Dog training is one of those professions that sounds more like play than work. But - like the life of a professional musician or artist - fantasy is often more glamorous than reality. So, before you invest a lot of time and money changing your career, consider these top five myths about life as a professional trainer:
Myth #1: As a dog trainer, I'll be free of the 9 - 5 grind of a desk job.
It's true that actual obedience training doesn't happen in a cubicle or behind a desk. But, remember that in addition to his or her "official" title, every pro trainer moonlights as an entrepreneur. Yes, they do spend some time working with dogs. But, when the training is done, there is still plenty of work to be done. Just a few of these responsibilities include:
Marketing yourself and your business to gain new clients. Especially as a new trainer, you'll spend a lot of time building your business by attending local pet-related events. Most often, these events are held on weekends and require a participation fee that ranges anywhere from $25 - $1000. Additionally, a successful trainer must spend time developing and implementing print and Web marketing strategies.
Performing Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable functions. Usually, only an established trainer can afford to pay a bookkeeper. Most new trainers spend around 5 - 10 hours per week managing the financial operations of their business.
Providing customer service. Polite and professional customer service is imperative to building a successful dog training business. This is true throughout the customer acquisition cycle, from the first time you speak with a prospective customer through ongoing interactions with long time clients.
Myth #2: As a pro trainer, I'll spend my time with dogs instead of people.
When I was attending school to become a dog trainer, one of the greatest lessons I learned from my mentors is that training is as much about people as it is about dogs.
If you want to be a pro trainer because you'd rather interact with animals than people, you should choose another profession, because the goal of every good trainer is to improve a dog's relationship with its human companions. Some of this improvement may be achieved working one-on-one with a dog. But, to truly help a pooch learn to function more effectively in his world, you must involve his humans.
Myth #3: The life of a pro trainer is low stress and highly rewarding.
Dog training is not a low stress career. In fact, at times it's pretty high stress. Trainers worry about getting enough clients to pay the bills. They worry about the owners they just can't seem to help, no matter how hard they try. They worry about about the dogs who live with owners who are more likely to
euthanize than work through problems. They worry about those owners who won't euthanize an obviously troubled dog that poses a danger to humans and/or other animals. The list goes on and on.
Training is a rewarding profession, but the rewards are balanced by stress and frustration, just like in any other career. It's very fulfilling to see your efforts result in a better relationship between a pup and its companions, but those results can be hard won.
Myth #4: Dog training is an easy profession.
Some dogs are easy to train. It's like they were born with an understanding of how to interact with humans. If you've got one of those pooches, consider yourself lucky, but don't assume every dog you train will be as easy. As a pro trainer, you'll often work with those pups that are hardest to train -
for example, those with aggression or severe anxiety issues.
The hardest thing about working as a pro trainer is that every dog is different... and every owner is different. Your job as a trainer is to provide simple advice that's customized to each unique dog-human relationship. That's harder than it may sound.
Myth #5: Every dog I train will end up a success!
Oh, how I wish this were true. But, unfortunately, as a pro trainer, you just can't help every dog. Sometimes, due to physiological issues or simply due to an owner's wishes, fixing a situation is just plain out of your hands. You must be prepared to accept these situations as they arise. This is one of the toughest challenges of working successfully as a trainer.