There are many dog trainers in this world. Some are amazing, some are so-so, and let’s be honest, some are downright dodgy. As a modern dog trainer, what are some traits you should possess to be considered a great dog trainer?
Patience is indeed a virtue, is it not? Especially when dealing with clients and their dogs. Maintaining your patience is key to helping clients learn without feeling like you are getting annoyed with them. They didn’t understand your directions the first three times? No problem, you’re willing to explain it again because you are patient and you understand that people and dogs learn at different rates.
2. Sense of Humor
Maybe this should have been number one? On those days where it feels as though everything is going wrong and like the dogs are out to make you feel like a failure of a dog trainer, keep that sense of humor. Learn to keep it light-hearted. If you get frustrated, nobody benefits.
Dog trainers all have their standard ways of teaching tasks. What happens when the dog or client just isn’t getting it though? You get creative! You use butt scratches (for the dog, not the client!) as rewards. You completely revamp the environment so the dog can succeed. You use interpretive dance to explain a technique to a client. In short, you get creative to get things done!
Not necessarily physical flexibility (though let’s be honest, when an untrained mastiff is launching himself cheerfully at your head to say hello, some gymnastic skills can come in handy!), but more mental flexibility. Sometimes you will get a client that just does not want to do something the way you want them to do it. Not out of lack of understanding, but just because they don’t want to. Be flexible. Pick and choose your battles and work around your client’s desires.
Have some faith in yourself! So often, dog trainers downplay their skills and training. I would bet that your clients think you are fantastic. I would bet that your fellow trainers think you are fantastic. You’ve put a lot of work into your training skills and business, so be confident about talking yourself up.
On the flip side, keep it humble. Don’t be a braggart. But mainly, do not take on clients that are over your head. There is no shame in saying, “you know, I’m not qualified to help you, but let me recommend you contact so and so!” People respect that. And honestly, it will keep you, your clients, and their dogs safer.
7. Open Mind
You can learn a lot from other trainers, even those who do things differently than you do, or even those who use techniques you’d never use (or will no longer use, if you are a crossover trainer). You can learn something from everybody if you just keep an open mind.
Tact can be difficult. But you need to keep that internal filter on your mouth working. Blurting out, “you’re an abusive person for using a collar like that!” will not gain you any clients, nor will it help change any minds. Try instead, “I used to use those collars, too. They certainly do work, but do you know about the potential issues that can arise from their use?” Remain non-judgmental and be careful in your wording. That old adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar is true.
9. Tolerance for Being Dirty
If you are a neat freak, you may be in the wrong field. Between dirty paws, slobber, dog hair, and residue from stinky treats being wiped on your pants, you don’t have a dream of staying clean!
10. Hoarder of Dog Equipment
Perhaps this is just much-needed justification for never getting rid of anything, but sometimes it can really come in handy! Having equipment on hand (different types of no-pull harnesses, head collars, flat collars, martingales, muzzles, etc) to show as examples to clients can help make things clearer for them. Also, since all dogs are shaped differently, sometimes one type of equipment will fit better than another. One size does NOT fit all when it comes to dog equipment.
So what qualities do you think great dog trainers should possess?
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