My dad always hated it when people would identify themselves as “professional dog trainer” or a “pet dog trainer”. His response was, “Do you hear doctors say, ‘I am a professional doctor’?”. And no, you don’t.
On the other side of that, recently a dog owner/obedience competitor walked into the new dog day care that was opening up and was inquiring about my training classes. The woman responding by saying, “I am a dog trainer, I never heard of her.” After a brief exchange, the dog day care discovered that she is deeply involved in competitive obedience and agility with her own dog.
Now the fact that she doesn’t know me is fine and understandable for a few reasons. First, we run in different circles. She is going to obedience classes that teach people to compete with their dogs, which is a wonderful hobby for so many dogs and their owners. Many competitors have turned that love of that hobby and made a living teaching competitors how to compete with their dogs. I teach Every Day Families to Have Once in a Lifetime Dogs. The people I work with have full plates usually kids and careers that the dog plays a different, not less important, just a different role in that owner’s life. The second reason this woman may not know me is that despite the fact social networks have probably decreased everyone’s “Six Degrees of Separation”, is that I don’t know every one that is competes in obedience or agility. Actually, I don’t know most of them. I am either training other people’s dogs or shuttling children to parties, baseball and riding on the weekends. Sometimes I am doing both. If I had no children, I would certainly be at dog shows on the weekends or just training more dogs for families.
However, what I found interesting and would upset my dad, is that this woman claims to be a “dog trainer”. Well, yes, she does train her own dogs but I am not so sure that the American Bar Association would appreciate it if I started calling myself an attorney because I went to court and represented myself. Since I did do my divorce on my own, I wonder what they would say if I said, “I am a divorce attorney”. My friends would think I need medication and have officially lost my mind and anyone else would agree.
Now my daughter is 8 years old and was born with a very rare auto-immune disease. She is also legally blind. What this entails is that on average I spend two months each year in the ER, doctor’s offices, labs having tests and even for several overnight hospital stays. I also administer her medication twice a day which includes 9 different pills each day. Now I know more about my daughter’s disease that many physicians due to the rarity and as one of her endocrinologists said to me many times,, “You need to know more about this than anyone else.” Some doctors or nurses that I may meet at Starbucks, in the library or even in the hospital have never even heard of her disease and until Sarah came along, Cornell Medical Center at New York Presbyterian had not had a patient with it. So, that being said, “Can I say I am a nurse or doctor?” No, but if this girl can be a dog trainer because she trains her own dogs then I can say I am a divorce attorney, doctor and nurse.
Now before you ask, what is your point? my dad use to say, “You have a profession that saves dog’s lives, be proud of it. Don’t demean it by saying, “professional dog trainer”, “pet dog trainer”. You are a dog trainer, plain and simple”. And I say, “I am a dog trainer. I have worked full time providing well for my family Training Every Day Families to Have Once in a Lifetime Dogs.
Many of my friends have put their whole lives into building their career as dog trainers. When we are not training, we are helping people on the phone. When we are home our families have to wait for dinner, attention or help with something because we often have dogs in for training and we have to take care of the dogs first. Many of us trainers have had trouble with relationships because dog trainers work nights and weekends, their partners couldn’t tolerate that. We have put everything into this, please don’t minimize our career. When we stop in the pet store to get dog food, we have to have our game face on because we may run into a student and certainly always need to be on for those in the pet store that refer us for training. Even on our days off, we don’t have the luxury of taking our dog to the vet in our sweatpants and night shirt. And for us a day off means we don’t have lessons. We still have phone calls to return and boarding dogs to walk, train, feed, groom and love.
So for all of you out there that claim to be a dog trainer because you train your own dogs whether it is competitively or to show off to your friends or make a difference in people’s lives, please don’t and I promise that we won’t call ourselves, Doctors, Lawyers or Indian Chiefs.