I’ve spent my entire life around dogs, which I’ve mentioned here before. My grandparents own a dog boarding kennel in the suburbs, and when I was younger, I was convinced that growing up with a dog kennel in my backyard gave me some kind of superiority over other “dog” people. Sure, you like dogs, but can you tell a dog has bad hips just by watching him walk? Do you know why you might want your dog on fish oil, chondroitin, or yogurt? How many different breeds can you identify? As a teenager I was confident and smug, and anything I didn’t know, I bluffed my way through until, panicked, I could rush home to learn about and reassure myself that I was still the expert I thought I was.
When I was in my early 20’s, I moved to the East Coast and began working in a boarding kennel out there. To my surprise, things were done differently; not only that, some of their techniques worked better than ours! Not everything was different, and not everything was better. However, this was a truly humbling experience for me- for the first time in my life I was faced with irrefutable evidence that we were not the all-knowing experts that I had spent my life believing we were. During my time on the East Coast, I worked at a few different kennels, some better than others. I soaked in everything I could, taking the ideas I found valuable, noting the ones that seemed ineffective, and leaving the rest.
Thankfully, I learned this lesson before I started my career as a dog trainer. Just because someone has been training dogs using one method for 20 years does not make that person an expert at dog training; it simply makes him an expert in that method. To be truly knowledgeable, successful dog trainers, our education must never stop. We need to continue to take seminars and classes to stay up to date on new theories and methods. We need reach out to other trainers and learn their methods and techniques. We need to understand the reasons behind each training method and tool, even the ones we disagree with or feel we will never use.
Fortunately, here at AnimalSense, each and every one of my co-workers is a true expert when it comes to dogs. We have mock classes in which we share our knowledge and training strategies with each other. We attend classes and seminars at various places, including CanineLink (if you’re passionate about dogs and eager to learn, this is the place to check out). Most importantly, we are not afraid to ask each other for help. If we don’t have a solution, our co-workers are just a phone call or email away. Sharing knowledge and continuing to learn: to me, that’s what being a true expert is all about!