When people consider a career as a professional dog trainer, usually the last thing that comes to mind is interacting with people. More often than not, public perception is that dog trainers get to hang out and play with puppies all day. A lot more goes into the job title than that. Sure, dog trainers get to work with man’s best friend everyday but the dogs we work with don’t just show up on our door step with a check attached to them and a note that reads, “train me”. As nice as that would be, it is unfortunately never going to happen. Every dog that is trained has an owner on the other end of the leash, and it’s THEIR needs that must be met. Therefore, having the ability to effectively work with clients and their furry companions is a skill-set every prospective dog trainer must master. You are significantly less likely to be bitten by a client than you are their dog, I promise!
The School for Dog Trainers at Highland Canine Training, LLC believes in setting our students up for real-world success. A student could leave our school knowing every detail there is to know about training a dog, but without the ability to pass that information along to a future client, have we really set them up for success? Teaching a client how to work with their dog can be stressful if never done before, but it’s something we, as dog trainers, must do. Whether you are meeting with a client for weekly lessons or teaching a family how to work with their dog after boarding with you for several weeks, client relations is crucial to a successful career. This is why our courses are littered with opportunities to build confidence in interacting with clients, and one experience we find to be extremely helpful is shadowing our trainers during a private lesson.
Highland Canine Training LLC is a fully operational dog training facility, and our trainers are constantly working with in-kennel dogs and regularly have on-site private lessons. Students get to see how an established professional dog trainer interacts with a client and their pet. They get to ask questions and make mistakes in a controlled learning environment. We find this creates an excellent, pressure free, learning experience. One of the biggest fears a rookie dog trainer has is, “what if I mess up??”. Messing up is part of the learning process, and we encourage it while our students are with us. Working side-by-side with an experienced trainer allows students to learn from someone else’s mistakes and grow from their own. In most other trades an apprentice works with a veteran for a period in order to gain experience instead of being thrown into it alone. Why would dog training be any different? By watching trainers that have been doing it for years, students can begin building their own “tool box” of training knowledge. Students get to see the conversations that are difficult to have. They can gather tips and tricks to be used at a later date. They get to witness first hand the impact getting an unruly dog under control has on a family. They get to see what works for certain dogs but not for others. Dog training is not an exact science so assembling a well-rounded “tool-box” is essential to being successful in a variety of circumstances. Here at the School for Dog Trainers, we provide Students with the opportunity to gather all this experience with none of the risk.
There is one story in particular that stands out when I think of the value of students shadowing private lessons. We received a call from an older couple, in which they stated they had a Cocker Spaniel they were having some difficulty with. The dog would steal napkins, paper towels, etc. and would try to bite the husband anytime he would try to take them away from the dog. In addition, anytime the dog didn’t want to do something, he would get extremely aggressive and someone was getting bitten. The couple was backed into a corner and didn’t know what else to do with their dog. We were their last call. After assessing and working with the dog at our training facility, our head trainer and a handful of students made a trip to the couple’s home. The first few sessions consisted of teaching the couple how to correct these problem behaviors and additional positive behaviors that they could work on over the course of the following week. Each week that the students had returned to their home, the husband had gone above and beyond working on the assigned behaviors. Until finally on the fourth week our head trainer decided that it was not necessary for the group to return the following week; they had everything under control. You could tell that this couple loved this dog dearly and just needed help with solving their problem. Our students got to witness this process from beginning to end. The dog changed from biting the owners over napkins to obediently laying in a down-stay off leash while the couple gardened in the back yard. This is just one of the many learning experiences the School for Dog Trainers at Highland Canine Training, LLC has to offer.