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Not Just a Trainer

By Veronica Boutelle MA Ed, CTC

?????????????It’s funny sometimes the things you find yourself doing. I imagine doctors don’t anticipate spending half their lives wrangling with insurance companies when they first imagine what it would be like to help people be well. Most real estate agents probably don’t understand up front how much of their lives will revolve around filling out complicated contracts— they just want to show houses and match people with the right homes. And dog trainers— well, we just want to train dogs and improve the bond between canines and their humans. It’s not usually until we get underway with the work that we realize how many other skill sets we have to acquire to do the work well.

As a business consultant I most often write and speak about business topics like marketing and setting rates and policies and time management. Business skills are critical for dog trainers, as there aren’t a lot of full time training gigs floating around.

But there’s another ancillary skill set close to my heart— teaching. Most trainers have at least one career under their belts before they begin their work with dogs, and teaching was mine. I’ve been teaching in some capacity or another all my professional life, including teaching curriculum development, classroom management, and pedagogy (a fancy term for teaching) to new teachers and graduate students seeking their master’s degrees in education.

Teaching, like dog training, is one of those things we all think we know everything about until we try to do it. We’ve all grown up with dogs and we’ve all spent countless years sitting in a classroom. (Sorry to stir up old memories of mind-numbing boredom!) We trainers know the danger of this hubris— we see its negative affects on dogs every day.

It’s unfortunate that most of our professional education as trainers sidesteps or gives only quick attention to this very important part of the work we do. Because whether we teach groups in classrooms or individuals in their living rooms, our training skill and knowledge is only as effective as our ability to share it. There’s a specialized knowledge and skill set behind teaching, just as there is behind dog training, and mastering it allows us to help more dogs and the people who love them.

I’m delighted to be speaking on Tackling Your Teaching at this year’s PPG Summit, and I hope you’ll join me there! I aim to tackle some of the common teaching challenges we face as trainers (multiple skill and experience levels, difficult students and dogs— I don’t have to list them for you; you live them every day) and leave you with some new strategies and ways of thinking about how you share your invaluable knowledge and skills to improve the lives of dogs.

The Pet Professional Guild’s second educational summit takes place in Tampa, Florida from November 7 – 11, 2016. Payment packages are available, as well as plenty of networking opportunities, an outstanding schedule of speakers and topics covering training, behavior, business, cats, dog, horses and much more.

About Veronica Boutelle, MA Ed, CTC

Veronica Boutelle is the founder of dog*biz, a leading business consultancy for canine professionals, and through which she has been helping dog trainers help dogs since 2003. She is the author of How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is and the co-author of Minding Your Dog Business: A Practical Guide to Business Success for Dog Professionals, and writes on business topics for many dog training industry journals. She is a sought-after speaker at conferences and dog training schools and has recently presented at conferences and seminars in countries as diverse as Chile, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, and the UK.

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