I get this question asked a lot. ‘How/why did you get into dog training?’ Well, it was because of a dog, of course.
I have always loved animals, and especially dogs… and puppies! But within the last few years, I realized I haven’t been entirely happy with my life. Why? I make good money, I have a great husband, and our lifestyle is awesome. We have a house, and I’m living the American Dream. Well, almost. I wasn’t doing what I love.
This realization hit me when I was taking Napoleon in for his post-surgery checkup after he was diagnosed with Mast Cell Cancer last year. I was a client of the Banfield hospital, located within Petsmart. On that very day, a local rescue called Lost Paws had their adoption day within Petsmart. They brought with them an emaciated, timid black Great Dane. His name was Albert.
I’m already partial to Danes, but for some reason, this one … spoke to me. He looked at me with his sad eyes, and they said, ‘help me. Please. Help me.’. I sat with him, and talked to him, and completely fell in love with this dog. His spirit was broken, his body was a wreck. He had been left outside to fend for himself, so he had sores on his body from the pavement. He was an intact 3 year old male with little to no training. However, he had a very calm demeanor, and seemed to be fearful of a lot of things: cats, people, other dogs, cars, the leash, kids, etc. I was in love with him. We connected immediately, and I told the person I needed to talk to my husband.
I could socialize this dog. I could let him have a wonderful life with us. I could clean him up and tell him that it’s ok to be scared sometimes, but with me – he would have nothing to be scared about. I would train him, and socialize him, and help him, and show him love. He could be happy and he would do well with us.
I told my husband about him, already knowing that he might not be ok with this. He asked me, ’How do you plan to get him home?’. I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. He was a Dane, and I had a small car. . . with my other large dog. He asked me if he was crate-trained. I wasn’t sure. Potty trained? Again, I wasn’t sure. Any training at all? Probably not. Seems the cards were against me, since my husband and I both worked during the day.
I cried, and fought, and tried to get my way for Albert. I don’t mind having an untrained dog, especially with the temperament Albert had. However, I understand where my husband was coming from. We didn’t have the time to train him. To socialize him and give him the time this boy needed to get better. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to help so badly.
During this time, I realized this is where I belonged. Helping animals, saving them, and getting them into better positions. I looked into being a vet technician, helping shelters and rescues, and being a dog trainer.
At first, I wanted to get into the medical field as a veterinarian. That was my dream as a kid. But when I realized you had to go to school for 12 years, and then you spend ½ your income on liability insurance, and malpractice insurance, and then you have to open up your own practice… it just seemed daunting. So, again, I’m faced with this decision.
I did research to become a veterinary technician and I was fascinated. I looked into a school very close by…and realized the cost for an Associates degree in Veterinary Technology was as much as my Bachelor’s Degree was… I’m still paying those off. This became less of a possibility. Though, I didn’t lose hope, and I was determined.
I applied for about a hundred scholarships. Then, I did more research into other fields and possibilities in the animal industry and realized what I really want to do. Train and rehabilitate difficult dogs. I am interested in rehabilitation training for dogs who have been best, unsocialized, attacked, and just needed help. I want to also do therapy training, guard training, aggression training and help in an animal rescue. I’m still interested in the medical side of things as well, but the deeper I get into the training world, the more I love it.
Yes, I have been overwhelmed at times, but it’s not because of the task of training a difficult dog (which I’ll write about later), it’s because I am working so many hours a week, and it feels like it will never end. It feels like sometimes, I’m not making enough of a difference and that even though I’m already working 60+ hours a week, I’m not doing enough.
This is the reason why I have registered for more classes. I feel like I can do more. I can learn more, I can participate more. The more I do, the more I am valued. Though, I know this isn’t really true, but it’s the way I feel. The more classes I take, the more educated I can become, the more valued I am in the dog industry.
I want to be great. I will be great. I am just at the tip of the iceberg though. And I’m ok with that. I have a lot to learn, but I am surrounded by a great support group, and have some awesome trainers in my area who will help me get there. The hardest point for me is that I am progressing so slowly (in my opinion). I want to just learn and study and practice all day, every day. But I have a job. I have a career, and I have responsibilities. I cannot abandon them.
So, I am going as quickly as time will allow without jeopardizing my current position, or my family life. It is difficult, but I will eventually get there. I just have to keep telling myself there is light at the end of the tunnel. I will do this full time… eventually. And I will be great… eventually. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think I am on the right path.