A Trainers Journey


So you want to be a dog trainer? We've had four apprentices in the past year. Mary, my most senior trainer, and I have asked each potential apprentice if they are absolutely sure they want ...

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So you want to be a dog trainer? We've had four apprentices in the past year. Mary, my most senior trainer, and I have asked each potential apprentice if they are absolutely sure they want to do this. We explain to them how difficult the next year of their life will be, and when they are done it will mark the beginning of their journey. Apprenticeship is getting someone to a minimum proficiency to start their professional life. Training dogs is a surprisingly small part of the equation. Rarely do they appreciate what we're talking about, until a few months into it when they are challenged on levels they thought had nothing to do with becoming a trainer. This is when people may wash out.

When many people want to become a trainer, they (usually) look for training to help them along the path. It really doesn't matter what discipline they are training for, the process is similar. The problem with many trainers is they often study ONLY from people in their own discipline. They are doing themselves and their students a disservice. Many people train the way they were originally taught and stick to it for about 30 years, or until they are forced, seemingly inexplicitly, out of business. It doesn't matter if it is for dogs, martial arts, sales, communications, or firearms, most trainers are pretty terrible. Their training is pretty close to useless, and in some disciplines, dangerous. Too many people and trainers just want to stay "comfortable".

"Ya gotta take a chance Frankie. Ya gotta take a chance and ya gotta push yourself."

I first heard this when I was about 5 or 6 from my grandfather in his Brooklynese accented English. It wasn't until almost twenty years later that I understood what he was saying. Twenty years later, as he approached his nineties, he was still saying it. Best Friend's Dog Training didn't get to where it is, either in size or a training ability by staying "comfortable". We have pushed the envelope at every turn, and continue to do so. At this point, it's both a company and personal philosophy. It's a philosophy that I try to imbed in my trainers brains.

This past week I took four days of training that were mentally, emotionally, and physically challenging with Tactical Response. We were training how move, communicate, and shoot straight, as a team, with a bunch of people we never met before. Putting it mildly, we did this under stressful conditions. For those unfamiliar with self defense and firearms training, it's a lot more than pull-trigger-gun-go-boom.

I was reminded by James Yeager, the owner of Tactical Response, something that I have said to our apprentices, but haven't applied to myself in a while. "If you're feeling uncomfortable, that's a good thing, it means you're growing. You can't learn in your comfort zone." We were pushed, we learned, and we trained hard for four days. It was a far cry from the courses where you're looking forward to the next coffee break.

Over dinner with the class and instructors, I talked to Yeager about his training business. He talked about being an avid student of learning theory, some studies that impacted his program, and other trainers he worked with in the past. We are both about the same age and both have rapidly expanding training businesses. I was looking for what we had in common and what concepts could be used to improve service to our clients, and training to our apprentices.

The common theme I've seen from good trainers and teachers is the insistence on being a student to other good teachers, and having the ability and generosity to pass on those lessons to others. It doesn't stop. It's never ending improvement. Think of it this way. Teaching is similar to technology. It progresses. You're not reading this on a 30 year old computer. The car you drive, the TV you watch, and the phone you speak on every day is a hell of a lot newer than what you had thirty years ago. It doesn't make older things or techniques bad. In fact they were often is the foundation for the future.

Training and learning other disciplines, let's call it mental cross training, is not only important for a professional trainer, but is actually mandatory. A commitment to personal excellence and growth is the beginning of a commitment to excellence to those you may have the privilege of training. If you're willing to walk the path, you can experience an incredible fulfillment that the journey brings.

For more information about Best Friend's Dog Training, go to www.muttmanners.com
For more information about Tactical Response, go to www.tacticalresponse.com

Have a great week,