Recently, I decided on a whim to contact the reporter writing the weekly On The Job profiles for the Cecil Whig, in Cecil County MD. I figured, why not? One of my philosophies is you don`t get anything if you don`t ask. And all they can say is no. Anyways, it worked out delightfully; Amy contacted me, I believe, the day following my email to her. By coincidence, she had already been cruising my website, but was unsure if I resided in Cecil County. With that clarified, she was good to go, came to Rainwood Kennel for the interview accompanied by Matt for the photo, and it was a wrap. I am really pleased with the results of our chat together, in the classroom of the kennel, accompanied by Bridget on a play rampage. Hopefully there will be an increase in business with the increased exposure; if not, I was able to get some points of concern into print!
Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA ABC Student Mentor
AKC CGC Evaluator Member: APDT,MAAPPPT, TrulyDogFriendly, Force Free Dog Training
Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 11:45 am | Updated: 3:57 pm, Tue Nov 2, 2010.
Dog Trainer Leslie Fisher is a strong advocate for positive, force-free training. She sees the rewards of this method every day, not only with her own dogs but also with those she trains through her business Look What I Can Do! Dog Training. The business offers many services to pet owners including in-home private lessons, behavioral consultations, new puppy consultations and group training classes held at Rainwood Kennels in Elkton.
How did you get your start?
I grew up with dogs. I brought the first family dog home when I was 5. Kind of like a ‘mom, look what I found' type of thing. I grew up with never any less than three dogs in the household. I've never been without a dog. I was always aware of obedience training. I went through a number of classes with different dogs I had and I was really interested in it. Then I started raising puppies for Canine Partners For Life to be service dogs. That really got me thinking pretty seriously that hey, this is something I can really do and why not?
How did you train for the job?
I did a little bit of research and found a trainer in western Maryland, Pat Miller of Peaceable Paws, and she has a national, if not international, reputation as an author and positive pet trainer. I started taking her internships. She had three that I completed with a degree of excellence and I became certified as a Pat Miller Certified Trainer. Then I went on to get certification at the national level by taking my certified pet dog trainer exam. Sadly enough, anyone can go out and call themselves a dog trainer. Even more sadly, most clients do not know the difference.
What essential skills are required?
To be a dog trainer, you actually have to like people. I've heard other dog trainers say I became a dog trainer because I like working with dogs, I don't like people. Well, the other half of the equation is the owner. It's as much if not more about educating the owner on how to train their dogs. You need to be self-motivated and be able to work independently. You need to be able to think outside the box and think on your feet. You need to be able to market if you want to stay in business.
What is the strangest request/question you've ever had?
I had a prank - I would like to think it was a prank call. Somebody called me at 11 o'clock at night and they asked me if I could train their dog to bite.
Describe a typical day.
There's always a lot going on in my days. Obviously caring for, exercising and training my own dogs. Whatever appointments I have, preparing for those appointments and going out on those appointments. If I have a class in the evening, preparing for that class. Then there's all the other stuff, the always stuff; the e-mails, the follow-ups, responding to people having problems, responding to inquiries. Then all the networking stuff that's constant. I'm always networking through Facebook, Twitter. Problem solving with colleagues and reading articles.
What's the best part of the job?
I really love those light bulb moments when people really get it, when they really get something and the dog as well. A really big light bulb moment is when a dog lays down for the first time on a verbal cue. The owner will, there will be this great big smile on their face and wow, look what my dog just did. My dog can learn and I taught my dog how to do that.
What's the biggest challenge?
The ongoing mindset of people and trainers of the whole dominance thing. You have to dominate your dog. You have to show them who's boss. All these false beliefs that are so prevalent. Obviously the ongoing situations of just encountering dogs who have had unnecessary and harsh training that keep coming to me. I network with colleagues all the time about how can we most effectively get the word out there that this is not necessary. I write blogs contributing to the Never Shock a Puppy campaign.
Who succeeds as a dog trainer?
Somebody that likes people. I think somebody that had gone to the effort to really educate themselves and has knowledge of science and learning theories. Someone who can explain what they're doing in scientific terms. You need to be able to have a plan and know why you're doing what you're doing in terms of science and learning theory. And I think people that have credibility succeed. They've trained with someone known and they have national licensure. Obviously, people that know how to market themselves. Somebody that understands that learning is never over, because it's not.
What advice would you offer someone looking at a career as a dog trainer?
I would advise people to be able to communicate with people. You're a teacher. You're teaching people. You have to relate to all different personality types. You're gonna see them all. They should join a professional recognized group like the American Pet Dog Trainers Association. In other words, become a real professional, not just someone who hangs out a shingle and says I'm a dog trainer. And handle dogs, handle dogs, handle dogs. If you can't look at a dog and say what that dog is communicating through its body language, then you have no business being a dog trainer and that's all part of what comes with continuing to handle dogs.