The owner/trainer relationship is very important. Trainers work to help build the relationship of mutual trust, loyalty, and respect between dogs and their owners, but they also work to create those same foundations between themselves and the owners. The building of this foundation starts with the initial phone call.
I often get calls from owners who have reached the end of their ropes with their dogs and are ready to give up. Their dogs are completely out of control, the owners have tried “everything”, and they just can’t take any more of the chaos. Many times, owners have even broken down in tears while they’re talking with me. This kind of vulnerability is a huge show of trust from the owner; how the trainer responds to it is going to play a big role in whether or not he or she is going to be the one chosen to help that dog.
Owners sometimes work with several trainers in their quest to find “the one”. When they find that trainer, it becomes very important to nurture that trust. An owner who trusts their trainer will not only make excellent progress themselves, their dog will make progress, too. The bonds of trust, respect, and loyalty created with that first phone call – and nurtured throughout the entire training period – will last a lifetime.
Trainers are human beings just like everyone else. Truth be told, we are and we can be quite emotional over the dogs we work with. We cry when we meet stressed, terrified, distressed, anxious dogs who don’t trust humans as far as they can spit; we celebrate with whoops of joy when these dogs begin to gain confidence and start to succeed in everything from mastering a basic command, to overcoming obstacles that have kept them stuck in a reactive state that didn’t allow them to relax and just be a dog for even a moment. Of course, for the sake of the dog, we try to maintain a state of outward, relative calmness so we don’t startle them, but inside, we are feeling very intense emotions.
But, it’s not just owners who need to feel connected to their trainer. Trainers need to feel that “click” with the owners, too. If we don’t make that initial connection with an owner, we aren’t going to be able to have the same kind of impact on the dog as we could have. In those situations, it’s in the best interests of everyone, including the dog, to refer the owner to a different trainer who may be better suited for them. I’ve done this more than once, and it has always proven out to be the right decision.
The bottom line is this: To help create positive and lasting change in a dog, owners and trainers need to trust each other. Owners need to trust the guidance and direction from their trainer, and trainers need to trust that owners are doing the work with their dogs consistently and faithfully. Without that trust, there is no respect, no loyalty – and no change.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.