By Bill Mayeroff
When people learned I was studying to become a dog trainer, they normally responded in one of two ways:
“Oh, so you’re, like, teaching dogs to sit and stuff? That’s easy. Why do you need to study it?”
“That’s awesome! Hey, so my dog does [insert undesirable behavior]. Can you tell me how to fix it?”
Neither of those responses is malicious, even if they’re annoying. They’re just the result of a lack of knowledge. People don’t realize that dog trainers have worked and studied hard to get where they are.
Let me give you an idea of how hard I and my classmates worked. During our time studying at FetchFind Academy, we spent a grand total of 120 hours – three hours a week over a total of 40 weeks – in the classroom. On top of that, there were thousands of pages of reading/other homework. There were the externships and outside observations; I’m not even going to try and calculate the total number of hours that entailed. There were tests and quizzes, along with the associated studying. There were video projects to create and papers to write.
Long story short – we worked our butts off. And we’re still working. We’re building careers, we’re always trying to improve our skills and become the best trainers we can be.
But people don’t always see training as a “real” career and as a result, they think that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask us to come up with a training program for their dog with little to no information and without offering any form of compensation.
It happens almost as soon as people learn you’ve started training or even that you’re studying to become a trainer. And people will use any avenue they can to try and get free training advice out of you.
Here’s a story for you. Being the busy, single guy I am, I use a few different dating apps to attempt to have some sort of romantic life. When I put on my profiles that I train dogs, the number of messages I got drastically increased. But it wasn’t people interested in dating me. Rather, it was people who wanted me to “fix” their dogs and not charge them.
I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. One person even sent me a message that said simply “I need help training my puppy!” She didn’t respond when I said I was happy to try but needed more information and then told her my rate. Most people, in fact, just disappeared when I made any mention of more information or compensation.
Such requests are tough for me (and I imagine for other trainers, as well). I love training dogs and I want to be able to help as many dogs as I can. Plus, I love TALKING about training. So I’m always inclined to try to help.
But one of the most important things I was taught at FetchFind is that I’m a professional, my time is valuable and I deserve compensation for it. I have to keep that, along with the fact that most people don’t realize how much work I and my fellow FetchFind alums put in, in mind when I get requests for free advice.
Above all, I need to make sure I always have some of my business cards on hand.
After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill Mayeroff‘s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter. He recently graduated from FetchFind Academy and is a Junior Trainer at AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups.