Dog trainers are people. Clients are people. That fact is simple & indisputable black & white. Trainers' & clients' expectations of each other are where the gray area is, and I have this to say on the subject:
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of whether or not you agree on every single thing. Debate can be healthy and an amazing learning opportunity, and then there's the old adage I live my life by: sometimes, we just have to agree to disagree! People can dispute that very statement all they want, but at the end of the day, if you DON'T just "agree to disagree," you're going to end up blood-boiling mad & filled with too much negative energy for me. I prefer to put my energy into positivity, so if I couldn't agree to disagree, I'd be beating my head against a brick wall a lot, and that isn't where I want to put my focus. (Consider the controversial topic of using aversives in training.. I USE aversives in training where I deem appropriate. So-N-So doesn't. I'm never going to convince So-N-So that my point of view is "right." So-N-So is never going to convince me that I'm "wrong." So to put a whole bunch of passion into trying to argue it out on facebook doesn't make any sense to me. I put my passion into what I love; bringing balance & positivity to dogs & their people. I don't expel it beating a dead horse. To reiterate, I am not referring to what could be called healthy debate. That is not the same thing as playing couch quarterback with your laptop on facebook, spitting things you'd never actually say in real life.)
Basically, I train people. I do my very, very best with a 100% commitment to give them peace & strength & balance, and get back in tune with what is natural. Well-behaved dogs & the alleviation of behavior problems are a by-product of that.
I recently saw a review on another trainer's page that said exactly this "I can't stand this trainer that made me yank my dog's neck." There are so many things wrong with that statement, and to me, it lies almost entirely with the owner. I'm not going to specify the trainer, and my opinions of said trainer don't matter to make my point here. (I'm sure at this point you can feel my frustration and I'll specify exactly why in a few paragraphs.)
1) Nobody made you do anything. It's YOUR dog, YOUR responsibility, and nobody has the power to MAKE you do anything you don't want to do, especially when it comes to the safety and handling of your dog. A trainer is just another human being giving you instruction and a point of view on something. You don't have to follow it, and if it isn't in line with your beliefs, WALK.
2) It is the responsibility of the dog owner to research their "trainer" (there it is, in quotes - "trainers" seem to love doing that these days). That aside, it is the responsibility of the dog owner to check out the trainer they're thinking about hiring BEFORE actually paying for the training. There is no way I would blindly pay for a training class knowing nothing about a trainer... They would have to come with a super high recommendation from someone I totally trust on the subject and/or I'd be looking into them beforehand; (meaning asking around, checking out the website, "google" 'em, etc. I actually wrote a whole separate article on what to look for in a trainer: Interview a Potential Trainer.)
3) I am not sticking up for trainers that are too heavy-handed here. The type of training being used by the trainer in the review I'm critiquing has nothing to do with my critique itself, which wasn't even directed toward me. It bothers me when consumers don't take any accountability in who they hire & what research they did or did NOT do beforehand, resulting in their dissatisfaction. The trainer in review could have been AWFUL or could have been misunderstood, I don't know, but regardless, can you see what's wrong with that review?
I received an email just before the Boston tragedy from a client (now former client) who was ranting about not passing their CGC test. Here is an excerpt from it: "The other dog owners there this past Sunday seemed to know far more about how you would run the test than we did. They seemed to be much better prepared."
YEAH. No kidding. Reason being, the other owners attended more than just four drop-in classes and took some initiative, asked questions, actually listened to the answers and did a little research into the test they were actually taking. At the end of the day, it's your dog, and the owner needs to be proactive.. same as we want from our dogs. I would never be writing this kind of rant about it had I not been so offended by the finger being pointed everywhere but where it belonged. The blame can't be placed on everyone BUT you when your dog doesn't behave the way you want it to, because at the end of the day... guess whose responsibility that ultimately is.
As many of you already know, I ADORE my clients. I will bend over BACKWARDS for anybody that has 100% commitment to their dogs. If the commitment is 98%, I don't want to even get involved. (The exception to that rule might be the client who isn't sure if the dog's issues that need to be fixed are more than they are ABLE to commit 100% to, and that can be determined with a private assessment & some time to sleep on the subject. The assessment I am more than willing to provide, and give direction and assistance if the determination is that 100% is not realistic.) I'm really not as much of a hard-ass as this particular post is making me sound ;).
The moral of the story is, no matter how great a trainer is and how good of a person the dog owner is, sometimes, you just aren't a good match. It happens with dogs sometimes, too - nothing is "wrong" with this dog, nothing is "wrong" with that dog; they just rub each other the wrong way. It happens, and it's human nature, and it is what it is. Nothing to even be upset about... You just find yourself a great trainer that is also a good MATCH. If inquiring minds want to know, my response to the very long & rather rude email I excerpted from above was this:
"... I have to be honest with you. You have been showing up to classes for over a year now and you don't appear to be absorbing much of what I have been telling you, whether you are not listening to me when I am speaking to you, or because my communication style isn't meshing with you. I have told you many many many times what to do about the jumping and not repeating commands and I can say it until I am blue in the face and it doesn't seem to be helping; [this folks was my response to being told I never gave said client any instruction on curtailing jumping. Which is bullsh*t.]. Same with the dog-on-do greetings. You seem to be oblivious to her behavior at times, and I can't train her for you in that setting. I realize that is not what you are asking me to do, but you have to understand that you need to listen & implement what we are telling you. If you don't, you won't see results. I have addressed the greeting behavior and the pulling many times with you guys. Also, the CGC Test is a test; not a time for instruction, especially when there are dogs in line waiting to take the test. It was not our responsibility at that time to tell you what to do about a given step she didn't pass; we were administering the test itself. We HAVE instructed you on how to handle her around other dogs. We do not appear to be seeing eye to eye.
If the other dogs/owners appeared better prepared [than you], they probably were. It is not my responsibility alone to familiarize you with the CGC Test. You have to be proactive and take some initiative there as well. I have said many times that treats and training collars are not allowed during the test, and I have taken the time many times via email and in person to give you advice & steps. I don't know how to be any more clear than I have been.
I really don't appreciate this email and it is enough to make me think that I am not a good match as a trainer for you guys because we are clearly not seeing eye to eye. The class is not all about you, and I feel bad saying that because I feel like you know that, but your email does not convey it; if you wanted more invasive instruction, than private training would have been the way to go, which I have communicated to you before. As you said, the other dogs/owners seem to have gained all of the information you are saying I didn't give you. We are clearly in disagreement here. I hate to say it, but I feel like I am beating a dead horse. I am sorry you are upset that you didn't pass the test. Obviously, a lot of what I have been communicating has not made sense to you. As you said, that does not seem to be the case across the board which makes me think I am not the problem. It makes me think we are a poor match as trainer & client.
I am sorry you were not satisfied with your experience. I am offended by your email and I think you should pursue training elsewhere because we are clearly not communicating effectively with each other. You might mesh better with someone else.
I apologize and I wish you the best."
The purpose of this blog post was not to scare anybody out of hiring me (or anyone else for that matter!)! lol; although I'm sure I could have just done it :). What I am trying to do here is one, throw some education out there for the general consumer, and yes, to blow off a little steam for my personal peace of mind. I hate to put negativity out there, and could this be construed as negativity? Probably. But I feel like it is a topic that isn't discussed too much in the training world, and I wanted to throw it out there for discussion. Again, the moral of the story is that sometimes, two good people just don't match, and it is the responsibility of the dog owner - myself included - to be accountable in their choices, and do their homework, in and out of class.
As always, love it or hate it, thank you for reading, and if there is anything I can answer for you, or you just wanna let me have it, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again! Til next time.