Call off the dogs: to stop attacking or criticizing someone.
I’m writing this post specifically geared towards dog professionals as it continues to be an ongoing problem amongst us, which I think has to do with what a passionate and emotional group we are. Many times, I am ashamed by our industry, but overall I tend to feel disappointed. I am sure this happens within any industry, but I feel it is a large problem within dog training, or rather the pet industry as a whole; critiquing and fighting against each other. We are far too concerned about what others are doing, do not support each other and we are suffering for it. We are happy when another business makes a poor choice, fails with a client or is facing a challenge. We sit on the sidelines and judge each other, and we become obsessed with communicating what others are doing wrong. We have all been guilty of this and in the long run, we are only hurting ourselves. In today’s post, I am going to share some of the situations where we tend to react poorly, share some stories and identify how we can change our behaviour to bring more positive change to our industry.
“We took our dog to this dog training school and saw zero results and we were unhappy. We would like to register with your classes instead”
I know we have all heard this at one time or another. And it could be a very valid statement. However, what do we tend to first think about? We validate it by jumping to conclusions about all the things wrong that business did. In my experience, these should be more of a flag for us regarding lack of compliance. Or perhaps it was not the right approach or class for that client, but the business may not been aware of the challenges until the client was already there. And like we have experienced many times, the client may have appeared happy in class and never provided any feedback that their goals were not being met or even what their real concerns were. We have the advantage of starting out differently with this client because of this feedback. This does not make us better than the other training school. I always try to use this as more of a flag about client concerns versus a negative against another training school. In Calgary, we are full of excellent dog training schools, so if a client tries to complain about one, I do not participate and encourage the negative response. I may instead say, “I am sorry to hear this and I am sure it was just a miscommunication as we know that dog training school typically sees excellent results. We are happy to help you…” Do not encourage negativity and complaining, as you will then bring it into your business.
“They are stealing my ideas”
I know this is a hard one for all of us. I did write a full post on this topic as it is a challenging one for us. However, I think this is the most common concern amongst trainers. The industry is full of trends and over the years I have seen how this works. We have seen the introduction of fear and reactivity classes, playtimes for puppies, clinics and so much more. None of these ideas are unique and can be found around the world. We each have our own unique way of delivering the material and packaging our programs. We have our own client base and network. Unless someone steals an exact full program of yours or a specific name, try your best not to think about how they stole it from you, and instead think how wonderful it is to see they are offering it as well, and take it as a sign this new service is obviously in demand and will be successful. I have seen people tear themselves apart obsessing over what is being stolen from them. Put on your blinders and just keep focusing on what you are doing. Research similar businesses in other countries for new ideas and focus on what makes the most sense for your business, not on what others are doing. You truly get what you put out, so avoid focusing on the negative and what makes you angry, as this will have a negative impact on your business and your overall well-being.
“They are doing it all wrong”
We all do this at times and it has become one of the biggest problems of our industry. Ultimately, we are all reaching the same goals, but just have some different steps to get there. Or perhaps we have different goals and what one business is reaching for is not the same as another. For dogma, we do not strive for perfection in obedience. It is impressive and we love to encourage clients to excel at these skills, but we just take a different approach. It is not about a perfect sit stay, but perhaps a successful tool to prevent the dog from jumping on guests. This does not make one better than the other, so focus on your own business goals and match them to your client’s goals and forget about how everyone else is doing it. The main part is that you and your client are happy, and in turn you will see growth and continued success. It is a drain of your own energy to be concerned about how others are doing things. If you want to learn what is going on in the industry, attend conferences, seminars and participate in online learning. Focus on your own growth and match your programs to your own core values and goals.
“Another dog training business just opened, now I need to worry more about competition”
For an industry that is fighting for more regulations and increased awareness of proper training and handling techniques with the public, we should celebrate the growth of more businesses. The pet industry is booming, and this means nothing but good things for all of us. I hear this concern a lot and many question why my business focuses on building more competition as we operate a successful Dog Trainer Apprenticeship Program which has resulted in an influx of dog trainers in the city. Yes, we are creating our competition, but this is one of the things I am most proud of. There is room for all of us. Clients will choose what is a best fit for them, and this may just come down to something as simple as what time a class is offered. If you are struggling, take the time to look at your own marketing efforts. How are you promoting your business? What are you doing to network and get your name out in the industry? What relationships have you built? Review the success of your services and perhaps it is time to remove or add services. When things slow down, this is not the time to focus on competition and place blame elsewhere. You must listen to this feedback and make changes. You drive the direction of your business, not your competition.
Operating a business is full of challenges and rewards. As an owner, your behaviour and attitude reflects within your team, your messaging and your interactions with clients. Remove all the distractions and keep negativity away. The advice to remain positive is not just a cliché. It is a key component of your success. It takes time and it is hard, but the shift will have a huge impact on your business. Start small by identifying a negative, critical or judgemental thought when it enters your mind. Think about why you feel that way and how you could address it in a more positive light. Try to celebrate and be genuinely happy when others are successful. Block everything that brings negativity to you; this may be a social media group, a colleague or even a team member. I made a choice two years ago to begin removing all negativity from my business and although it has been a challenging path, it has been full of tremendous rewards I would not have achieved otherwise. Negativity holds you back and you’ve got way more to give. What a gift for us all when we begin to have a more positive impact. Take care of yourself and start this today.
While writing this, I have been thinking about ways I can change and promote this more as well. To start, I am going to bring back our shout outs we used to do every Saturday. It was an excellent way to promote other businesses and send out some great energy. I understand this is all much easier said than done, so I suggest you vow to start a small change today. For example, it may be to stop complaining. Or perhaps it may be to remove yourself from certain groups or people. Or it may just be to stop commenting on things that make you angry online. On a more proactive level, get out and network with others in your industry. Socialize with them and enjoy some great times together. Whatever it may be, start it today and begin seeing immediate positive results personally and for your business.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller