At some point in a dog trainer’s career, they are going to get approached by a rescue asking to work with them for a discount. How do you decide if this is a wise decision?
Are You Willing?
This is the often the hardest decision. Are you willing to discount your prices, possibly drastically, to assist a rescue with their fosters and adopters? This is a personal decision that nobody can make for you. Is it going to impact the time you can spend with full-cost clients? Are you going to offer to help a limited number of hours/fosters a week? Are you going to offer a discounted rate not only to current fosters that the rescue is paying for, but also adopters from that rescue?
Is It A Reputable Rescue?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of rescues in every big city. How do you determine which ones you are willing to attach your name to? As a modern dog trainer, you are probably passionate about using only force-free methods. Does your potential rescue affiliate feel the same way, or will they be alternating between you and a more aversive trainer? That can be confusing for both the dogs and the fosters trying to work with them, so you need to decide if it’s worth laying out restrictions that dogs you work with can ONLY work with you. Or decide if you want to skip that rescue entirely if they are not willing to commit to force-free training.
Are You Confident Referring To Other Trainers?
There are a great many dogs out there with serious issues – aggression to dogs/people/small furry animals, resource guarding, separation anxiety, etc. If you do not have enough experience to safely and effectively work with these animals, are you confident in admitting that? And do you have the trainer connections to be able to refer the rescue to another trainer that can work with those issues?
Can You Handle The Emotional Baggage?
Rescues have limited resources. Because of this, they may not have the money or dedicated fosters required to work through some longer-term issues like reactivity or separation anxiety. This means the dogs may get shuffled to another rescue (and possibly a harsher trainer), or they may get euthanized. Are you going to be able to handle knowing that a dog you worked with got euthanized because you couldn’t “fix” it in the allotted time frame?
Choosing to work with a rescue is a big commitment. However, if you can find a good rescue, you may find that your clientele increases, offsetting your reduced rate, because they recommend you to their adopters. You’ll have the pleasure of watching foster homes learn how to train humanely, and see dogs with less than perfect prior lives come out of their shells or learn to stay home alone or walk nicely on leash. You’ll have great satisfaction when you see one of the dogs you worked with get into an amazing home, and you know that you helped with that. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, but it can be immensely fulfilling.
What tips do you have for working with rescues?