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Tag Archives: force-free training

Why I left my six-figure job

Ottawa Canine School 2 comments

Why I walked away from a six-figure job.




by Chantal Mills

In 2003 I was a High School Guidance Counsellor. It was what I’d aspired to become when I started my teaching career, nearly a decade earlier.  I had achieved my goal, and was living my dream by day, and obsessed with learning as much as I could about dogs by night. I couldn’t wait to spend my free time either with dogs or learning about them.

In 2004 I signed up for an expensive course to learn how to become a dog trainer. I never thought it would lead to opening a dog training business. My goal was simply to put a stop to the intense drive I had that was keeping me awake, pushing me to know everything I could about dogs. I mistakenly thought that by taking the professional dog training course, by having the information and by doing the hands-on work, it would satiate my hunger for knowledge.

In retrospect, the love of animals has always been there. Growing up, you’d find me in my neighbour’s barn, either hanging out with the horses or helping with the milking of the cows. I have pictures of me sleeping in the mud room with our dog because I didn’t want him to sleep alone. It’s a bit embarrassing but I’ll tell you anyway… I would take walks in the forest with arms outstretched, in the hopes that birds would feel welcomed to land on my arms. I talked to the animals and asked that they come out of hiding. In grade 7, I set up a phone interview with a veterinarian in Alfred, Ontario. He was very generous with his time. That conversation convinced me that I wanted to become a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, my talents lay not in math and science, and by the time I was in University, my calling to become a teacher was loud and clear. My love of animals did not disappear whilst in University. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the time, near the end of the semester, I bought a Golden Retriever puppy and hid him in my dorm room in the hopes that I would never get caught. Trying to raise a puppy on the 16th floor of a dorm residence during exam time, all while keeping him secret, was not my best idea.  I learned a lot from that experience. Barney had a great life despite my clumsy start with him. He especially loved swimming and trying to rescue anyone else who was trying to enjoy the water.

After graduating from the Professional Dog Trainer program, my dog training career just took off. At first, my aim was to make enough money to pay myself back for the course.  Before I knew it, I was teaching group classes in a community centre. In a parallel universe, my teaching career was taking its own direction. In 2007, I  became a Vice-Principal, all while doing my dog training on the side. Here is a picture of me with my dog Everest. I’d bring him to work weekly so he could spend the day with the kids. They took him for walks and read to him. Both the kids and Everest loved it.

In November of 2009, my son was born. During my maternity leave, I opened the Ottawa Canine School.  I extended my maternity leave for as long as I could, but in the summer of  2012, I had to make a decision. I resigned from teaching.  Walking away from a job I loved, a six-figure career, a generous amount of holiday time and iron clad job security was not a decision taken lightly.

Friends and family called me “brave” and “courageous” but to be honest, I never felt any fear. I never felt as though I was being brave. The road that took me toward becoming a dog trainer was a road I could not not take. The decision to open a dog training school and jump head first into the world of business felt like the absolute right thing to do.  Going for it was not optional, it was destiny.

 

 

No doubt about it, there is a lot of work for those in the dog training industry. I once heard someone say “where there are dogs, there are problems” and I suppose for those in the dog training business, that is good news! But not everyone should become a dog trainer.

Are you wondering if perhaps a career in dog training is for you? I’ve got a little checklist for you. 

If you love animals but are not a people person, dog training is not likely to be a fulfilling career for you. If you thought dog training was about dogs, you’re right. But it’s also about helping people. In fact, I’d argue that dog training is more about people than about dogs.

Want to know more about the dog training industry and perhaps how you can go about becoming a dog trainer? Get the free guide.

Giving cookies to dogs doesn’t work, right?

Chantal Mills 1 Comments

When I was a so-called traditional trainer, when I first started training dogs, I really did not understand how using food in training could be as effective as what I was doing. I’ll be frank – I thought only the weak had to revert to using food.  Ah… how wrong I was!

I will NEVER say that punishment doesn’t work. I use it too. Ignoring a dog that wants your attention is punishment. Taking away an item your dog is guarding, is an example of punishment. Harsher punishment also works, and works awfully well. I know, I used it on my dog and taught others to do it with their dog. I also didn’t think I was hurting any dogs, nor did I ever consider it a problem if I made them uncomfortable in any way. In fact, I was untrained in recognizing the signs of discomfort and stress in a dog.

I continued to learn. That insatiable thirst to know more and more and more wouldn’t leave me. Though reluctant at first, I let my mind consider other ways to train a dog, and I allowed myself to consider training options that involved food. It was not easy to unlearn things I so fervently believed. It took a lot of time for me to let go of concepts and approaches that had made up the basis of how I operated. Even my dog was confused. But, I persevered. I really wanted to “get it”. My dog adapted and the changes I saw in him are what made me decide that I could not go back to what I was doing.

Today, I look for more than just compliance from my pets. That used to be the golden standard and what I used to get from my dog Everest. To get him to comply, I had to give a leash correction and I needed a prong. I don’t care about compliance any longer.  Nope. I strive for cooperation. I allow my dog to choose to engage with me and you know what? when you remove the threat of an aversive, that possibility of a correction no matter how light you make it, it is amazing how willing that animal becomes. That may be difficult for some to relate to. I expect that. Believe me, I would have scoffed at that notion 10 years ago. It may feel like you are relinquishing control. I get it. I would have thought so too a decade ago. However, today, I see that a relationship based on cooperation is not only kind and humane, but more powerful than a relationship based on avoidance.

My dog used to “talk back” to me a lot, but at least he did what I asked him to do. How is that success? I want more than a dog going through the motions just because I asked him to. Do I have all the answers? Nope. I wish. But I will never stop my quest for knowledge, I will continue learning from my mistakes, and I will strive to keep an open mind since that is what got me here in the first place.

Here is a blog entry from a fellow dog trainer that is well worth the read.

But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!

What Does a “Force-Free” Trainer Do Anyway?

Chantal Mills No Comments

Don’t get the wrong idea! I’m a firm believer in humane and respectful training. You won’t see me giving the leash a good “pop” to get a dog’s attention, nor will you hear me tell folks that they should be the dominant one in their relationship with their dog. I used to do and say those things, but I’ve continued to attend seminars, workshops and read countless scientific based research and can no longer see the value in using intimidation and “I’m the boss” techniques in my practice. So this blog post entitled “Why I’m not a Force Free Trainer” caught my attention.  I wanted to see what the author, Sarah Reusche from Paws Abilities had to say about Force Free training and see if there was anything I could learn.
I found her entry very interesting and hope you will too.

https://paws4udogs.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/why-im-not-a-force-free-trainer

jedidog

Stop, look and listen!

Chantal Mills No Comments

Sharing a blog post that I found most interesting. What if your dog runs out into traffic?

http://eileenanddogs.com/2013/05/06/what-if-your-dog-runs-out-into-traffic/

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