Gender imbalance in the dog world

Statistically speaking, she's probably the one taking the dog to training classes. Source: Bling Cheese

As I venture into Dog World, there’s something I’ve started to notice. There are a LOT of women around here. Most cited and respected dog trainers? All women. Breeders? Ladies have the majority here, too. People in the show circuit? Lots of girls. All of the top full-time staff at my local SPCA are women. Think about it. A “crazy dog lady” is a definite thing, but no one ever talks about a “crazy dog man.”

Why is this? I have a few thoughts on this issue, all of which are unsupported by evidence or substantial research. So, bear with me while I throw out a few unqualified generalizations.

First, on the whole, women tend to be more compassionate toward animals. This does NOT mean that men are not compassionate, but women are known for collecting, pampering, and treating their dogs. This may lead women to animal-centric careers.

Second, animal-centric careers, with perhaps the exception of a veterinarian, are not high-paying jobs. You will not make a lot of money as a dog breeder, trainer, walker, or groomer. Historically, women take lower-paying jobs than men do. Some of these careers may have even started out as hobbies. Add that to the fact that women gravitate toward compassionate vocations and you have a host of ladies in canine careers.

As I pore through dog books and dog blogs, I think about this discrepancy a lot. I love keeping the company of woman. I understand women more than I understand men. It’s only natural. However, I can’t help but think that we’re missing something. The lack of a male voice in the dog world is a significant loss to the diversity of the larger community of canine enthusiasts. Men can bring something to the table that women can’t–and vice versa.

I was delighted to learn that I’m not the only one who has noticed this imbalance. Kevin Myers is a dog trainer and wrote a series of very insightful articles at Dog Lover’s Digest. The articles focus on “men in training” and on the need to get more men involved as dog trainers. Myers focuses specifically on why men might balk at positive reinforcement training (like Pat Miller advocates) and may have a gender-bent tendency to like dominance-oriented, but ultimately unfruitful, training methods.

I’d encourage you to read Myers’s thoughts on the issue; they were certainly very enlightening to me. I hope to keep his points in mind when I talk to Guion and the other men in my life–especially my father–about dog training. Here’s to hoping that the scales will begin to even out and that we will start seeing more proactive, engaged, and encouraged men in the circles of the dog world.