So you are interested in the dog training life?

Posted on June 6th, 2017 by FetchMasters in Positive Dog Training

Whenever Linda and I go to dinner with friends, regardless of how hard we try to steer the topic away from our work, the conversation inevitably circles back around to dog training. For one thing, people see dog training as interesting and have romantic notions about it. But also, we love training dogs, so our willpower is somewhat limited when others continually probe into our work lives. We want to show sustained interest in the lives of our friends, but if they insist on making us geek out about dog training, we eventually will oblige.

We find that people assume dog training must be great fun … AND IT IS! It is one of the few jobs we have had that we truly enjoy. However, like any interest or passion that morphs into an occupation, dog training soon acquires the bittersweet quality of any job. It comes complete with rewards, joys, stressors, challenges, opinions and politics.

So, to our family, friends, clients, colleagues and aspiring dog trainers, here is a rundown of what dog training is like when you own FetchMasters.

Dog Training Sometimes Warms the Heart

Both Linda and I get misty eyes when we receive emails from clients telling us how they never imagined life being so good with their dogs. We have had clients hug us and cry when their dogs have made some quantum leap towards good behavior. Sometimes their joy at seeing what life with dogs can be like truly moves them, and it moves us too. It reinforces our belief that what we are doing is somehow making a difference.

And then there are the dogs. Truth is, I don’t get attached to every dog like I used to when I first started training dogs professionally. But there are some that I just jive with, and it is hard to see them go. And some of the people I hold dearest were once clients, and they’ve stuck with me through good times and bad times.

Dog Training Sometimes Breaks the Heart

Dog trainers do not have a magic pill that makes dogs perfect. There are many reasons dog training can fail: shortcomings or inabilities on the part of the trainer; unreasonable expectations or lack of commitment on the part of the client; unmanageable households or environments that the dog is unreasonably expected to be successful in; and, frankly, dogs that just are not a good fit for the clients who chose them and probably never will be.

When training fails, there are consequences. Dogs get sent away from their homes and families. These animals are not emotionless machines; they feel separation, displacement and loss.  I am not saying that re-homing or relinquishing a dog is never the right thing to do; sometimes it is. But scientific studies have shown that when dogs see us after a period of absence, their brain fires in the same way that ours does when we are happy to be reunited with a close friend or family member. They love us, and they feel the pain of losing us.

Also, clients, families and children become bereaved of the dogs they desperately wanted to fix. Our eyes fill with a different sort of tears when our clients must make hard decisions, and we stand beside them through the process – but wondering if we could have done more, or done something differently.

Dog Training Keeps the Heart Pumping

Dog training requires marketing, advertising, sales calls, social media, website maintenance, blogging, budgeting ability, a financial cushion to survive the lean times, employees, supportive colleagues, business acumen, and a penchant for risk.

It requires licensing and inspection by a government bureaucracy, a facility, employees, overhead, taxes, and the need to provide good customer service.

We get up at 6 AM, slog down a mug of coffee, care for our own dogs, follow up on business leads, answer emails, return phone calls, check our Facebook pages, update our websites, follow up with clients and schedule them for their next training session.

Then we go to work, drive across town multiple times to conduct private training sessions, come back to our training facility to work with board-and-train dogs or teach group classes, solve training challenges, continue to answer phones and deal with last minute training cancellations and rescheduling.

Dog Training Fulfills The Heart

We train dogs because we love our clients, and we love their dogs, and we love helping. We feel that what we do somehow makes a difference in the grand scheme of things. It keeps dogs in homes. It makes households happier. It eases suffering for both clients and their dogs.

And most importantly, dog training helps clients understand how their emotional states impacts the emotional states of their dogs, and thus opens the door to self-examination. Self-examination makes people better … and we need more of that in the world.

So, we go to sleep at night feeling exhausted. And then we wake up in the morning feeling hopeful. Then we down another mug of coffee, and we do it all over again.