So…. you want to be a dog trainer?

unspecified-6When someone finds out I work with dogs they always seem to say “you are so lucky!” ... and indeed I am. I wouldn’t choose to do anything other than what I am doing. But it’s not all cupcakes and butterflies. I regularly answer phone calls with people crying on the other end because their dog just killed a dog, their dog bit someone or they have a dog they’ve shocked and choked because a “trainer” told them to and now you are their last hope because things have gone from bad to worse.

I have wonderful clients who I feel blessed to be part of their “inner circle” because they feel safe making themselves vulnerable and admitting what they see as mistakes they have made, confiding in me and trusting me. Without judgment I listen, empathize and try to steer the ship in the right direction with patience, prudence and accurate scientifically sound information. I disclose to my clients when their dogs are a danger to society and to their well-being and that sometimes the best decision isn’t the one that feels even remotely fair or just. I counsel them through the process of making the hardest decision of their life, a sounding board to their guilt, regret, sadness and sometimes anger.

I also listen when my clients beam with pride that the baby steps day by day they are taking to make positive behaviour changes are actually working and that today was the day they could breathe a sigh of relief for the first time when walking their dog on leash without them reacting. When they share how strangers comment that their dog is so well behaved and when the love they feel for their dog overwhelms them because they knew they could learn new things. Those times when I see a broken dog and broken family turn into a unit that is now thriving on mutual trust and understanding because their hard work and dedication are paying off.

For every single dog and client I have worked with they regularly come to my thoughts. I remember and think of each of them and our time together and hope and pray that things are going well if I have not heard from them. I shed tears for those that due to genetics and trauma had to be laid to rest and for their families that went through hell and back. Because to me they are more than just clients; they are my community and extended family. My small contribution to society is this profession we call “dog training”. It’s what I will leave behind. And I’m proud of that.

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Positively Expert: Renée Erdman

Renée Erdman is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and behaviour consultant focusing on the emotional needs and welfare of dogs and their guardians. She resides in North Vancouver, BC Canada where she runs Bravo Dog (, her pride and joy.


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