I've always thought that the pet industry is focused on pets, that owners will prefer those that can show to have more love and affection for pets as well as having the knowledge, experience and skills in handling them, apparently after almost 5 years in the industry, I found that it wasn't so simple.
Since young I've always dreamt of growing up to either work with animals or being an artist, but due to my family's view and friends around me I've moved towards art as a profession, I believed that even if art is chosen as a job, I could still spend time with animals at the end of the day. Animals had been a part of my life since I was born, we've had all sorts of pets that Singapore allows. When i was still in primary school, i've once told my friends that I wanted to become an animal trainer at the zoo and they all laughed at me, saying that the job is all about picking animal poop, I'm not afraid to say that at that point of time I was somehow affected and ideas changed through the years, but my love for animals were always there.
I studied animals as a hobby, mainly learning about dogs because I found their intelligence limitless, dogs are also legal in Singapore and much more affordable to own compared to other highly trainable animals like horses, elephants and dolphins. Training animals were never easy and I've failed countless times as a kid, always finding myself dumping away all my knowledge and starting all over again from scratch, believing that I had been exposed to wrong information and lacked guidance. As years goes, I found that all those thoughts were just excuses, my chance of success slowly started to increase and it's not because I had thrown away knowledge, but because of the failures I've experienced, these priceless failures were the key to helping me understand what worked for animals and what didn't!
Today, I'm officially a dog trainer, this is a part time service and it's been almost 5 years, the passion had not died down a bit. A good friend once asked me why I did not thought of providing animal training services years ago, he knew that it was a lucrative business and I could gain more income doing that (we were very poor at that time and this job could've helped a lot). To me personally, it's not about having money in pocket, I noticed that many trainers like to start out without any experience, zero experience of dogs except having their own show dog, watched a couple of tv show and read books. Clients don't know, they just see what they first find on google/Facebook search, then look for the cheapest or most popular option, they don't care how knowledgeable their trainers are. Basically, just having a certificate and paying money for ads could generate as many customers as the business needed. I didn't start out at that point of time simply because I knew that I wasn't ready, I needed more hands on experience with different dogs before transferring my knowledge to another person. When you want to teach, you have to make sure that the information given to students are correct, because I assure you 90% of them will follow blindly without wanting to understand the reason behind every action, and when it comes to dogs it's no longer a matter or passing or failing an exam, it's about the life of an animal, what you teach to a customer AFFECTS the dog's life as a whole, I can't emphasize enough that I've seen too many dogs that suffered because of this irresponsible behavior.
Many inexperienced trainers will never be able to learn much even after they had been doing it as a service for 30 years, because they started off too quick as a teacher, and you have to understand that teaching isn't always a good platform for learning about dogs, because you are spending most of the time providing information and knowledge to your clients instead of learning. That's when you start seeing people claiming that they had many years of experience, but in fact these experienced are just towards teaching and not the real knowledge in the subject. Once these people learn that they've done the wrong things all these while, they start to become confused and incorporate even more incorrect techniques into the program in order to cover up mistakes.
If you've been following this blog, I recently shared an article about dog training methods, unsurprisingly after a week, I received a couple of hate mails and we exchanged opinions, and guess what, 1 month later 3 popular training schools changed their training syllabus. These 3 schools had been focusing only on punishing methods like choke chains, helicopter and pinning in the past, well after receiving these "hate mails", 2 of them started to introduce more humane tools like head collar and clicker training in their recent videos. As for the last school that I've not mentioned, they completely changed their training method from "dominance theory", to "force free"! Coincidence? Maybe.
While I'm happy to be able to affect the industry in a way, i am very concerned about the sudden change in these syllabus, these trainers had zero knowledge on positive reinforcement and yet they teaching owners to use them? Would they be doing this because they knew that they were wrong, or they did they do this just to boost business? With this, more owners are going to be absorbing the wrong knowledge and many dogs are going to suffer again.
If you feel that I'm just saying these because I am not happy about being imitated, then I'll just clarify this, dog training lessons are not my source of income, it does not affect my life in any ways and I don't even care about fame or empty slots, most of you that had consulted us or dropped email to us about training will know that we do not take in just anyone, we will always make sure that those that need the lessons more will be prioritized, and these people that we prioritize will usually be owners who's dog have very serious behavior problems that need immediate attention, or those that show that they are willing to follow lessons closely. There are owners that mentioned that they have very busy lifestyle, in that case we will not prioritize slots for them, at times we will even refer them to other trainers depending on their needs. The reason for me to open up weekends for training classes is because I believe that my knowledge can save and help dogs in need. I've encountered some owners that were advised for their dogs to be put down or thrown to the shelter just because they do not know how to train them, they'd even exclaimed that they had consulted "the most popular schools" in Singapore and it'll never work elsewhere, funny enough improvements were seen right in front of their eyes after just 15 minutes of interaction. Singapore is a very small country and yet many dogs are put down and abandoned daily just because they are not properly trained. I did not start offering dog training service just for fun, it's due to people's feedback that they are not able to follow our online articles and requested for physical lessons.
I do believe that we shouldn't pinpoint businesses that we are involved in ourselves, therefore you will never see me mentioning bad things about the names of any local trainer or boarding places, I am a very straightforward person and not hesitant to voice my opinion when requested, I can name pet shops, vets, groomers and breeders that I had very bad experience with but I'll never spread unnecessary things about specific trainers and hotels.
This post is my personal opinion on the matter and I do not expect everyone to understand, hopefully those that read this will be able to learn a couple of things:
1. Get the right trainer for you and your dog's need, ignore popularity.
2. Gain more hands on experience before you start teaching, you will never regret this path if you really love dogs.