Traditionally, positive reinforcement focused pet dog trainers have lumped all client dogs together and trained THE pet dog and THE pet dog client. We’ve followed recipes for training and living together. However, there is a lot of variability when it comes to the needs of both dogs and humans – and it’s time to do them justice.
Chrissi proposes we abandon our recipe for training THE pet dog in favor of a breed and need-specific approach. While “breed” only refers to dogs, “need” takes into account both ends of the leash.
By means of examples taken from local pet dog clients, Chrissi will guide you through a breed and need-specific counseling approach:
- Look at the dog you are working with: What’s their breed or mix? What’s their history and personality?
- Look at the client you are working with: Who are they? Where do they live (house with yard; apartment)? What are their resources (time, money, motivation)?
- Create a safe space for your client to share their feelings around their dog’s behavior and the changes they envision.
- Listen with genuine curiosity and empathize with your client’s struggles.
- Help your client see the world through their dog’s eyes. Use metaphors and humor to help them understand the needs, skills, and quirks their dog brings to the table.
- Set realistic expectations: share an honest assessment of whether the client’s ideal scenario is within reach and what it will take to get there.
- Make sure your client is as committed as you are – and start training!
The goal of this talk is to add new breed and need-specific counseling skills to your dog trainer’s toolbox. Chrissi will share specific metaphors you might find useful and easily implemented tools to create a safe space and strong relationship with your client.
You are going to see that a breed and need-specific approach almost always includes both training and management. It tends to be both less and more ambitious than the average client’s initial training goal. No matter who we are working with – maximizing both the dog’s and the client’s welfare while minimizing complexity is essential. Chrissi is going to dare you to be realistic, approachable, pragmatic, and kind in your interactions with your clients.
Throughout the talk, Chrissi will draw on practical examples from two large in-person client groups in Antigua, Guatemala:
- Client group #1: Shepherds (German shepherds, malinois, and their mixes) are purchased as puppies to protect country houses and provide good company to the owner’s children and visitors. The relationship issues their owners struggle with include excessive barking at visitors and hyperactivity.
- Client group #2: Free-roaming village dogs (mixes; “world dogs”) are, often as adults, taken off the street by well-meaning dog lovers and provided with a typical Western pet dog lifestyle. The relationship challenges their owners struggle with tend to involve destructive behavior and leash reactivity.