Please Confirm

When you make an appointment with a trainer to have them come to your home to help you with your dog, you are asking the trainer to spend their time, energy, and fuel. When the trainer reaches out to you the day before – or, the day of – your booking to confirm with him or her, it only takes a minute or two to either give that confirmation, cancel, or request a reschedule.

We understand that life happens when you’re busy making other plans. It happens to us, too. But when we can’t confirm your appointment – especially when your booking is a week or more away – we risk the loss of that time, energy, and fuel if we show up anyway and you aren’t there to receive us. That’s not fair to us, and it’s not fair to other people who are waiting to see us.

So, when we’re trying to reach you to confirm your booking, please do us the courtesy of responding to our phone calls or text messages in a reasonably timely manner. We would really appreciate it.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.

Introducing: Jerry

Say hello to Jerry. Jerry is about 10 weeks old, he’s a purebred black sable, long-coated Shepherd from Northernbear Registered Kennels, and he’s quite the character. He’s bossy, independent, smart, playful, and his eyes and face are amazingly expressive. He chomps on toes and feet, he bites at ankles and hands, and he hates to be picked up or restrained in any way. But, he’s also quite affectionate and cuddly, and he’ll curl right into the arms of his person… when he wants that.

Jerry is starting Beginners Obedience. Over the next eight weeks, I have the great good fortune of helping his people turn him into a polite, reasonably well-behaved boy. His people are first-time owners, and – bless their hearts – they’re so worried about doing everything right that they’re over-thinking and second-guessing everything. I think the most challenging part of these next couple of months is going to be teaching them to relax and enjoy their puppy. 😀

Before the first lesson could begin, Jerry had to learn something very important: When he bites, all his fun goes away and he becomes completely invisible for a minute or two. Yelping and walking away made him bite more – and with greater force. Removing him and ignoring him completely for a couple of minutes gave the desired effect; he was able to figure out fairly quickly that biting means separation from the group and no attention at all. Once he figured that out, we were able to start the name and look game.

I’m looking forward to watching Jerry become the best dog he can be, and a dog his people can be proud of. I’m also looking forward to watching his people become strong, calm leaders Jerry can confidently trust and respect.

Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.

The Owner-Trainer Relationship

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.