What We Owe Our Human Clients

 As a dog trainer, my goal is to transfer knowledge and skills to my human clients so that THEY can work with their dog. If I make training an unpleasant experience for the human, the results will be lackluster at best. We owe it to our human clients to show them the same respect, compassion, and patience that we show the dogs.

By unpleasant for the human I mean any of the following: belittling, insulting, making them feel foolish or uncomfortable, afraid to try, embarrassed, on the verge of tears for being corrected, and the list goes on. We must consider this when working with our human clients. They deserve to be treated with respect, listened to, and taught in a manner that sets them up to succeed with their dog.

Think back to when you were a kid in school… I’ll bet there was a teacher who was kind, patient, treated you with respect, and made learning a safe, fun experience. Now, think back to a teacher that made you feel afraid to speak up due to fear of being mocked, who belittled you in front of classmates, who would potentially scream/shout at you, and altogether frightened you. The learning experience with that sort of teacher was neither safe nor fun.

Due to negative learning experiences mentioned above, I make it a point to be considerate with the way I speak to and teach my human clients – just like I do with the dogs. If the human learner is getting frustrated or failing, the last thing they need is a smart aleck or degrading remark from the person they’ve hired to help them. Not everyone can take a good razzing, some folks are more sensitive than others due to negative learning histories.

My awesome +R mentor, Stacy Strickland of Jacksonville Pawsitive Training, Inc., sets the humans and the dogs up for success. She will demo for the students first, then give an overview of what not to do and why. This helps set the humans up to succeed and is something I implement when working with clients. The human’s success is just as important as the dog’s, they are contingent upon each other.

I don’t expect anyone to do anything perfectly the first time they do it. “Training is simple, but it is not easy” – wise words from renowned animal trainer Bob Bailey. Each person will differ in terms of motor skills, coordination, and all the other bits that comprise good training. It is on me as a trainer to determine where the client lands on the spectrum of these skills and build them up to their best.

Confidence is essential for training to be the best that it can be. A good trainer will build up the confidence of the human rather than tear them down or judge by a standard they simply are not yet at and may never achieve. A good trainer will gauge the abilities of the client and will adjust the program so that they can be building off of success. A good trainer leaves the dogs AND the humans better off than they were prior to training.

I’ve had a few clients share with me that they have had bad experiences with trainers in the past. This can range from them having been called names, mocked for not getting something right, to the trainer physically harming the dog. These bad experiences can set the tone for future learning.

I love what I do, and I want my clients to have a positive experience with training. Part of that is treating them with respect, determining how best to teach them, their threshold for corrections, and making training an enjoyable experience. If I insult, belittle or otherwise make my human clients feel inadequate I not only do them a major disservice, the dog will likely not get the help it needs.

Dog training is not solely working with dogs as some might think, you have to work with humans. I want to leave both the dogs and humans better than they were prior to training.

©Kate Godfrey, 2019