When I started my dog training business and I found myself just on the other side of the line between being a pet dog parent and a professional dog trainer. While it can seem like a subtle transition between the casual pet owner interested in training to being the professional, I think it is important for people on both sides of the line to understand the other a bit better.
For the Pet Dog Parents
For those people with pet dogs in their homes, you may be like I was and really enjoy teaching your dog new and fun skills on a regular basis! I remember creating obstacle courses in my back yard with makeshift hurdles and pause tables and running around like my dog was on a real agility course!
I also remember that as much fun as I was having, I was terrified to go to a “real” agility club or training facility because I was afraid that I would be the only one who’s dog didn’t really know how to do agility. I was also afraid because my dog was really aggressive towards other people.
For the pet dog people who want to do a little more than just goof around in your back yard or your living room, my best advice for you is to just “Go For It!” Even if you end up in a place where you and your dog know the least out of everyone around you, just think how lucky you are to be surrounded by people that you can learn from!
Every single person, in any profession, hobby, sport, or other skill set started out as a beginner. Every professional or competitive dog person started out as a novice or an enthusiastic pet person. The biggest difference was that they decided to take the dive and make that first step into a whole new world of dog training, and they never looked back.
I’ll talk a little more about getting more involved in dog training later, but first let’s talk to the professionals for a moment.
For the Professional and Competitive Dog People
As a canine professional or successful competitor, it is easy to forget where we started. As I have been getting involved in increasingly more competitive levels of training disciplines, it feels as though some people treat these sports as secret clubs that don’t want outsiders to be allowed in.
Healthy competition is excellent in any type of activity, sport, or profession as it pushes even the best the become better and can be motivation for those just getting started to strive for excellence. Some side effects of competition however can be the discouragement of those who are just starting out.
I have been thankful to find professionals at the tops of their fields who are among those who encourage the “beginners” to get more involved, and are willing to answer even the most benign of questions.
I have also had the displeasure of encountering those among the best in their fields that will make someone who is new in the field feel as though they don’t belong, and to those people I want to say shame on you.
As a canine professional and participant in many of the dog sports and competitive activities, it benefits everyone in the field to increase participation in all of the areas of canine sports and competition. The most participation means more funding for which ever sport you are participating in, which means more resources, events, and competitors for you to compete against.
How Do We Bridge The Gap?
It takes actions on both sides to truly bridge the gap between the enthusiast and the professional.
I’ll start with the role of the professionals in this process, as this is where I place myself and the trainers I hire. At The Airborne K9 Dog Training and Behavior Center, we make it a point to offer every client that walks through the doors that opportunity to participate in introductory training to any type of training that they are interested in (even though most still just want obedience).
As professionals we need to allow the pet owners to look behind the curtain and experience first-hand how they can start to teach their dogs the things that the professionals and working dog trainers do. You can easily imprint a dog on competitive nose work scents, or teach a dog to jump a hurdle and run through a tunnel, or even start the basics to search and rescue.
Yes there will be some limitations, especially when we begin to talk about protection training, but it costs nothing to have a conversation about what protection training is all about and why their anxious fear biter pet dog is not really a viable candidate for that specific training.
Nothing makes me happier than when a client is just amazed at how easily their dog can learn a whole knew skill set like scent detection, or dock diving, or agility, or trick training!
Now for the pet owners, there aren’t a lot of places like our training facility that give you the ability to learn any dog training skill you want, but for any skill you are interested in, you can likely find a training place or club that probably specializes in it or something very similar.
I know that before I really started taking dog training seriously, I was definitely intimidated by the specialized facilities, or training clubs for several reasons. I felt that the members would likely be way better than I was at whatever training they were doing (which was almost always completely and obviously true). But like I said earlier, surrounding yourself by people better than you is the best way for you to improve as well.
There is a saying that goes “You should always be the smartest person in the room,” but I believe that if you are the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.
I also was intimidated by specialized dog training clubs or facilities because I was afraid of them finding out how little I really knew about the sport or training. Thankfully, I became very good as asking dumb questions that other people probably had but maybe were too afraid to ask.
I have recently joined a highly competitive dog sport that has numerous training clubs around and I was so afraid to join because of how little I knew about the sport. The first few meetings I went to, I tried to ask a few questions, but definitely felt that I was being judged on how dumb my questions may have sounded.
But now that I have been going for a few months, we are starting to get some new members, newer than me. And just the other day, I was asked by one of the newest members one of the questions that I had asked in my first few weeks as well! I was so happy to answer and assure them that I had had the exact same question as well to help them feel more comfortable and hopefully encourage them to ask any question that may cross their minds.
Don't be afraid to try something new and possibly make a fool of yourself. As a professional dog person, the dogs keep me humble and I end up make a fool of myself many days in one way or another. Learn how to be a "forever student" and try something new. Need help getting started? Don't hesitate to send us a message on our website www.airbornek9.com!