In the world of Amazon and Grub Hub, it is easy to believe that everything happens with the click of a button and in the blink of an eye. When it comes to shopping and food delivery, it’s mostly true. These companies make our lives easy with their quick, drop-off services.
When it comes to learning a new skill, patience is the key to success. Patience in dog training plays a vital role in your career as a dog trainer.
It takes time to learn a new craft and even longer to master your skill. Training your own dog is a great start. Once you accomplish that, move on to work with different breeds, various temperaments, ages and dogs with different skill levels. I once read that a new dog trainer should train at least one hundred dogs to drastically improve their dog-handling practices. I agree with that statement. Each dog you work with, provides a different scenario. These varying situations get you thinking outside of the box and fixing problems.
Avoid comparing yourself to trainers who have worked in the field for years. Instead, follow their social media and learn from them. You may not agree with all of their techniques and that is fine. Walk away with the tips you do agree with. While following trainers is a great idea, don’t fall down rabbit holes where your day is consumed with reading blog posts and watching videos. Too much advice will frustrate and confuse you.
I currently follow two trainers. Sometimes that number increases to three or four, but no more. I can’t handle contradictory advice. It is just too much noise and it causes me stress.
There is a joke about dog trainers. It goes like this:
If you put ten dog trainers in a room, the only thing they can agree upon is that the other nine are wrong.
The longer I work in this field, the more I agree with that statement. Everyone has the same set of rules, but put their own spin on it. It’s maddening. While continued education is crucial, at some point you need to trust in yourself. Exercise your own knowledge.
Patience with yourself:
Your techniques may not work for all dogs. Some will thrive while others struggle. Often dogs just need more practice. You may discover that techniques you fully supported early on, are simply bad advice. That’s okay. It’s how we grow. There are plenty of processes I used when I first broke into the field, that I abandoned as gained more knowledge.
Limit your time on social media. Find groups that support the learning process and avoid groups where trainers attack one another. You will not gain any knowledge from nasty people. ISCDT runs a Facebook group called Dog Trainer Geeks. It is filled with positive people working in the field who support one another. Some of our group members are just learning the craft, while others are experienced trainers working for years. The ISCDT mentors drop in to add fun by playing games.
Another great way to build knowledge is seeking out dog-training apprentices. Take online and in-person courses. Attend seminars and sign up for shadow programs that allow you to work directly with a trainer. ISCDT provides both online courses and a shadow program at an affordable price.
There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for new dog trainers. Connect with local rescues groups and dog shelters. Work with dogs belonging to family, friends and neighbors. Everyone loves free dog training.
A huge step in growing as a dog trainer is trusting yourself and having patience with yourself.
If you are struggling, copy and past the above statement on the wall of your office or in your car as a reminder.
Patience with Clients:
There are times when keyboard warriors from different online dog-training groups got so nasty, I wanted to throw in the dog-training towel. Here are the facts: Some people are just jerks. Others are well meaning, they just lack tact and empathy. They have been working in this field so long that they forget what it is like to be the newcomer. They lack patience to explain the obvious – which in my opinion is not a good trait for a dog trainer.
When it comes to working with clients, we have to avoid being well-meaning, tactless dog trainers. Owners are learning a new skill set. They’re learning to adjust their body language and how to keep their emotions in check while working with their dog. While they love their dogs, they likely lack the passion to train them.
Clients are adapting to a new vocabulary, hand signals and leash handling skills. Often, they must abandon habits they’ve practiced for years, because these habits likely contributed to their dog issues. Sometimes trainers forget what it feels like to train a dog for the first time. When we lack patience with clients, it leads to frustration for all parties involved. When a client is turned off by a dog trainer, their dog misses out on an important education.
It can be frustrating when clients require numerous reminders on proper leash handling and issuing commands. It’s downright maddening when clients refuse to train their dog on a daily basis or implement a tool, such as having the dog drag a leash. Quite often, we find when the dog’s behavior improves, the humans become complacent in their training. This leads to old problems resurfacing.
We should not place blame the client. They hire us to help fix problems, not point fingers. Dog trainers must have patience with their human clients. No one wants to feel badly about themselves. They just lack the passion and skill that dog trainers possess. While the client does determine the level of success for their program, dog trainers must do what they can to empower their human clients.
Dedicate yourself to helping human clients move forward in their training by guiding them through difficult lessons.
Avoid grabbing the leash and doing the work for them. This practice leads to feelings of inadequacy and lowers the probability of success.
Patiently teach owners to train their own dogs. Explain how practice, time and repetition are essential for the dog to learn None of us are born dog trainers. A successful dog trainer is a good teacher. They demonstrate as much patience and compassion for their human clients as they do for their canine client. In the end, the dog relies on the human.
Patience with Dogs:
Dogs are as unique as people. They have their own learning style. Trainers from thirty and forty years ago were brutal toward dogs because they didn’t know better. The extensive education available to people now help us to know better. To train more effectively. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to harm a dog.
Some dogs learn quickly and others take time. Commands broken down into smaller pieces and more practice help dogs succeed.
Recently we had a client with a five-month old dog. We taught the dog sit-implied stay during the first lesson. At home, the owner could cross the entire room and back without the dog moving. Three days after the lesson, the client decided to show off the dog’s new skill during an outdoor party. Naturally the dog failed and the owner expressed frustration during our second lesson.
We didn’t point fingers or outline the unrealistic expectations. Instead, we explained the four stages of canine learning to him. We also explained that dog training takes time. Providing the client with a training schedule helped achieve his goals. Within a few weeks, his dog generalized the behavior and was able to remain seated in different environments.
No one learns to perfect anything new overnight. Pushing too fast or too hard leads to frustration, burn out and failure. Not only in dogs, but with humans too.
Tips to lower stress
If you struggle with patience or feel overwhelmed with the craft, we invite you to check out a website called Mindful. The site explains how to meditate and even provides free meditation practices for beginners. Meditation isn’t your thing? Check out ten different breathing techniques that help reduce stress with Healthline.
Until next time…keep up the great work in discovering your passion. Sprinkle in some patience.
ISCDT’s online program consists of 18 hands-on lessons, where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to your personal ISCDT mentor. Students are also responsible for written homework assignments. In addition to the online program, we also offer one-and-two-week in-person shadow programs. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com