We’re going to play a game this morning.
Well, I’m going to play a game, you can join in if you feel like it.
Here it is... I want you to imagine that you’ve just purchased a new car. Perhaps it’s your first car. Maybe you’ve had cars in the past, but it’s been a while. Or maybe you just really like cars, so you got a second car. Regardless of the reason, you have a new car and you love it. It’s fantastic. You make sure that you’re doing all the routine maintenance, you wash it, you take it out for drives, you show it off to your friends, you make sure it has a perfect place in your garage. Everything is going beautifully. It is the BEST car.
And then one day, for whatever reason, something isn’t working. Maybe you got into a small accident, maybe the engine started revving spontaneously, or maybe the brakes aren’t working quite right. Whatever it is, you know it’s definitely not how you want it to be, so you need to get it fixed.
You might tinker around with it a bit at first – after all, you’ve had cars in the past – but when you discover that the fix isn’t something you can take care of yourself, you make an appointment to take it in to the mechanic.
Because the mechanic fixes cars.
And you aren’t a mechanic.
You aren't a mechanic because you haven’t spent a large portion of your adult life learning how to be a mechanic. And fixing cars isn’t something that a person is born knowing how to do. It takes years of study and experience. Even diagnosing the problem can take skill and knowledge that most people don’t have, never mind actually doing the repairs.
Now. I have a question for you.
(It’s rhetorical, so don’t worry. I’m definitely going to answer it myself.)
Do you feel guilty that you’ve taken your car to a mechanic to get fixed?
No. You don’t. Because there is no reason for you to know how to fix your car the way a mechanic knows how to fix your car. That’s why it’s their job and your job is whatever your job is.
I’m sure some (if not all) of you have figured out where I’m going with this, but you cannot imagine how often I have clients who feel guilty about not being able to “fix” their dog’s behavioural problems. They’re embarrassed that they’ve had to call me, and they apologize for needing my services. Or they’re frustrated that they need me at all because they feel like they should have been able to do it themselves. Sometimes they feel bad because they don’t know how to do something “simple”, like get their dog to walk on a loose leash (spoiler alert: loose leash walking definitely isn't always that simple).
But here’s the thing… There is absolutely NO REASON why someone who hasn’t dedicated years of their lives to dog training and behaviour should know how to do this stuff.
Guys. I'm serious. There isn’t.
As dog trainers, in order for us to be really good at our jobs, we have to spend thousands and thousands of hours learning how to do what we do. We have to create opportunities to work with different breeds and different ages of dogs. We have to learn from multiple people in multiple venues, because everyone does things a little bit differently and there is no one “right” way to train a dog. Unlike a vehicle, that comes with a manual and has a prescribed method of repair, your dog has a personality and different life experiences and speaks an entirely different language from you.
OF COURSE you don’t know how to fix things – even things that you think should be simple to fix – because you aren’t a “dog mechanic”.
But, don’t despair! There is hope yet! Because WE are. Dog mechanics, that is. And we have spent years and years and years learning how to “diagnose” your dog's behaviours, how to speak your dog’s language, how to help translate between you and your dog, and how to repair the things that aren’t working quite the way you would like them to be.
Unless you eat, sleep, and breathe dog behaviour and training, unless you’ve spent countless hours creating muscle memory for leash handling and food positioning and toy engagement, unless you’ve frozen your butt off in drafty buildings or outside in Canadian winters at seminars and sporting events and dog knows what else, there is absolutely ZERO reason to feel guilty or bad or embarrassed about not knowing how to deal with the challenges you’re facing with your dog.
None, nada, zip, zilch, the big fat goose egg. Because it's NOT your job.
It ours. And we can’t wait to help you get started.
Christina Chandler ALIGN CANINE TRAINING INC
image obtained from Google image search