When I first started my business, my clientele for the most part were friends and friends of friends from dog agility. I was a competitor, that was my world, and those were my people.
It was awesome because we all shared the same philosophy for the most part; make training fun and purposeful, build a healthy relationship, no corrections, and encourage a thinking dog that knows how to offer behaviors. For those of you that don’t compete in agility, it will suffice to say that a thinking dog is able to CYA (cover your ass) when you make a handling error, or two, or three. Yes it’s true, people make mistakes and our dogs don’t freak out about it, we need to learn from this! It’s true team work, trust on both ends of the leash, and a dance of sorts when it all comes together.
My strength at the time, and why my friends trusted me with their dogs, was being able to add balance to a high energy dog, one with opinions and fire in the belly, without crushing their enthusiasm for dog sports. They were my cup of tea!
As my business grew so did my skills to those outside of the competition world, new services, new certifications, lots more in depth knowledge of applied behavior and conditioning. I started working with people who didn’t know me, but had heard of me. Word of mouth was powerful, but there didn’t seem to be consistency on what these words were.
Some fit right in when they entered my classes, some were put off, some inquisitive, and some over joyed. I couldn’t put my finger on what they were hearing, but it taught me how to work with a wide variety of personalities, and I developed skills in new and unexpected areas.
And my business continued to grow.
Every once in awhile though, I would receive a call from a potential client that wanted to know more about my training style. I was happy to answer these questions, and have learned how cool this is!
So here is a list of questions that I am most commonly asked. I think they are good and valid questions for a professional trainer to answer. It would be irresponsible for me to say any trainer as I believe there are some seriously misinformed and sometimes abusive people calling themselves trainers, or even worse, self taught experts. Word of mouth is great, but so is knowing who will be working with you and your puppy/dog.
- What method of training do you offer and/or use? Please be specific. For example, my answer is positive reinforcement, reward based training. If you receive catch phrases such as natural, fun yet effective, our secret method, etc, please hang up and move on. A professional trainer will tell you up front what they do, in detail, without masking it.
- Do you use special collars or gear on the dogs? Please explain. For example, I recommend that all of our puppy people buy a harness so we have no tension on the neck, it isn’t a requirement but a recommendation. If a trainer is not willing to tell you what they use, or states that they will supply their special collar when you arrive, move on. If they can’t be honest with you over the phone, they won’t be honest with you during class.
- What age puppies or dogs do you work with?
- Can I come and observe part of a class? A trainer with nothing to hide will say yes. This will give you an idea of how a class is managed, what a class might feel like (although the dynamics from class to class are so different depending on the chemistry of the people and dogs), and the training methods used. Most importantly you can see if the dogs and people are enjoying the work, uber important!
- Do you have any videos on line I can see? Many trainers don’t have this, but if they do it’s a bonus in my opinion. Watch how they interact with a variety of people and dogs. Does their method gel with what you are looking for?
- Do you have a website? Most trainers do, some don’t. Again this is helpful to browse through at your leisure and gather more information.
- Is your business on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? If so, and again not all trainers do this, go and check it out, it’s public. What are the saying, and promoting. What are others saying and doing on their site/s?
I am grateful to every person and dog that has allowed me to be part of their experience.
You are your dogs voice in the human word and their advocate. Make educated choices when it comes to their education and socialization. Your dog deserves your efforts…