Why Being A Dog Trainer is the Best Job In the World

Consider this a rebuttal to a blog I've seen floating around the past few days touting all the reasons why being a dog trainer sucks.  No, actually it lists all the reasons being a dog trainer F&*$ING sucks!  Now, to be fair, I suspect I'm coming from a completely different perspective than the writers of this particular blog, and I also realize much of it was written to shock and/or be funny.  And it is, sort of, but then it gets sad.  And that's why I was inspired to write another view.  As evident in previous blogs they've penned, that's their writing style.  However, though I could very well be way off base, to me the authors come across as being fairly young (under 30), relatively new to training (less than 10 years), and definitey with no prior teaching experience, specifically experience educating adult learners. In contrast, I'm in my 50's, have been a dog trainer for 30+ years, and most significantly, have worked in a variety of other fields besides dog training, including teaching both children and adults. I point this out because I've worked enough jobs and in enough fileds to know that no job is always sunshine and daffodils.  Every ocupation has its good and its bad points.  Most of the reasons cited as why dog training sucks could be said for most other occupations dealing with the general public, especially in a service capacity.  Being a dog trainer really isn't that unique, and success and longevity in this field is dependent upon several key factors: 1) the ability to compartmentalize, 2) actually liking and having the desire to help people, and 3) not allowing yourself to become complacent.

I am fortunate to own my own dog training facility in which we offer a variety of classes from beginning basic manners and obedience through competition level dog sports (obedience, rally and agility), as well as therapy dog training.  What this means is, if I am successful, it is very possible (and highly desirable) that I cultivate a long lasting relationship with as many students and clients as I can.  This is not to say that there aren't the occasional people who do "6 weeks and done" and I'm perfectly fine never seeing again, but those are definitely the exception and not the rule.  Currently, I have a good number of students who have been training with me for 3, 4, 5+ years!  There would be no way I could keep these relationships going if I didn't like people, or specifically, if I didn't like them.  And honestly, at this point, even though they are still paying for services, I consider these folks much more than just clients.  They are my friends.  We are each others' support systems.  We cheer each other on, we celebrate each others' successes, and we commiserate and comfort each other through failure, illness and heartache.  And not only do I take pleasure in the genuine friendships and relationships I've formed with them, I'm even happier about my hand in helping cultivate relationships they've formed with each other.  In fact, one day I'm going to create a "Six Degrees of Pup 'N Iron" game which challenges the player to connect two random people together via my trainng facility!  These relationships have grown out of my genuine and very strong desire to help people achieve success with their dogs and create bonds with them that will last a lifetime.  If I am successful at this, I know these dogs will have forever homes with these people.  I can think of no better way to "give back" and really help dogs.  And hold on, before you dub me "the Mother Theresa of dogs," let me admit to this being in part a little self serving.  Firstly, being able to influence and guide others is a very powerful and intoxicating position.  Why do you think so many control freaks end up being dog trainers?  We are not referred to as "alpha bitches" by accident!  But more importantly for me, the validation and gratification I receive when my clients and students are successful is nothing short of a high.  There's nothing quite like a former student or client running into you, often years later, declaring how much you helped her with her dog, or thanking you for making her (often deceased) dog become the best dog she's ever had.  She cries, you cry, you hug each other.  It can turn into a downright embarrassing, blubbery sloppy love fest, and I just can't get enough of it.  It's like crack, which I've never had, but you get the picture.

And after all these years, call me crazy, but I still love dogs.  My mother tells me that when I was just a toddler, if I spotted a dog walking by or in the park or wherever, my gaze would remain transfixed on that dog until it faded far into the distance.  Well, I'm still that person. Just a few weeks ago I was in an Amtrak station and had an hour wait before my train was to leave.  Thankfully a scent detection dog was brought into the waiting area, just hanging out with his handler while he chatted with coworkers. While everyone else had their eyes plastered to their cell phones and tablets, guess how I entertained myself?  I watched the dog, just standing there, really doing nothing, observing his interactions with his handler, the co-workers, his body language, etc, etc.  Next thing I knew, the announcer was calling us to board!  I also still love the science of dog training, and yes, that's what dog training is to me, a science.  I attend conferences, seminars and workshops regularly and often, and make sure to keep an ever growing collection of new books covering a variety of dog training topics in my personal library.  Just like any profession, you can't become complacent and have to stay on top of your game so you don't get burned out and start questioning why you are still in it.  Just like an athlete, you have to keep working to build that teaching/training muscle and keep it in tip top shape.  This isn't going to "just happen," you have to work at it, you have to seek out opportunities to continue learning and growing.  If you don't, that training muscle will atrophy.

I hope up until now I haven't come across as arrogant, because from this point on, that's about to go out the window.  I'm friends with quite a lot of other trainers.  Granted, most are not super close friends, more like cordial acquaintances and colleagues with mutual respect, and most also don't live close enough to be considered my competition.  However if they did, I honestly wouldn't let that preclude us from being closer friends if we genuinely liked each other.  Why?  Because quite frankly, I think I'm the best and am not really worried about anyone "stealing" my clients.  For one, just like a man, if a client can be stolen, they weren't really mine to begin with.  And two, there is no other me, and no one is going to be able to duplicate who I am and exactly what I do.  One of the other jobs I previously held was as a group exercise instructor.  During the 90's and early 2000's I taught step aerobics, spinning/cycling and yoga classes, yep, leg warmers, thong leotards and all!  My classes were always packed.  In fact, because of the limited number of bikes, there were waiting lists to get into my spinning classes.  What did I have that the other instructors didn't?  Me.  Those people flocked to my classes because it was me teaching, and not just because they were going to get a great workout, or that I had great music and the best choreography, all of which was true, but mainly it was because of how I made them "feel."  There's no name for that, and that's not something you can learn.  It's a passion and love for what you do and it's contagious.  Everyone wants it or to be near it.  So no matter what I've taught through the years I've always brought that along with me.  You think you can do that better than me?  Bring it.  I love a challenge.

I'm not trapped in this profession, quite the contrary.  I'm actually trained and prepared to work in several different professions and in several other fields and would have no problem getting another job.  But leaving dog training and doing something else is the farthest thing from my mind, and when I do stop it will be because I am no longer physically able to. This is my life's work and I can think of nothing else I'd rather do.  So I really do hope those who giggled along and maybe even identified with some of the points made in that "being a dog trainer F*&^ING sucks" blog don't really feel that way deep down inside, but for those who do, for the love of God, do yourself, your clients and the dogs you come in contact with a huge favor and get out now before you become even more bitter and resentful.  This profession is certainly not for everyone, life is too short to feel this way, and it might actually do you some good to try some other fields so you'd at least have some means of comparison.  I can tell you this, there aren't many jobs for which without a college degree, if you are really great at it, you can basically set your own hours and prices, pick and choose your clients and never have to answer to any one else again.  Sorry, but that doesn't suck at all.

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