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Advice For New Dog Trainers – The Client Isn’t The Enemy

In another thread of mine (John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Facebook Post) someone I think who may be a dog trainer responded to someone else’s comment with:

“I’ve had to deal with people refusing to acknowledge the dog’s they are dealing with . . . All of it has provided me with an appreciation for human selfishness, human arrogance, human greed.”

I replied not so much to the person as much as to the sentiment as I frequently come across similar attitudes in social media posts made by dog trainers more often than not in dog training groups vs public statements.

If I could give any new dog trainer one piece of advice it might be, “The client isn’t the enemy”, so I wrote the following response:


I don’t think I ever fell into what I see as the trap where I saw myself as a dog trainer that must “deal” “with people refusing to acknowledge the dog’s they are dealing with…”

If social media posts by dog trainers are any indication, it seems many see their clients as an ‘enemy’ of sorts. Sometimes the language and attitude are appalling. It has been my experience watching from afar that sooner or later this creates a firm cognitive bias in the person that at the very least has significant potential to interfere with the work with the dog and dog training in general.

In what is now almost thirty years of training dogs I do not recall a single dog and person worked with that I did not begin and end without absolute joy in my heart. I love working with dogs, but I love working with people as well.

I have met far too many dog trainers where it may be clear or unclear as to how legitimate their love of dog and dog training was or was not, but it quickly became clear that they were not so much lovers of people. I see that as a problem. It will undoubtedly be a barrier to personal development.

I receive inquiries from around the world from people that want to apprentice/shadow that emphasize how much they love dogs but almost always have little or no love, understanding or appreciation for what they will always find on the other end of the leash. Dog training is as much if not more a people ‘business’ than a dog business.

Acknowledging the influence of phylogeny, evolutionary biology, etc. in a dog is extremely important. Far too much dog training is based on pseudo-science spread by guru-wannabes.

However, acknowledging and associating the influence of phylogeny, evolutionary biology, etc. on a dog’s behavior but then categorizing dog owners as ‘selfish, arrogant and greedy’ is to be contradictory in that it seems a move from embracing science to surrendering to emotion. The science that influences a dog animal also impacts a human animal. The role of phylogeny, evolutionary biology, and other things are no less important or worthy of careful consideration in the human animal.

Our behavior is as driven by millions of years of evolution as is any other animal that made it this far. However, unlike any other species, we have far more capability to influence our influencers, and that is or should be, in essence, a good part of the role of a dog trainer interested in being better than average. Help clients understand why they think what they are thinking and provide them ways to take the reins and channel those behaviors in ways that will positively influence training their dogs.

Dog training is relatively easy. People shaping is somewhat more complicated. Either way, judge neither the dog nor the human – love and teach instead.


John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade

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2 thoughts on “Advice For New Dog Trainers – The Client Isn’t The Enemy”

  1. I think your overall message is true, however, you have to admit that there are surely some clients that dog trainers deal with who really aren’t fit to be dog owners. It’s hard for me to criticize trainers who get angry at/frustrated with dog owners who treat their dog like an object (for instance). I would probably dislike them too. Wouldn’t you?

    1. No, I wouldn’t be angry or allow myself to be frustrated. We don’t always know the whole story. Besides, why judge? It’s my job to help them and if they have reached out for help there’s a spark of potential for me to fan. Negative emotions will get in the way. I can’t imagine how getting angry or frustrated would benefit anyone.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense
      London’s #1 Referred Puppy and Dog Trainer

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