The relationship between dog owner and dog trainer must be a two-way street. No detours, road closures or dead ends.
As a trainer, providing both group classes and private, in home and remote location options, I MUST be in the loop while training progresses.
On the back of my clicker, which every, single client receives, is my phone number.
Every client, without exception, is not only encouraged, but honestly... Obligated to communicate with me, should they need any support while training plans are moving forward.
In each and every session, I reiterate that I AM HERE WHETHER I'M WORKING WITH YOU IN YOUR HOME OR NOT. I spend a vast amount of time, counseling clients, tweaking plans and sometimes even offering no charge ' stop by' visits in between my other sessions.
Getting to the point of hiring a trainer / behavior specialist, can be an exhausting and emotional road for an owner. Oftentimes, owners have already hired other trainers, had bad experiences, spent too much money and shed a lot of tears before I ever get the call. This can be a tough situation for me too. A discouraged owner whose bank account is now limited and stakes are higher, and quite often whose dog or dogs are much more dangerous.... has me sometimes feeling obligated to financially compensate for previous trainers incompetentcies.
Trainers do not carry magic wands. Clickers are not remote controls. We work hard, in dangerous situations, changing plans in the middle of already established criteria to keep the dogs moving forward and their owners seeing progress.
What owners should expect from their trainer -
-Professionalism education, CREDENTIALS, experience, kindness to both their dog and themselves, a willingness to communicate in between sessions so that the trainer can provide support and possible homework changes... And yes, this support is often 7 days a week, 12 plus hours a day.
-Notice, should something go wrong with the schedule and a time change be required.
- A willingness to make adjustments based on a client's needs.
-Compassion. This one speaks for itself. It is not easy for an owner to live with a reactive dog or one with challenges requiring the help of a professional.
What their trainer should expect -
-Communication in between sessions, should a change in plan be required so that the next session begins with the proper criteria.
-Some understanding that driving from location to location throughout the day may require some time changes based on traffic and other unpredictable challenges associated with traveling from one place to another. I have a window of 15 minutes on either side of every appointment, written into my signed registration form... To account for circumstances beyond my control, i.e. traffic. Even with this potential window, I still have my administrator call if I'm going to be any more than 3 minutes late or early.
-SAFETY. Safety protocols are given to all clients to sign for a reason. When a trainer determines that a dog requires a muzzle, a leash or a barrier, those requirements must be adhered to. Very understandably, many owners suffer from love blindness. No one wants to think that their dog would bite someone. I completely understand that. Once body language is assessed, a safety protocol is put into place, if one has not already been determined based on the clients description of their case and bite history.
If a trainer comes into your home and tells you that they have been bitten multiple times, escort that trainer back out of your house. You do not want a trainer that takes that many chances. If I determine that your dog's leash must be held, I have a very good reason for doing so. My preference of course, would be to see your dog in as relaxed a state as possible. Leashes and muzzles, even when muzzle desensitization plans have been adhered to, do not always set the dog up for relaxation. They do however mitigate risk and they do not set the dog up for failure. If I had a nickel for every couch I've dived over, closet I have buried myself in, and situation I have managed to escape, I would be a very wealthy woman. This is not due to lack of safety protocols. This is due to owner error. Very rarely, is it due to owner miscalculation.
My job is extremely dangerous. 7 out of 10 cases that I see in private training are dogs with a bite history. For the record, I have been bitten ONCE in over 2 decades as a dog trainer. I see on average 4+ private training clients per day. This does not include our Reactive Rover classes. With a total of approx. 1000 dogs/year, safety protocols are paramount.
You see, training is a collaborative effort. I do not offer "board and train" for a reason. Training MUST include the owner in each and every session and communication between those sessions. Particularly when dealing with challenges such as dog, dog/dog or dog/human reactivity.
It is 100% a team effort between trainer and owner to ensure a dog's success.