Erika P
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A Taste of a Dog Trainer's Life

Being the Animal's Voice When No One Else Will

I've been a dog trainer for over two years now—part of a corporate company—and despite stepping down and going on another career path, becoming one was the best decision I made. I've met some incredible people and their wonderful four-legged friends that they brought for classes. Being able to teach and explain to the owners to look at things in a different perspective has helped saved so many lives from being released to a shelter and given up on.

Being a dog trainer, it's almost like you're the "last resort" for some of the dogs you get. With how naughty or how much they misbehave for their owner, it truly tugs at the heart strings and you want to do everything in your power to fix the behavioral problems. I've had multiple "aggressive" dogs take private lessons with me (owner is present for all classes) and come to find out that the dog isn't aggressive, they just don't understand, or they always expect that they won't get food/toy/treat without acting the way a previous owner taught them to. There have been a few dogs out of the thousands I've trained that they had no choice but to give them up to another family that might have had the time or space for them that, unfortunately, the previous owner wasn't able to provide. I've even lost a few to illnesses, one in particular to a failed heart surgery. The heart ache was intense, sharing the news with other staff members brought us all to tears for the young pup and loss for her owners.

Every dog I've come to encounter has left a literal paw print on my heart; the excitement they get when I see them still, to this day; the gratitude the owners express for the effort put into shaping their dog; the pride both dog and owner flaunt when they realize that their dog IS a good dog. Watching them from day one to the graduation day is a proud moment even for myself, having a hand in teaching them manners and good behaviors.

Becoming a trainer has really opened my eyes in many aspects. Earning a dog's trust, let alone any animal's, is a wonderful and incredible feeling. Sure, in the lessons they know me as the "treat lady," but I can name every dog I've had in a class and an individual trait of theirs.

Aside from being part of a corporation as a downside of being a dog trainer, there are a few others. Sometimes you witness an owner being rough with a dog. While I understand that it's their dog and they can do what they want, the "rough" I describe is basically physical abuse of the dog; then they wonder why the dog acts shy around them or doesn't want to respond to them. The owner gets upset with their dog due to the fact that they'll listen to me versus them, and while that is frustrating, it's more frustrating on my end to watch them get upset with the dog instead of listening to the pointers I give. There have been numerous times I wish I could correct the owner and say "no, you can't do that to your dog." I can't because it's such a touchy subject with an owner, and I sadly don't have that power since it's not my dog.

If you have an animal, next time you get frustrated with them over something, I ask that you stop and ask yourself if it's something that you're doing. A lot of people don't realize that dogs feed off what we give them. If you give them attitude then they'll dish it back to you. As frustrating as it gets sometimes with owning any animal, let alone a dog, trying to have some positive demeanor about us for them to feed off of has a higher success of them responding better to give us what we want versus them not listening.

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