[heading title="Why I walked away from a six-figure job." heading_style="h1" ]
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.