This week I worked with shy puppies, dog reactive dogs, fearful adults with odd habits, developing the room to run project opening March first, working with a lot of Dobermans this week, and a worried street dog, as well as teaching basic cues and manners to rescues. In addition, business stuff like finishing up yearly taxes, learning web development and graphics creation and writing filled in the open spaces.
Too many credentials is a phrase I've never heard before, but it came up second hand this week. In our industry the fact is there aren't enough credentialed dog behavior trainers/consultants. It isn't a regulated industry. Yes, I have some credentials, mostly life experience with thousands of tough cases, and life accomplishments. The reality is you can never have too many. Teaching science-based training means you have to study, to experience, to accomplish.
Bottom line to me was that that meant the prognosis wouldn't be good in this case. It either meant my fees were too high for them or they were not committed to training their dog and would just be hoping the behavior went away over time.
Words like NEVER and ALWAYS
Things will never change and get better with health, or addictions, or behavior issues if you don't apply the correct, systematic processes to make that happen. There is a saying that goes something like this, "if you think things are bad now, just wait until you hire the wrong person". The word always is just as negative, as it shows one doesn't want to change or explore other things.
Worry, fear, motivation
Worry and fear might play into it, but I think it is more a lack of understanding of those beings we call our best friends, our companions. They have issues too and worry and fear can be some of those issues that have to be worked through on the animal side of the equation and often the human side of the equation. If you go to a doctor and then don't listen to them, take your medications, work on your exercise and diet plans, then why are you going to that doctor? Why do we listen to the meteorologist on the local news for our daily weather? Why do we call a plumber or a mechanic when we need them, if we think we can simply 'fix' things ourselves? Guaranteed things will get worse versus better, as the credentialed are too costly and aren't to be taken seriously. What really matters are references from others, referrals, testimonials and examples of those canines who were transformed and yes by someone who has some credentials, life experience and accomplishments under their belt. Why? They've seen it before, they can apply a systematic and scientific approach, and they will help said companion and best friend improve to a realistic goal.
ANTs in your Pants
Psychologists call these thoughts automatic negative thoughts or ANTs. Some people are and will be inclined pessimists, holding negative thoughts about everything. There is a great book written by Rise VanFleet, Ph.D., CDBC, "The Human Half of Dog Training: Collaborating with clients to get results " that talks about all the various human client personalities one might meet in their career and how to understand and talk to them. If we can work with the human, the dog always thrives and transforms.
There is another good book titled, "Breaking Bad (Habits) by the editors of Scientific American. The main premise of the book is "Why Don't People Change?" What is holding them back, why aren't they listening? ANTs may be one very specific reason. We talk about habituated behaviors in dogs, habits that become routine, and automatic negative thoughts can become just that, spontaneous and routine. We all know habits, attitudes are hard to break and it takes a very special type of patience to work through it with those that might hold those beliefs, perceived or real.
Negativity, pessimism are needed and can be a great equalizer, but if it hinders one from moving forward it is because the negative thoughts have become believable thoughts, alive and well, simply because these thoughts have existed in the person for so long.
Dog training, behavior modification, any career involved with animals and their humans involves the understanding of the human end of the leash. This is the most difficult part for many to grasp and work around. It is not an option in our business, it is a fact. Working with people who have pets, we need to also be people-oriented, people persons.
VanFleet has some great advise in her book, "...put yourself in the place of (your client). Think about their motivations and feelings." Sometimes we have to prove ourselves, no matter our credentials and understand what the motivation might be for comments clients make.
Teach to question method of thoughts
When working with automatic negative thoughts, teach to question the method of those thoughts. The proof of the pudding will be in the results and speak loudly for your credentials, life experience, and accomplishments. Don't let the latter stop you from moving forward with the client, or presume arrogance. The bottom line is really, can we help this animal? If we can, how do we approach it with a systematic process.
Some tactful searching with the client might reveal: What is their biggest fear today? What is crushing hope?
The great walls can be the words living in NEVER"land" and ALWAYS"land". Things will never change, this is how it always works, my friends who have dogs say this always works and so on. We don't need credentialed professionals when we have our free relatives and neighborly advise.
Showing ways to improvement is key
Don't go in touting credentials, spouting language companion dog owners won't understand, but show ways to improve where they are now, where they want to be and develop a systematic, realistic plan to get them there. Sometimes credentials do not impress others. Can we empathize with the person, have we gone through what they are going through, can we show results is often all that is worth its weight in gold. Are credentials important? Yes, to other professionals and for the world of licensing and showing one might know what they are talking about. To the normal companion dog owner the proof is in the results.
All of us have walked in and while we certainly can have results with the dog themselves, often the easier part of the equation, we also need to have results with the human half, part, end of the leash as they don't have the credentials or training/teachings/accomplishments we have. While we might do our job everyday and it seems simple to us, it is often not so simple for the human.
We have to show progress can and is being made.
Challenge the ANT. Kindness counts. And it is all a day in the life of a behavior trainer, the human and the animal elements.