Being a dog trainer is one of the most rewarding jobs ever! Being able to help people and their dogs to live long and happy lives together is the best feeling ever and it is especially lovely seeing dogs who had been told they couldn't be helped go on to live their lives without the stresses of reactivity. However, the dog world isn't always nice and people especially can make it very stressful and un-enjoyable.
Let me tell you a story...
We recently met a new client who had found us as part of the association we are members of and needed some help with their dog. We did our initial assessment and recommended one to one training, the dog is nervous but with clear direction does really well and the owner is very competent once we helped them to understand what they needed to do. This client was very happy with training with us and booked a few other sessions and even recommended us to a few other people which is great! We always want our clients to be happy with training with us so much so that they want to recommend us to others! Well this client called us up the other day to say before meeting us they had posted asking for recommendations on Facebook and had been contacted by another trainer in the area who they decided not to work with. After thanking people for recommendations and sharing that they had found a trainer they were really happy with, they were then contacted again by this trainer asking who they had gone with. The client shared who they had gone with and was then told by this trainer that we were awful people, abusive, had caused loads of dogs to be shut down and that this trainer was trying to fix those dogs now. After the client questioned the trainer, they were then met with what this client described as quite aggressive messages as the client stood up for us, chose to keep working with us and defended us and our training.
Now here's the thing, when it comes to caring for animals, everyone always has an opinion and everyone always thinks their opinion is right. Don't get me wrong, we all want the same thing which is for these animals to get the best care and life as possible, the issue comes when people can't except that there may be other ways that they don't agree with.
The dog world is FULL of these people. You have the people who think positive only training is the only way to train a dog, you have people who think punishment training is the best way and you have people like us, who try to stay aligned with the science and be the middle ground. We don't choose a training method and we don't name ourselves to be a particular type of trainers because we train in whatever way works best for the dog we are working with. We use positive reinforcement to help dogs to learn what we want to do and use lots of praise and reward to build up dogs confidence and we also aren't afraid to use correction and redirection when necessary to help a dog to learn what not to do. We also aren't afraid to use punishment when absolutely necessary to help keep dogs, people and other animals safe, but it's not often that we use punishment without having tried other methods first. The problem is, because we are open, honest and public with the fact that we don't use purely positive training, we are often subject to trolling and aggression from those who think that because we don't only use positive training that we simply abuse dogs.
Now we know this person, we know they don't like us and the training we do and this isn't the first time they've tried to turn people against us. There have been plenty of occasions where on social media they have been aggressive towards us, told others we are abusive and tried to make us look bad. That's fine if that's how they want to do things, we both know this person is doing what they think is the right thing for the dogs. This isn't about calling that person out and that person certainly isn't the first and won't be the last one to not like us and take an active role in talking badly about us and trying to get us to stop doing what we do. I could probably write a whole post on the people over the years that have trolled us, been aggressive, said awful things to us and about us and even tried to get other involved in trolling us or finding us. They are doing what they think is best, they're just doing it in the wrong way.
The reality of being a professional in an industry like this is that you will have people that disagree and take it to the extremes of becoming aggressive to you and the people you try and help to get their point across. It's not new to us, we have thick skin and our aim isn't to please people but to help dogs and that is what keeps us going. We aren't perfect at it, no one is and in an industry like this with science ever changing and each dog being completely different to the last, no one is ever done learning. However, being professional means taking the criticism and hate and becoming a better person in that industry despite it. I love learning, especially about dogs and how they learn and I love talking to other people and learning about other methods that can help dogs. We are both still young and have plenty more years to learn and grow more in our profession and we have some great mentor's and friends who have been and still are helping us through that journey.
There have been day's I have wanted to give up and find another job, something more normal with less hate. On those days, I remind myself of the dog's we've helped, the lives we've saved and I remind myself that that is why I do this job. People's opinions have never been changed when someone is being aggressive, all we can do as professionals is do our best to teach people the truth and hope that our work speaks for itself. Thankfully, ours does and despite the hate we sometimes get we have so many clients who stick up for us. People who's dogs have been failed, people who were told there was no hope, people who's dogs were wrongly sentenced to death.
There are some days I hate being a dog trainer, but there are a lot more days where I love it.
The saying goes 'In a world where you can be anything, be kind.' I hope that by modelling that behaviour as a professional and not being another dog trainer who just talks badly about those they disagree with, that one day others will follow suite.
Our dogs are our world, anyone who takes the time to get to know us will see that quite clearly. But I am also a strong believer that the truth is greatly important and it's why I write these blogs and do the work I do. People deserve to know the truth and we owe it to our dogs to do our very best to help them to learn in whatever way is best for them, regardless of our preferences. I won't apologise for sharing truth and I won't be scared off by those who don't want the truth to be shared.
We all want the same thing; for dogs to live the best life they can with their humans. So why not work together towards a greater cause rather than tear each other down?