Trusting New Clients: Things Are Not Always As They Seem

Trusting New Clients: Things Are Not Always As They Seem

trusting new dog training clients

It is a story often told among dog trainers. It goes something like this:

A prospective client calls and says that another dog trainer – sometimes multiple dog trainers – could not help their dog or said their dog was beyond help. We take the case and find that the dog is indeed help-able. In fact, we do wonders with the dog in a short period of time, and we are perplexed and discouraged that the other trainer (or trainers) almost destroyed the client’s hope for their pet, when in fact the case really was not that difficult.

Recommended Reading: The Importance of Asking the Right Questions to New Dog Training Clients

When we take such cases and succeed in helping a dog, there is a part of us that feels superior – that other trainers in our area are not as capable as we are. Frankly, it feels kind of good, and we can’t wait to herald the news to our other colleagues so that they can be wary of the incompetent, unhelpful trainers who nearly destroyed some pup’s life.

All is well that ends well, right? The dog received the help it needed. The client is happy. We feel more confident than ever. But there often is another side to such stories.

Taking Client’s Comments With A Grain Of Salt

Perhaps the client was indeed telling the truth about the other trainer(s). But stories about multiple trainers failing cause me to be suspicious of the client – especially if my impression is that the dog’s problems are easily remedied.

We need to consider that clients may not always be truthful. They are human (like us), and sometimes they are not above behaving in a way that gets them what they want or makes them feel good (like their dogs).

A case in point: I recently was approached by a prospective client who told me that one of my most trusted colleagues and referral partners had recommended my board-and-train program. According to this client, my colleague thought it would be a better option for this particular dog than her own group class.

When I called my colleague to thank her, I learned the prospective client was lying. In fact, my colleague had this client on the roster for an upcoming, limited-size group class and had no idea the client was still shopping around for trainers.

When questioned about the situation, the prospective client began back-pedaling and telling me more lies to extricate herself from the first one. I decided not to accept this person as a client. If she was willing to blatantly lie to me (she could have just said they would rather do a board-and-train program), then what would she have been capable of unjustly saying about ME? It just didn’t seem worth the risk.

Digging For The Truth

As a rule, when a potential client tells me they have worked with one or more trainers, I require them to tell me who the trainers were, what steps were taken to solve a dog’s behavior issues, and how the dog responded to those steps. (And if I personally know one or more of the trainers mentioned, I might call them to better understand their experience with the client and dog.) If the prospective client is not willing to be forthcoming with such information – or if the information they provide throws up red flags about their own credibility or willingness to follow through with a trainer’s advice – I am better off without them.

Give Colleagues The Benefit Of The Doubt

Professionally speaking, I think it is a bad idea to give credence to unverified testimony against colleagues. Doing so risks us forming (or worse, spreading) false conclusions about them, and it potentially burdens us with deceitful or non-compliant clients. There are two sides to every story, and if we are to make a judgement about the credibility of a prospective client or the professionalism of a colleague, it is only right to get all the pertinent details and understand both sides of the story.

My mission as a professional dog trainer is helping dogs, but sometimes owners need help too. And sometimes helping an owner is showing them that some behaviors are rewarding, whereas others are not.

Have you ever had a similar experience?

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