweat, and tears poured into creating and refining these groundbreaking techniques.
In a world where intellectual property is held sacred, where writers, musicians, and artists can legally protect their works, the dog training industry mirrors the lawlessness of the Wild West. Ideas, methodologies, and devices are often recklessly appropriated without crediting the original innovators who have toiled and often struggled to bring their creations to light. One such instance that resonates with me is the replication of my radio and laser directional training work.
A technique that was the fruit of years of dedication, extensive research, numerous trials, and countless sleepless nights was duplicated with blatant disregard for my contribution. Observing your brainchild being reproduced without so much as a nod toward your efforts is heart-wrenching. This lack of respect for pioneers — innovators who invest a wealth of time, energy, and resources into developing novel training protocols, techniques, and devices — is deeply unsettling. The picture shows Andor (1996), the first radio- and laser-guided directional dog in The Netherlands.
Another case in point was the controversy around my electronic scent wheel, a device born out of my innovations when accusations of idea theft were tossed around on social media. Thankfully, the situation was resolved quickly, with Pat Nolan, a respected name in the industry, clarifying the concept’s origins. He built his wheel because I inspired him when he saw my first sensor-equipped scent wheel when he visited me in the Netherlands years ago! He built his wheel with my permission and advice and put our names on the patent. However, not all instances of plagiarism are rectified, as evidenced by the blatant copying and selling of my radio directional program stages, despite my requests for them to cease.
While I can’t single-handedly rectify this lack of integrity, I remain committed to honoring those who have inspired and guided me. I recall the words of Bob Bailey about those who have “turned towards the Dark Side,” serving as a stark reminder that integrity and respect are the bedrock of any community.
Understanding the innovation adoption lifecycle — a spectrum ranging from innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, to laggards — can shed light on the dynamic nature of any industry. A culture that respects this process encourages continued innovation, fostering industry growth and development. While I don’t necessarily advocate for stringent IP protection rules in the dog training community, I firmly believe in acknowledging and honoring the original creators. This essential gesture of respect is vital to a healthy, thriving community.
There are many smart training concepts in the K9 world from which we are only sometimes aware of who started it. The Mike Herstik Wall, Randy Hare (Dutch) boxes, and Dopamine (Belgium) boxes, to name a few. And of course, the example of using Kong in detection. The original concept came from Norway. Used by the military and trainers from the Norwegian People’s Aid People. When I visited their training center in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was impressed by their detection protocols, experience, and perseverance.
Sometimes new inventions are brought to life simultaneously in different places because there are many innovative people in the canine industry. So if you are working on something and find out that somebody else is working on the same idea, work together instead of fighting against each other! Learn from the moment around 1903 when various inventors tried to build an airplane. The Wright brothers were the first, but others followed quickly. The beautiful thing that happened in the aviation industry was that they started working together. And that is what I begin to see in the K9 community. Real inventors will have the intrinsic motivation to go on and keep changing the world. Yes, it will hurt them when they don’t get credit for their inventions, but for a short time because they are already busy with their newest idea.
The dog training landscape is not all bleak. Amidst this apparent disregard for originality, a shimmering beacon of hope keeps my faith alive in the industry I love. Recently, I’ve noticed a promising trend where trainers and scientists are beginning to collaborate more closely. This burgeoning relationship between practical expertise and scientific insights hints at a brighter, more cooperative future for our industry. I am witnessing the emergence of a new community bound by mutual respect, recognition, and information sharing.
The innovators and change agents in the K9 community are forging ahead, generously sharing their knowledge with a smile. I’m genuinely amazed by the remarkable work of Dr. Nathan Hall and Paola Tiedemann in their cutting-edge research. My admiration extends to Gregory Herin and his groundbreaking venture, GetXent. Furthermore, the tireless efforts of Lauryn Degreeff to unite numerous individuals excite me. And let’s not forget the captivating innovations of Jörg Schultz. Their collective contributions to the K9 world bring me immense joy. While I must acknowledge that there are many other names I’ve unintentionally omitted, I fear that including them all would make this blog post excessively long. Nevertheless, it warms my heart to know that these remarkable individuals, like the delightful Paul Bunker, are all part of a community that thrives on sharing valuable information and advancing the world of K9.
This growing group of professionals values each other’s contributions. They are willing to credit each other’s work, to support and uplift one another, thereby offering a stark contrast to the ‘Wild West’ scenario of rampant idea appropriation. If this collaborative mindset is nurtured and sustained, it could significantly reshape the dog training landscape.
In conclusion, for all the innovators in the K9 world, keep on innovating! Your efforts are changing the landscape of dog training. To those joining hands with scientists and walking the path of mutual respect and acknowledgment, you are the flag-bearers of the future we need. And to all adopters, remember to give credit where credit is due. Let’s remember to uphold the integrity of our profession and continue to enjoy training our beloved dogs, and coach the (new) trainers and scientists in this fascinating world. Enjoy training!
ACT! Is operating worldwide. You can find more information on my website www.simonprins.com about the ACT! innovative training products and workshops about detection, odor recognition testing, tracking, scent wheel training, laser training and radio-directional dogs. If you are interested the ACT, Masterclass, please contact me so I can provide you with the specific Masterclass you need for your organization!
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