Dog Training and Self Confidence

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I’m sure that every career is similar in terms of impact towards self-confidence to an extent, but my only firsthand experience is my career as a dog trainer, and that experience has been an emotional roller coaster.

I began dog training when I was young, and as I grew, so did my self-confidence. By the time I was ready to enter the professional world, I was certain I was great at my skill.  I always knew that education was going to be continuous throughout my career, that is just part of the job and something that was emphasized by the trainers I idolized. However, I thought of those future skills as new tools to add to my collection of perfected current methods, tools that I had mastered and that were the foundation of my methodology.

Then came along a dog that took a sledgehammer to that foundation.  It doesn’t necessarily matter who the dog was, his breed or his behavioral issues, all that matters was that he found a weakness in my perfected and carefully calibrated set of tools and that sent my self-confidence spiraling out of control.

When this happens, you start to question everything you have learned. You stay awake at night revisiting old cases and wondering if you could’ve done better, you question why your current students are paying for your questionable instruction and start to see a future in an alternative career. Then, you hit the books. You attend seminars, classes, lectures and listen to podcasts. You talk to every trainer you know and soak up information like a sponge.  You become a better student and subsequently, a better trainer.  Your self-confidence rises once again.

Until the next sledgehammer-wielding dog comes along and crushes your newly reinforced foundation once again.

This is what it’s like to be a dog trainer.  Your self-confidence is on a never ending quest through peaks and valleys. It forces us to continue learning, to be better for ourselves and our dogs. It’s what pushes the entire industry forward and challenges us to develop better methods and to continually improve the human-dog relationship.  This is why I love this career.

To those new trainers or the experienced ones who have recently entered a valley of self-confidence: it gets better. With every foundation rebuild and tool perfected, the peaks get higher and valleys less deep.  You’ve got this.

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