I was thinking the other day, as I pondered why people choose trainers that use force, intimidation, and coercion. I see these trainers using starvation, exhaustion, and physical pain to get compliance from their students and “train” them. This thought occurred to me when I see Facebook posts asking for training recommendations and I watch as people I know choose these types of trainers over myself, Kind Animal Services.
This whole thought process leads me down a very dark path of feeling like I’m not good enough. I must not have the knowledge or I’m lacking some skill in my execution. However, in my heart I know this can’t be further from the truth, I do good work.
Among my colleagues there is an ongoing conversation about burn-out. It’s a problem because as a fear free trainer and a positive reinforcement based trainer it feels like we are at war. It’s emotionally exhausting to explain over and over again why people should be considering their animals emotional and mental welfare. I know this can also be true for those amazing individuals that specialize in nutrition or physical therapy in animals.
There are some sections of our industry that add to the misinformation about behavior and training techniques. Veterinarians give sometimes troubling behavior advice and support trainers that use less than ideal techniques to “solve” behavior problems. Breeders frequently set new puppy parents up for failure with their new family member when they give advice stating that this breed requires a specific type of training process.
What makes a good trainer? Someone who knows they don’t have all the answers and don’t recommend a one size fits all. They ask LOTS of questions and take in lots of information about the behavior before deciding the best approach for that individual. They consider the human end of the leash and are empathetic to all involved-- “We are in this together and I will support you through these stressful times”. They also try to ensure that they are using a minimally invasive and aversive approach. Really ensuring quality of life for the animal as well as the pet parent. They understand that no training plan is a fixed schedule and while some behavior modification can happen quickly other programs may take years to reach the end goal.
I would say a good trainer is always seeking further education about species typical behavior, learning, science, and utilizing industry network and experiences to troubleshoot more tricky behaviors.
It’s probably time I do another post about shut down and emotional welfare but I will save that for another time.
In my opinion a poor trainer is one that recommends exercise (exhaustion) as a solution. Fixes behavior in a set amount of time. They want pet-parents to leave their animal with them because they don’t think that the pet parent is capable of training their own pet. Some us the “us vs them” techniques to win over the humans-- “It’s the dogs fault”. Others directly insult pet parents for making decisions in the past-- “You have already ruined your dog and there is no hope but to use my aggressive technique”. These trainers tend to be flashy, with tricks that if you are not well versed in recognizing stress in animals you would only see the “well behaved” animal. They utilize lots of coercion in that they don’t give the animal choices and they often spend time “correcting” behaviors instead of addressing the function of the behavior.
I started to realize that the “good” trainers, trainers I would recommend. Often don’t stay in the industry for the long haul; they tend to hop in and out. Why is this?
We are tired. We are tired of feeling like we are swimming upstream, always against the current. Marketing and poor trainers continue to capture the media's attention and with that, the attention of well meaning pet parents.
The market is saturated with so much contradicting information it’s hard for any pet parent to know what is the newest more mindful information that considers the entire animal. While other pet parents are results based and don’t think twice about the animals experience.
When I started Kind Animal Services over 10 years ago I dreamed of making a dent in the industry. I opened the KAS Schoolhouse with the dream of bringing in people and dogs and teaching individuals and groups. I wanted other trainers to use the space to do presentations and workshops. It would truly be a Schoolhouse for animals (and the people that love them).
Unfortunately, I too feel tired of swimming upstream. There are days, months, and lately It’s starting to feel like years of not moving.
Where do the good trainers go? They go away. Many move on to other work. It takes a toll on the individual to feel so unheard and see so much suffering that goes unrecognized. We often care and know too much. It’s an ongoing conversation among my peers - talking about how you take care of yourself while also continuing your work with animals.
Kind Animal Services is taking a short hiatus from some of our more taxing services while I’m reconsidering the direction of the business. I, Kelsie, am still openly taking behavior modification cases and private training. My staff (Jane & Natasha) is continuing to take on pet sitting and dog walking opportunities. At this time, with the state of the economy and increasing expenses you may notice changes to our service prices.
I genuinely appreciate each individual who takes the time to read our blogs, watch our videos, and continue to follow our pages. If you have any desire to reach out please don’t hesitate. I’m human too and I care, A LOT, about your success with the animal-relationships you hold.