The dog industry is a funny one. Like all fields, it has mighty quirks, perks and of course, downsides.
A canine career means a world full of possibilities. It’s intriguing, creative, extremely hands on and undoubtedly highly rewarding work. Whether it’s structuring solutions to a variety of everyday problems, modifying complex behaviour or helping humans better interact, engage and communicate with their four-legged friends, every day is different.
I know plenty that prefer the office environment to getting muddy or drenched by those Dutch hail showers or working with an aggressive animal. I mean, it’s certainly not puppy dogs and sunshine every day. But hey, then again, sometimes it is. Those dazzling days of Summer working dogs in the beautiful parks of Amsterdam are certainly a perk of the job. Just don’t forget during those icy fresh days of Winter when the canals are frozen and the grass is crunchy that you’re still out there…exposure to the elements is part and parcel of training dogs!
Forget your canine handling skills and love of dogs for a moment. How are your people and communication skills?
It’s a common misconception that dog behaviourists choose their profession as they prefer the company of animals to humans. Ultimately, your task is to train the owner to train their dog. Whilst you may be able to guide their woofer with ease and elegance, you must be able to pass those skills over to those living with the dog. This job revolves entirely around people skills with a decent side-serving of dog interaction.
Personally, I thrive in an ever-changing environment and adore the social aspect of my work. Over the past few years, I’ve had the honour of training with all manner of dogs. Some were rescued from the streets, others from pedigree lineage. All ages, all breeds, all sizes, all behaviours, all backgrounds. I’ve worked and made acquaintance with people from all around the world that have found themselves residing on Dutch soil. From actors to athletes, artists to authors, children to celebrities, expats to locals (and now international) – this journey has widened my ever-expanding circle in such a positive way. Communication is of absolute importance and I’m thrilled that my clients find my training approach refreshing and genuinely enjoy the Nero experience.
Being able to translate everything you know on the spot in an easy, understandable manner gives your customers the highest chance of success. You’re a bridge, a coach and a translator between two species. But you’re also a student of the dog in front of you. It’s guaranteed that you will meet a dog that breaks the mould and those ‘challenging’ canines are the ones that will make you a better handler. The enigmas that make you question everything and combine the new, the known and seek alternative options. I actively avoid being a ‘one trick pony.’ There are SO many methods and approaches out there when it comes to canine behaviour, you do yourself and your clients an injustice if you wear blinkers. Even if you do not use or approve of certain techniques, educate yourself in the what, why, how, when and where so that you can present an informed opinion that has not been influenced by others. You owe it to your profession and to the canine species.
I’m often asked, “what do you need to be a successful dog trainer?” My answer is confidence, hands on experience and an open mind. Dog’s don’t dither. Humans hesitate. If you’re apprehensive in your approach, your canine client will see through you quicker than a Lab noticing that pastry flake falling to the floor. You need to trust your instincts, the process of patience and your ability to listen to the human story but read the dog telling you the reality.
One thing I should really point out is that the dog training industry is saturated with confliction. It’s an absolute s**t storm to be honest. If you’re a sensitive soul, it may just break you. I’m not kidding. The negativity that engulfs every single aspect of training a dog is toxic. The trolling, the brand bashing, jealousy and spitefulness that come with this line of work is unavoidable. Marketing when you don’t fit the stereotype is brave – for what you put out there will ruffle some hackles. There will be moments when you wonder whatever happened to human morals and manners and consider hanging up your leash and clicker. As with any entrepreneurial endeavour, you need to be bold to be successful. There are plenty that fancy themselves a dog trainer or behaviourist whom spill out their own ideologies as gospel, especially online. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is a professional on social media platforms.
It’s because of this negativity that I created ‘The Nero Network‘ – a canine community and doggy destination made up of local clients ready to help and assist their peers achieve their training goals. No drama, no bulls**t, just real life training opportunities that build confidence in my customers and their canines. It’s been a huge success and Nero clients find it an unusual and extremely rewarding benefit that is not offered elsewhere. I’m incredibly proud of the friendships that are often formed via the Nero Network and it is growing every single day!
It’s important to understand that the very nature of dog training is holistic and tailored to the individual. This was something I failed to find as a dog owner in need of guidance with Nero right at the start. I won’t ever forget my roots or where my journey began. Empathy, understanding and compassion are essential pieces to any behavioural puzzle and are at the core of my company. Nero and I became the heroes of our own story and that passion burns as hot as ever now I’m in my third year of business.
Last but not least, to become a true ”dog under stander’ you should always be learning. It never stops. In my humble opinion, an honest and skilful trainer should not claim to know everything. You can always pick up something new from the handler next to you and add that new knowledge to your training toolbox. I’m striving to be the very best trainer I can and continue to absorb and expand my education every year, jumping down different rabbit holes and exploring every aspect of Cynology.
In summary, if you’re considering a canine career, don’t just do it for the dogs. Never forget that both ends of the leash are being educated. It’s one hell of a challenging role but heck, it’s worth every single moment!
UPDATE: Nero Dog Training is proud to offer a shadow programme for those interested in a career as a dog trainer! Details can be found under the Nero Dog Training Academy here.