My introduction to the animal industry was volunteering for the RSPCA. I volunteered my time to get away from the stress and boredom of studying my double degree in business and commerce (yuck!). My dedication to the volunteer work led to a paid position in the shelter, working in the boarding and prosecution divisions.
I found my passion caring for abused and neglected dogs that came into the shelter. We would look after them sometimes for a year or longer as they awaited court proceedings. Witnessing dogs transition from completely shut down to showing off their individual quirks and getting excited to see us, made my heart sing. There were also dogs that I wasn’t able to befriend fully, these dogs intrigued me. Sadly, despite our best efforts to fix these dogs, when it came to passing the adoptability test, it wasn’t always a positive outcome. Over time this wore me down emotionally. I desperately wanted to change these outcomes, but knew I needed to gather more knowledge and experience, so I parted ways with my beloved shelter animals.
For a change of pace, I entered the dog daycare industry. Still passionate about building confidence and trust in dogs, I quickly became known for helping shy/misunderstood dogs come out of their shells. I would get such a kick out of their transformations! By working here, I was introduced to professional dog trainers bringing in business cards and training equipment. Finding out I could actually help dogs as a career, I quickly enrolled in the Certificate Three in Dog Training and Behaviour through the National Dog Trainers Federation.
My view on the role of a dog trainer changed dramatically when I met Scott McGuinness (Canine Connect) and Cat Saunders (the K9 Company). I naively looked at the job as training and fixing dogs. Sure, that was a ¼ of it, but after listening to Scott and Cat, I realised the integral part of being a successful dog trainer, was to motivate and communicate with clients, effectively. This scared the shit out of me!
I had never had ANY intentions of being a teacher of ANY subject. I couldn’t explain things. I’m an awkward introvert! I open up with my close friends and family, but I had always struggled to hold conversations with people I didn’t know.
All of a sudden I was employed by Canine Connect as a dog trainer in which I was handed a lot of confidence and responsibility. I had no idea how or if I was capable of becoming a good trainer for the company.
Through Canine Connect, I was privileged to meet and learn from various amazing national and international dog trainers. I was learning and applying loads about dog behaviour, but I became less confident with my ability to instruct clients with their dogs. All I could see were these proficient communicators surrounding me, and it really highlighted my weaknesses.
I started to get in my own way, I didn’t think I was ever going to be good enough to help people with their dogs in the way I desperately wanted to, purely because of my own anxiety. It’s an awful feeling when you have so much desire to help, but your anxiety and confidence gets in the way of being able to communicate your knowledge effectively.
As time went on, the thought of speaking to people one on one made me incredibly anxious to the point of feeling sick, let alone the thought of addressing a big group of people. It was getting worse. I would work myself up into such a state of anxiety when I knew I had to speak with clients. By the time it came to speaking to them, my brain would freeze, my knowledge would disappear and I would fumble my way through it.
I had become so resentful towards myself, that I had to take a step back from dog training and try something different. As heartbreaking as it was to turn away from my true passion, the break away from it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
For the last year, I have been focusing on bettering my own confidence and communication. I’ve always been so invested in helping the owner or the dog that I had neglected to take care of my relationship with myself and close ones around me.
I’ve learnt that I need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way for me to grow as a person. By setting little challenges that took me out of my safe space, I started to grow. This process was very similar to the small challenges I would set my training dogs to build confidence or conquer fears. Just like the dogs that built confidence, I feel better about myself and my abilities to liaise with clients.
I’m still a work in progress and always will be. However, now I have a better understanding of who I am and the trainer I want to be. By being authentic and embracing my quirks, I’m more relatable to clients which in turn creates a better trainer/client relationship.
I have a lot to be thankful for including my love for animals particularly my best mate Ruskee. These loves combined have motivated me to pursue the BEST job ever. Ruskee’s unwavering loyalty and support has comforted me through some really low times, but has also pushed me to find my way out. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Canine Connect having the faith in me to come on board as a trainer. I also wouldn’t be the person I am with the qualities that I have, if I wasn’t a dog trainer.