Sunday, March 27

Lose Your Clients in 5 Easy Steps

If you are easily offended, don't read this;
unless, of course, you are looking for a reason to hate me..
in which case...
read away.

Kei biffs it in the tunnel.

Confession #1
I really don't like other dog trainers.
I hate having to deal with them on a client-to-professional basis.

Confession #2
I'm pretty crazy about agility.
But I don't have "the bug" like other people do.
The only thing I'm interested in competing against is mine and my dog's personal best.
People train their dogs for agility, learn the moves, and hit the course.
get in shape for agility. That means mommy does push ups, cuts her 10-sec 100 meter dash into less than half that, and figures out how to do precision, quick movements on the field. 
We video tape what we do, figure out where our hand signals, foot work, communication, training, etc, needs work... 
and we work on it.

And...that's just the tip of the ice berg.
So, let me repeat.
We are crazy about agility.

Case in Point:

There's a training facility that is pretty far from us, but was rated "best" in agility training for a few years running.
This is a two hour drive, at best, with toll roads along the way. Plus, to be honest, the prices for the place weren't what you'd call cheap.

So. Remember how I told you we're pretty nuts when it comes to this dog sport?
Yeah, we'd be spending $270/month easy on classes and the drive up there.
And we were totally willing to do it.

Here's a fun note: If you're good at what you do, people will find you... and they will be willing to drive to you.

But... not if this happens.

Bad Idea #1 
Roll your eyes.

Enter James with his aussie and Julie with hers. Take one look at the "fifteen-year-old" and roll your eyes.
Yeah, because that's gonna make me want to not only give you an entire paycheck, but also make me want to take your advice, and be nice to you.
Is this an agility facility or a popularity contest?
Do. Not. Be. A. Jerk. To. Your. Clients.

Bad Idea #2:
Insult the client

So, we're on an "assessment run" and I'm laughing because KodaBear is herding my legs. I have to stop. Laughing is a good option, because I want to scream. Four months of working that out, and I push her over threshold and it's the Breland Effect. Joy. (Instinct often wins despite training.)
I give a quick explanation that I can't deal with that, and won't run a dog who is herding me... but am totally willing to put as much work as it takes into getting her to realize that I am not a lamb, and agility is not about chasing the not-lamb that is me.
And by the way, coming from the traditional side, when I say, "I can't deal with that," what I mean is that I will lose my temper and likely do something stupid and mean to the dog. 
For being a freaking dog.
And I'm not willing to get mad - and I know I will - at the dog for being a dog, so I don't set her up to get so excited that she does that.
I am told that I need to get over it and deal with the dog I've got, and stop trying to beat the dog out of her.

Despite your opinions either way, not a good idea to insult the client. Yet again.

Bad Idea #3:
Make your client feel stupid.

Teach "hit it," a trick that involves your dog standing on a contact obstacle with  her two back paws on the equipment and her two front paws on the floor.
Okay, well, I don't agree that the dog "will never learn to hit the contact" if you don't teach this, but I'm still willing to teach it... and I don't want to argue.
So, I get KodaBear up, and tell her GOOD JOB! when she does it right. (Yes, a click or "yes" would be faster. I know.)
 Trainer: Good... what?
JJ: *totally confused* Good.....................d-dog?
Trainer: *rolls eyes...again!* Good HIT IT. How's the dog supposed to know what she's done right if you don't tell her?

Oh, lord. I hate "Good [repeat cue]" 
So, I simply say. "Oh. I see your point, but I was trained never to do that, so I'm not comfortable."
In my opinion, a good trainer explains why she does what she does and allows the client to make the decision as to whether she's going to follow... pending it's not going to put anyone in danger. (We don't use the word "stay" either, but I hardly yell at people who do. I do, however, explain why we don't use it, and let them feel it out.)

Bad Idea #4
Be totally full of yourself

See that herding instinct?

Raise your hand if you're NOT guilty of this.
No hands raised? Thought that might be the case.
We're all pretty set in our own ways - our training protocols work for us, and they work for our clients.
However, it's one thing to be full of your training protocols, and quite another to think you're god's gift to dog training.

I don't like going somewhere and being made to feel like a lesser being, like I know nothing about dogs, like I'm somehow inferior and need to be fixed.
I have freaking agility titles for the love of dog; I'm not a complete moron.

But we opted to dress down - jeans and t-shirt (no company logo, either) and act like clients. Bring your "I'm a dog trainer" face to another dog trainer around here, and you'll face animosity. It's just not fair.
I didn't feel a need to put additional strain on the client-trainer relationship. I was going to learn, not to judge.

It's probably a bad idea to pin my dog to the floor and tell me that we're making her "relax" and that we'll wait for a yawn or a lip lick. 
That's how we were going to know she was "relaxing." Force my dog down and pet her over the head - which she hates, but puts up with if it's me - and wait till she gives you a fragging agonistic signal to let her go.
Give me my dog back, please; we're leaving.

Too boot, when James asked his dog for a down when he otherwise would have taken off like a crazy dog, she told him "don't force your dog into a submissive down."

Screw that, and screw you.
I'm not going to pay nearly $300/month to go to a place that treats me and my dog that poorly. Honestly. What did you guys do? Get all of your friends to vote for you in the polls, because you guys aren't the best at anything.

Bad Idea #5
Don't dress like a professional

Going to this place inspired that post.
One lady was dressed in jogging pants and a shirt that must have been ten years old.
The second lady to come in had so much makeup on that her face was orange, her eyeliner was melting, and she was wearing what I'm sure was supposed to be dress clothes, but...
I could see her panty-line, her shirt was waaaay too low cut, and ..
She looked messy.
Not professional in the least.
Remember the lady off the Drew Carey show who wore entirely too much blue eye shadow. Yeah, she looked good in comparison.

So here's the recap:
When you're meeting a new client, dress the part. This is a profession for most of us, so even if it's just a part-time-and-who-cares thing for you, don't make the rest of us look bad.
Treat your clients nicely - don't make them feel stupid. And if you take one look at them and think, "There's no way I'm ever going to like these people," keep it off your face. First, you don't know that. Second, it doesn't matter if you like them or not.
You aren't a dog trainer in order to make friends.
Last, but not least, don't be a dick.
I mean, really? You don't know everything - no one does - and it should be worth more to you to prove that you're right and know everything about dogs than it is to work with your client and get them on the same page as you.
If it is more important for you to be right and high-and-mighty, you won't be getting my money any time soon.
But don't worry.
I'll at least have the courtesy not to tell you to get your head out of your ass.... Not to your face, anyway.

Saturday, March 26

Put the Function in the Environmental Relationship

Koda doesn't like my new book. XD
Behavioral Science.

Uh. Well, you get the point.

Sitting there, listening to what behavior science is - outside, of course, of the realm of dog training - I got hung up on a term. It's just this concept that took me by surprise, simply because it was so obvious that it wasn't actually obvious at all.

We talk about nominal fallacies - putting names to things we don't understand and calling them explained, right?
But that something so obvious to me actually had a scientific term and definition swept my feet right out from under me...and I don't know why.

Functional Relationship.
Scientifically: It's the tendency of one even to vary in a regular way with one or more other events.
And I'm pretty sure that's verbatim from the book I'm reading, though I haven't picked it up in over two weeks.
(That book, by the way, is called First Course in Applied Behavior Analysis.)

I read that over and over again, because though I understand what that it - what a functional relationship is - I couldn't make the connection to the definition.

Simple reason why: too many variables in one statement. "Vary in a regular way" with "one or more other events." Ah, it sounds complicated.

So, go turn off your lights. (It is, by the way, currently Earth Hour as I'm writing this, so all lights are off, but the computer is on.) 
That's one event.
"Varies in a regular way."
To be honest - something usually happens when you flip the switch, but that doesn't mean it will. There's always the possibility that your fuse box doesn't work, the light bulb has blown, or you don't have any electricity in your house.
But something usually happens when you flip the switch.

A functional relationship is a functional relationship because of ABC.
ABC (not the animal behavior college, but antecedent -> behavior -> consequence)
Have you ever thought about why it's not ABP?
Bet not.
Antecedents have postcedents
and behaviors have consequences.

But the fact is, not many of the connections we make between antecedent and consequence are actually postcedents.
So, what I'm trying to say is that very few things in this world have causal relationships.

Why couldn't I put my finger on this functional relationship thing?
Because a functional relationship is a correlation.
And it was so obvious that I was oblivious.

Know the difference?
A causal relationship. This is one one thing causes another thing to happen. It's very black and white. 
In Koda speak, sitting in front of the door usually causes mom to let her out.
A correlation is a functional relationship.
Koda speak again: there's just something about putting her butt on the floor. Good stuff seems to happen. doesn't always cause something good to happen. Sometimes nothing happens. But usually, that event (butt on floor) varies in a regular way with one or more events (food, going outside, love from mom, or a good chew toy).

Guess it's a little funny. I was over thinking it.
And doodling while I was supposed to be listening, but doodling helps me listen because I have very little in the way of focus. ^-^;;

This blog is not Koda-Approved. Koda would very much like for me to pick up her dang leash and take her for a walk. Darn it.

Wednesday, March 16

I Think I Failed the Personality Test

I get dogs. I even like dogs - they're fluffy, adorable creatures with enough bite pressure and speed to kill me in a hot second. Plus, they see and process sight faster than I do, may think more like autistic children, and generally do things that make my brain light up with enthusiasm.

Dogs and I, we're a team.

People and I....


Hi, I'm JJ. I'm a bit of an idiot, some-time savant, IQ-ranking somewhere between smart and genius, and it's taken me seven years to learn how to communicate with humans. As in everyday conversation. As in, I can't really be that smart because I can't even have a normal conversation.

And I speak their language, know the culture, and have been immersed in their goings-on for ... Oh, I don't know... 23 years?

And I don't get them.

So, my next adventure is going to center on quite a bit of learning, branching off somewhere between knowledge and tolerance. 

Me? I have very little of the latter. I can't stand what I think of as "stupid" people, don't deal well with differing opinions, extremists, or even everyday conversation. 

I think I'm just fragging weird or something, but since I have to live with me, I figure something has to change.

In the dog training world, I've got this. I can take the role - like a character in a play - and do my job, communicate where I need to, and generally  have a good time with it. Even with dog trainer friends, colleagues, and enthusiasts, I don't have so much of a problem with the communication or the tolerance.

But it doesn't seem to translate to the rest of my life.

...Not that I'm an insufferable, judgmental prick or anything. It's more that... when it comes to the outside world, I just can't empathize. 

People make bad decisions. They do dumb things for dumber reasons... and as someone who has spent her entire life with her nose in a book, the closest I come to relating is poking their brains with questions intended to do a little information gathering.

I think like a behavior analyst, not like a psychologist, and certainly not like a friend. Talking to me is probably the equivalent of talking to a brick wall with a good knowledge of active and passive listening, who offers nothing in the way of personality back. And you KNOW that I'm plugging everything you say into a little brain-powered computer program that's going to lead me to conclusions about you and your actions that I have no interest in sharing.

Doncha just want to be friends with me now?

Best part: I'm bubbly while I do it.

I'm unable to think like most people, and can't decide if I want to.

I figure, at the very least, I can learn HOW other people think, and maybe that will come close enough to relating to cut it. 

Do I... sound like a robot to anyone else?

I'm seriously thinking cyborg, here. (What? It would be fun. Really.)

Wednesday, March 2

Trainer's Block

If you've ever been a writer, you've probably experienced what they term writer's block.
(Used to happen to me only around deadlines. Go freaking figure, right? Oh, the pressure of being twelve...)

Right now, I've got something like that, but we term it "burn out." 

Trust me, I could write things to annoy audiences for days and weeks...and maybe even for the rest of their lives. No writer's block for me.

The problem is... I can't keep up with my usual dog blogs, dog books, dog.... 

I will hang myself if I have to go on.

(I feel like this is you guys. =P)

I'm sick of it. I can't read about dogs, I don't want to write about them (not that I ever do, mind you), and I need  to learn something new to get my mind off of the fact that I will throw myself on the floor and scream if anyone tries to make me read another dog anything.

How do you guys do this?! It's an all-day-every-day thing that I can't wrap my mind around. There is, at a point, a brick wall that you will come up against where no more new information can be gleaned, absorbed, shared, etc. (Yes, this is true, especially for dog training specifically; when adding in behavior, the story changes ... but only slightly.)

 We're stuck in a world where little to no information has changed/altered in quite a while

Well, there's always the excitement of the different religious factions of dog training, but I'm not one for politics, please. Give me cold, hard facts and I'll be happy as a clam.

So, dear dog training, I think we are breaking up. I am taking everything I learned from you - the beginning (and yes, I do mean beginning as in 1+2=3 for dummies) of learning theory, body language, and behavior analysis/modification and stop just "doing something with it" and actually learn more.

What gets me about a lot of dog behavior consultants/trainers is that they have certifications. And experience. .... And not a whole lot else. 

Those things are great, and so is being able to help a dog - save his life, really - and help a family... but we get hung up on "this works" because "this has always worked" if we stop being students and start being teachers. 

There's no room for growth if you "know everything."

(I can see a former me in this cartoon. I'd argue with someone until I passed out from lack of air. Now, I just say "What an interesting perspective" and secretly roll my eyes when their no longer looking. What? One step at a time, guys.)
Nuh uh.

Not gonna happen to me, here. 

I want to build on what I know. 

And that means that I have to leave dog training - which is wonderfully limited - and learn things that can help me build on it. 

It means that I'm going to learn stuff that will make me better at my job, because I love my job... but these things will have little to do with dogs themselves.

Wish me luck. =]