Here is a dog trainer lesson for you. In doing dog training for 30 years, some things are obvious, but can be taken for granted, causing problems. I’m sure you will agree that it just makes good business sense to be sure you do your part towards helping your client resolve their dog problem.
What do I mean by that?
You should go into each and every dog training lesson with a positive mental attitude about the dog owner and their dog.
We both know there will be challenges with both to overcome, especially with the owner.
I have learned over my almost 30 years, that owners have certain expectations.
I have also learned these expectations might not and probably will not always be realistic when it comes to fixing their dog behavior problems.
Bear in mind that your client and their concerns about their dog should always come first. The last thing you want is a disgruntled owner that is dissatisfied with your efforts.
That’s why you must make sure you do your part on paper and in what you do on each and every dog training lesson.
I want to share with you what I do with each dog training lesson. This can help you make sure you are doing everything on your part and not have to learn the hard way.
First the challenges
I mentioned that there will be challenges with owners and their dogs. Here are just some of the challenges I’ve mentioned before and you’ve probably heard them too:
- The dog problem relates only to their dog (something is wrong with their dog.)
- You will straighten out the dog and the problem for them.
- The behavior modification program will center on their dog’s behavior.
- Older dog owners are simply not able to physically handle their powerful dog
As unrealistic as these may seem, these owner expectations are very real in their minds and you must be prepared to handle these challenges.
It’s all part of working with people and helping them be as successful as possible.
In other words you will have to deal with these unrealistic expectations sooner or later.
Realize it will take consideration, thoughtfulness and a sincere desire to want to motivate the owner, your client, towards a humane solution to their problem.
You will find that many owners believe it’s actually the dog’s problem – not theirs. A good example of that would be how insecurities in an older dog that has now created a house soiling issue.
Many times the owner never understands how house soiling could possibly be connected to their constant doting on their dog. That is part of what builds their unrealistic expectations. It can be a challenge.
If gone unchanged, a dog owner’s interactions with their dog will perpetuate the very behavior about which they complain.
Covering your bases
Making sure I do my job always begins with the phone evaluation where we generally explain how my dog training program is set up. We don’t do in-home evaluations – never have, never would. That’s a discussion for another time.
We explain that The Program is set up in a series of step-by-step lessons. It outlines exactly what they have to do each and every day so that each lesson builds on the previous lessons helping them to reach their goal.
During the first lesson I reiterate exactly what they need to do. I physically show them how to do it. I critique how they do it as I observe how they train their dog and work on the problems of concern.
At a point during the first lesson I also mention the importance of daily progress and weekly reporting to me via email with questions if needed.
I end the first lesson by reviewing what we did during the lesson and leaving a written lesson plan specifically for them with related addendums as needed.
Follow up is important
The next day I send an email to my client summarizing steps to do which include sending progress reports to me and encouraging them to ask questions that may come up along the way. A gentle reminder of what I went over in the first lesson.
At times, work or personal related things that tend to hamper progress, do come up with a dog owner
You really do not want to get to the second lesson after not receiving any updates only to find that no progress at all has been made— it happens.
You may find that one or both of the owners have been out of town on business or worse they just didn’t do the work.
Sometimes owners decide to pick and choose what they feel comfortable doing and leave the most important work undone.
For example, if they have a jumping problem, they may choose to do obedience training on sit but fail to invite people over to do daily set-ups at the front door.
Your job is to develop creative alternatives for them to make it easier for them to succeed in resolving their dog behavior problem.
Some do, some don’t
Some dog owners pay you and do the homework, dog problem resolved. Others pay you and don’t do the homework then complain that the program didn’t work or that you didn’t fix their dog problem and want a refund.
This brings up my entire point: Make sure you do your part.
Do the best you can. Show up 5-10 minutes early and be prepared to stay a little over the hour showing genuine concern in helping them resolve their dog problem.
You will come across clients now and again that simply won’t do the work. These are the folks that potentially will complain. They are the ones that cannot or will not connect the problem with them. They will think it’s just a dog problem and don’t want to go to the trouble to do what it takes to create daily set ups to work on their dog problem.
These are the same dog owners that will reserve time on your calendar, cancel at the last minute not giving you time to rebook that billable hour. Contracts are important. Time is money. Make sure you do your part.
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 10000+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability and the experience of mentoring and teaching dog trainers how to excel and grow their dog training talents and their business