hour 12: works with dogs by Ana Poe

by Jen on November 13, 2010

There’s a myth that persists about working in the pet industry.  People always say, “Oh, I’d love to work with animals, they’re so much better than people!”

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I’ve got a newsflash for you: every pet, has at least one owner, usually two (and in the case of broken relationships and shared custody, sometimes you can de dealing with up to four people who have an emotional stake in said animal… yikes!).

Let’s explore…

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A dog trainer’s common lament is that one has to act as marriage counselor.  To teach a dog the basics is pretty simple.  Dogs learn in one way, you tweak the technique for the particular temperament and, voila, you have a trained dog.  Now add in the owner and you’ve got an additional way the basic message to the dog can get screwed up.  Add in a spouse and you not only have another individual who can screw up the message in a different way, but the synchronicity of “the message” is based on the health of the relationship. It’s not uncommon for marital strife to interfere with the dog getting “the message,” and the dog trainer is often left with the job of playing referee, deciding which spouse is right and urging all sides to play nice.

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Dog walkers are lucky enough to spend much more time with the dogs than the actual owners, but as part of the “service industry” you are still vulnerable to the quirks of your clients. Just the other night I heard one walker’s story about getting fired because the dog left sand on the kitchen floor after a romp on the beach despite a thorough towel-down session.  When you’re talking about a long-haired PWD going nuts chasing the ball down the beach, it’s hard to give a full groom before you drop them off, but apparently some people expect it.

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Veterinarians and groomers are alike in that they mostly only see their animals during procedures that are not always a fun time for the animals.  Just like a human doctor, veterinarians mostly see patients when they’re in pain, and it’s much easier to extract information from a human patient than an animal one.  Groomers do fantastic jobs but can’t always ask the animal how they want to look.  Both professions also have to deal with animals who have temperament issues and are not used to being handled, making everything much more dangerous despite the owner’s claims of, “it’s okay, he won’t bite.”

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Being on the retail end of things, I spend much more time now with the human clients than the animals.  When a customer comes into the shop, I work with them to find a collar they like, but I also try and stand up for the animal and figure out which style compliments them the best.  When it’s a couple, there is a bit of “marriage counselor” at play.  I’m not sure if shopping for human children clothes is a comparable retail experience, but I’ve seen couples almost break up over dog collar decisions.  The up-side is that while I usually only get to see pictures of the dogs we outfit, our dogs get to come to work every day.

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The bottom line is that if you want to work with animals because you can’t handle people, then the pet industry is not for you.  You have to deal with people… a lot of them.  But the difference is that it’s the animals who can help you through a difficult client.  In the end, knowing that you’ve enriched an animal’s life, helped it regain health, or outfitted it in such a way that it garners untold positive attention, it makes it all worth it.

this post brought to you by Ana Poe, founder & chief of Paco Collars.

Donate  <———over there in the sidebar, send me an email, and stay tuned to win the incredible handcrafted matching collar & leash set of your choice from Paco.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Laci November 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Amen to that! Yes, I wanted to be a vet since I was a little girl to work with the animals, and I spend so much more time with pet owners!

Dina October 26, 2014 at 8:56 am

Is it possible for you to make your post re: Goodbye Huckleberry public again? It was so very well written and I have shared it with so many people who are in the same position as you were in 2010. Thank you so much.

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