The authentic life of a dog trainer

So. My post from a couple of weeks ago seems to have created a storm in a teacup. I’ve had multiple trainers berate me for revealing as deep a trade secret as <whisper> dog trainers have less-than-perfect dogs too!

I kid you not.

Apparently, a large percentage of the dog training community genuinely believe that they will only get hired if their dog is “perfect”. It doesn’t have to actually BE perfect, of course, just to APPEAR perfect to the outside world. What goes on behind closed doors is another matter. They would be angry, except they now think I have talked successfully talked my way out of every potential client by admitting that even professionals can struggle. Damn it, that I struggle.

Do we really have so little belief in ourselves that we must hide behind a veneer of pretense?

Of course, what these trainers didn’t know is that an even greater number of owners have been in touch to confirm what I suspected: that they would actively choose to work with someone who has already experienced problems with their own dog. Someone who’s been-there-done-that, lived a bit, been around the block. Call it what you will, personal experience is not only important, it is valued.

Dogs demand that we train with commitment and congruence and are the first to call us out if we fall down on either count, so why would we expect any different from our clients? Surely deep-diving into the lives of people you just met requires a certain kind of respect, of truthfulness.

I was chatting with a close friend yesterday about this, and we distilled it down to the importance of authenticity. Of being who you actually are, not some imagined version of what a client might expect a “dog trainer” to be.

It shouldn’t be so hard. You cannot “do” dog training, rather you must “be” a dog trainer. This just isn’t a cardboard cutout, have-a-nice-day kind of job. For most of us it’s our passion. We care about it beyond  the conventional bounds of rationality. We don’t do it for the money, the glamour or the accolades. We do it for one simple reason.

It’s the one thing we can’t not do.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stumble through my life’s work pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m doing this intentionally, deliberately, and as the truest and most authentic version of myself that I know how to be.









  1. I can’t believe that you’ve been berated for being honest about something that, as you say, is one of the key features that someone would look for when consulting a trainer: personal experience. If someone told me that they had never had a problem with a dog, I’d run a mile, because I wouldn’t believe them. I don’t trust perfection. Reality, I can definitely trust and respect.

    • Tx Fiona. Having been belittled by my trainer when I was a hapless novice puppy owner in the past, I feel exactly the same. But not everyone it seems!

  2. Here, here, Fiona. When I was looking for a dog trainer I came across a woman who was so intent on making me feel clueless, making my dog out to be a potential nightmare (I think he’d been in our home for only a day) and herself – of course – to be the only answer to this ‘problem puppy’, that I couldn’t get her out of the house fast enough! No kindness, no humility, no honesty. You, on the other hand, well, you go, girl!

    • Hi Sam. Yes, been there! I wonder if “professionals” forget what it’s like to have no knowledge in a certain area… No way to acquire clients in any case, that’s for sure 😉 Tx, as ever, for your comments!

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