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Things I wish I knew before becoming a dog trainer

06/02/2024 - About what I do

There has been a HUGE explosion in people training to be dog trainers over the past few years.

I get it. There are a lot of people who love dogs and want to help. But, believe me, it's not all about playing with puppies! If you want to find out more about choosing a professional to help you, click here for another of my blogs.

When we moved to Cornwall I set up some agility training. We had the field and the equipment so it was a no brainer for me and it was simply a small sideline to the businesses we had at the time.

However, it was when Stan redirected at me when he got frightened by a dog that set me on a path to discover why. The advice I received at the time was not good enough for me. I felt I was just shouting him down which was not something that I felt comfortable with.

I set to, educating myself, not even thinking that this would become my job.

And here's a few of the things I learnt on the way and why these things are important to my clients.

Learn to question

When I did my first training courses it was a very different world with very few qualified trainers in Cornwall.

How things change!

All the training that I did was in person and I travelled miles and spent thousands on trips to the South East and the Midlands.  I honestly believe that made me a much better trainer because I was able to work in a practical way with either my own dog or a borrowed dog and learnt how it feels to learn with my dog. 

I asked questions. Hundreds of them. I remember on my first training course asking so many questions I was probably being quite annoying ... but that's just me!  You only know what you know, and over the years of asking questions, hearing different opinions and evidence, I have learnt to be discerning about everything I hear and see.

We always say to our clients don't believe everything on Google or Wikepedia, or the TV programme, or the TikTokker.  But more than that, learning to be a dog trainer can be a bit of a minefield with different opinions and methods. Even if the dog training course that you have just attended has said this is right, learn to research and question.

And what I learnt was not to bring those skills to my clients until I have. That means you know you are getting the best.

Be prepared to spend most of your time outside … and dress accordingly

I have spent so many days where I have started in waterproofs and wellies and ended up with sandals and sunscreen. There is a reason that Cornwall is so green, and it is mainly to do with the rain, mizzle, drizzle, fog and any other wet stuff that comes from the sky.

Some trainers work in halls and vets, and I have tried that, but it was not for me.

So, outside it was for many years, day after day. At one point I was running around 16 classes a week. I never planned to be spending full days on my feet and out in all weathers, and I did it for some considerable time, until I decided to change the picture of what I do.

I still do lots of work outside, but also home visits and online training. I spend more time sitting at my desk writing and enjoying looking at the weather from behind double glazing.

So take note if being a dog trainer is your dream, the core of dog trainers train outside in all weather, and think about whether that outdoor life is for you.

From a client perspective, I train where I am needed. Sometimes that is in your home, sometimes you come to me, and sometimes we meet somewhere that is appropriate to move your training on.

Your network is your lifeline

Oh my gosh, I can’t stress this enough. Having a network of people that you can refer to, chat to, rage to and generally sort out the world with will be the saving of you.

When I first started out I didn’t have this. I didn’t have anyone who could mentor me or help me. I didn’t have anyone local I could lean on. The internet was around (I am not that old!) but online training and help was not available in the same way that it is now.

Dog training is often a very lonely life, and there is a lot of help online now which is amazing, but nothing beats the person down the road who you know you can refer and trust because you don’t do classes, and vice versa.

And the benefit to my clients is that network gives options for referring and working alongside to the benefit of all.

Find your balance and set your boundaries

I always say that this is a business for me. That’s my background, and as much as I love dogs and what I do, in the end I need to earn money as the main breadwinner in the house.

As the years have gone on, my boundaries between work and home have become clearer. I know when I want to work and how I want to work.

If you don’t set those boundaries you will be answering emails on your days off, checking your social media at midnight, and answering calls on your holidays.

All that is made clear to clients when they book in. It’s good for everyone so I can take a break and they know where they stand. They know if they send me an email on a Sunday they may not get a reply, and that's okay.