Ok, guys, let me talk to you about something that has been bugging me for a while. It's the reason I avoid crowded times at the dog park, and the reason I don't wear shirts with my logo all the time. It's the reason I spend most of my time with my dogs alone or with friends who know better. What is it, you ask? It's people treating me like a free resource. Let me give you an example of a conversation I have almost daily:
Person I meet: Oh, you're a dog trainer? That's so cool! I have Lab. She's almost a year now.
Me: Is that so? I bet she's really cute.
Person: Oh, she is! She can be a handful sometimes too, though.
Me: Oh, young Labs can be that way. Here, let me give you my card. If you'd like, we can set up a time where I can meet her and we can talk about some things that could help you out.
Person: You know, she won't stop jumping up (chewing, peeing, getting on furniture, etc.). What should I do about that? I've tried everything!
Here's the thing. First of all, you haven't tried EVERYTHING. In fact, most owners probably haven't tried half the things out there. Do you know how I know you haven't tried EVERYTHING? You HAVEN'T HIRED ME!
Second of all, I haven't met your dog. I have no idea how her life is with you. There could be a thousand different reasons for why she's acting the way she does, and until I've met her I'm only taking a shot in the dark. I do offer a free consultation, so please feel free to call me and set up a time.
Third, I understand that this brief conversation is like a mini-interview for me. You're looking for help, and if my advice is any good, you may just give me a call in the future. However, more often than not, you've heard this advice before. You've tried ignoring your dog, or correcting your dog, or giving your dog a command. Here's the catch, though. You're not a dog trainer. You may love your dog, and you may be a pretty decent owner, but you don't know everything (not even about your dog). You trying something is different from me trying something. Often, the way I act is reflected in a dog's reaction towards me. I hear on a regular basis (twice yesterday) that a dog I'm meeting for the first time is surprisingly calm towards me. "For most people, Fluffy would be jumping all over the place and barking. It's amazing that she's just sitting and watching you" is something I hear a lot. Before you assume that you've done everything I'm recommending and it didn't work, why don't you watch a pro.
Lastly, I love my job. I love being able to work with my dogs every day. I LOVE coming home to a house full of dogs and sleeping in a bed filled with dogs (and cats). It's my world. However, it can also be exhausting. It is still work. Sometimes I just need a break. Also notice that just about everything I love about my job involves working with dogs, not just telling someone else how to work with them. When I'm on a trail walk, or at Target, or getting my oil changed, or eating dinner, please do not interrupt me to ask me questions about your dog. Please do not interrupt my time with my dogs (who, like children, need some one-on-one time), or my shopping spree, or my reading time, or my time with friends and family so that I may immediately solve your problem.
So, what should you do? Well, I am more than happy if you interrupt me to ask for a card. A brief mention of the problem is fine too, but wait until I've met your dog to explain it in detail. If you have no intention of hiring a trainer, look it up online or go to the library / book store. There are a lot of really great resources out there, and plenty of people have spent a lot of time making sure they're easy to understand. Take advantage of that. Oh, and avoid asking me my rates right then and there. Again, wait for the consultation. I will be better able to assess the situation and let you know what course option is best for you after I've seen your lifestyle, and the price won't seem as high when I'm sitting in your living room telling your dog to sit with me.
Oh, and if you're a friend or family member, and we happen to be out together (say, at the dog park), please let me keep my anonymity. If it comes up, you can mention I'm a trainer, but I don't need you to be my advertising campaign. I really do appreciate the gesture, and I know you mean well, but let me have my time away from work. If you really want to spread my name around town, carry some of my business cards and hand them out. The people who are serious about calling me will, and the people who just want free advice will leave me alone.