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.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you're still blogging! And I feel the same way exactly.

    1/ I've been in that situation so often: Just because a trainer is convinced of his/her protocol does not mean that everybody else' is wrong. If only there was more open mindedness, people might actually learn something from different methods...
    2/ There's no winning, whether you are an a. anonymous client (not saying you're a behaviourist) or b. you say it at first. With a. they will patronize you to death, and you'll have to bite your tongue at the many differences in approach to yours. With b. they will be nit-picking and fault-finding.

    I am in exactly the same place as you right now (except in obedience training). I just can't find a serious advanced class that doesn't rely on aggressive methods, and that will show me and my dog the least bit of respect.