If you’ve ever watched a shampoo advert, you’ll know that hair needs amino acids, would be catastrophic without a regular wash in vitamin PF16 and various extract, and that 80% of women agreed about something to do with shininess.*

Shampoo adverts have a failsafe formula. Firstly, they target your sense of wonder (wow that hair is shiny, I want to tie my hair in a knot and have it look that good etc). Secondly, they reassure you that this shampoo is the real deal (that’s a long sciency word, they must know what they’re on about, 80% is quite a lot etc).

Broken down like this, their tactics are blindingly obvious, but in the moment, whilst waiting for ‘Britain’s Got The X Voice’ to come back on, you might just buy it.

Here’s the point. TV ‘dog expert’ personalities are shampoo advertisers. Not literally of course- they tend to have less than lust worthy hair- but you buy into their way because of a nice blend of mysticism and pseudo science. Then you are a ‘follower’. People tend to stick with one doctrine- be it in religion, hair care or dog training. This can be dangerous, because the sense of loyalty you will feel trumps your common sense. You might end up viewing people of other religions as sinners, forking out way to much in pursuit of shininess, or, god forbid, listening to Caesar Milan.

What’s great about following your favourite shampoo dog trainer is that you can find their helpful hints anywhere- watch their programs, find them on youtube, buy their books, their DVDs, their products. They are a highly successful group of showmen and businessmen and his largely harmful methods spread like wildfire.

My 2 top tips to guard yourself against ‘shampoo’ dog trainers are:

  1. Be vigilant against commonly used manipulation strategies, and retain your common sense.
  2. Look for qualifications. Would you go under the knife of a surgeon who hadn’t studied medicine?

Alas, shampoo trainers are only half of the problem. The people in possession of the bulk of animal behavioural knowledge are not showmen, in fact they are quite the opposite. They are researchers, working quietly in an office/dog centre to add to a wealth of know-how. This typically ends up in a dusty journal, subscribed to only by other quiet, hard working, researcher types. What’s the use of a can of paint if you’re not going to put it on a wall?

So, I trawled through youtube on your behalf to find these two gems (in terms of worth, not shininess!). Enjoy!

Zak George  Dr Sophia Yin

Image from puppylovedogs.com


*4 out of 5 women said their hair ‘didn’t look any worse than before’.


It’s Instinct


It’s commonly said that ‘Human beings have lost the instinct that animals have’. This is not exactly true. The original, and some would say correct, meaning of instinct is a trait that is inherent from birth, and therefore doesn’t have to be learned. We instinctively breath, drink to quench our thirst and squint in bright sunlight. 

ImageThe second and more common use of the word is a little trickier to explain, so please bare with me. Imagine you are watching the Women’s Finals at Wimbledon. You are in an aisle seat, and engrossed in a very exciting match. Serena Williams is on perfect form, returning every shot, she reacts with lightning speed. The speed and accuracy with which she interrupts the ball’s trajectory is impressive, resultantly she is comfortably leading. A shout from the crowd steals your attention- someone has been mugged. Your glance up is met fleetingly by the offender, who is just about to pass your seat. Without thinking, you put a foot out, impeding the man’s escape.

Serena does very little thinking when returning the ball, and you put your foot out without thinking to stop the mugger. So here lies our second interpretation. Instinct – action without conscious thought, which can be significantly refined through repetition. In the correct context, this interpretation is completely valid. (The English language can be quite problematic in its fluidity.) The statement we are discussing, however, is not the correct context for this interpretation, and here’s why. Humans have plenty of both ‘tennis’ and ‘true’ instinct. Its a popular idea that we have lost some of our ‘true’ instinct, and that’s because we are able to suppress it based on conscious thought. For example, you might feel the instinct to run away from the fear felt when being interviewed, but conscious knowledge that it might do you good in the long-term keeps you in your seat. It is not that we have lost the ‘true’ instinct, we just have means to keep it in check. 

So, perhaps the phrase should be: ‘Humans have more ability to suppress their ‘true’ instinct than animals, who rely more on their ‘true’ instincts for survival and reproduction. But both are equally capable of developing ‘tennis’ instinct‘. It doesn’t sound quite as catchy, does it? This small example is helps to explain why science is often labelled as boring and difficult. The whole truth is difficult to package into a catchy phrase.  

Image from bucs.org.uk

Despite it being one of my primary occupations, and therefore something you’d expect me to have answered by know, I have realised this blog hasn’t yet provided a satisfactory reason for the existence of a large proportion of its content. To some, welfare charities and the like exist for lonely people to include in their will, or as a distraction from more pressing international problems. After all, they’re only animals, right?

But this question’s most critical answer lies not in the muddy waters of animal rights, but on the dry and familiar land of basic human interest. Animal Welfare is important,  not only because we owe the beings that we depend upon respect and protection, but because caring for animals is good for human nature. Fostering concern for the welfare of another being, be it animal or human, is crucially important for the development of individual humans and the human race as a whole.