Many people will tell you that the triumvirate of religion, politics, and sports, are subjects to be considered off limits if one wishes to avoid arguments and keep friends. I would also add the subject of dogs to that list.
Within the world of dogs, subjects like training methods, feeding, vaccinations, collars, spaying & neutering, kill vs. no kill, purebred vs. adoption, ad infinitum; seem to polarize people and really brings out our stark difference of opinions.
When I first started Dog Lovers Digest I devoted a great deal of thought to whether I should blog about my opinions or not, and also if I should allow others to comment on them. I wanted to share with others, my feelings and opinions about dogs and I wanted others to be able to share similar stories and thoughts. However, I also feel that posting my opinions on a blog available to the world also carries a responsibility. To me a public proclamation of opinion is an open invitation to critique of that opinion. Let me say here that this statement does not apply to those blogs and websites that do not allow comments on their articles. Not allowing comment on articles and blog posts is a reasonable position to take; based on the fact that divergent opinions are able to create their own sites as well. However, allowing the public in general to comment on a post carries the responsibility of posting those opinions you don’t agree with. Of course moderation of those comments is a must because there are some that will abuse the forum. But as long as people are respectful, I believe that it is my duty to allow comment from all points of view.
Another issue for me is the fact that I consider it my responsibility to defend my opinions. When people post divergent viewpoints, I need to make sure that I am ready to answer questions that they may pose to me. I also need to make sure that even when I vehemently disagree with them, I do it in a civil manner. This can be very time consuming and at some point you have to agree to disagree– but I will allow a few rounds of back and forth to make sure that everyone gets an equal say.
A recent post of mine “Does The Milgram Experiment Explain Cesar Milan’s Influence” has really brought these points home to me. The article has been widely distributed on internet and has drawn comments on many different sites including Twitter, Facebook, and my own. One of the things that have struck me is how uncivil the discourse on subjects like this can be. It has put me in mind of the town hall meetings about healthcare reform that were all over the news channels here in the states this past year. Each side shouting longer and louder at the other trying to drown out anything they did not agree with. What does this accomplish? I think most people would agree (there goes that opinion thing again) that in order to change someone’s mind you need to teach not preach. Coming up with clever insults and deriding your opponents may win you points when you’re preaching to the choir– but it’s not likely to convert someone who is sitting on the fence or who is in the other camp.
If we want to introduce others to our way of thinking, we need to do it in a thoughtful and respectful manner; and we must also listen to other points of view before we dismiss them. I am not always successful in this endeavor and I admit that sometimes I can get caught up in the crowd as well. But I promise to become more successful at it. Remember that if we want people to listen to us, we need to return the courtesy.
As always we welcome your thoughts and opinions. Let’s learn from each other.
Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha