On Dog Jobs etc Part Zwei/Deux/Dos/Two…

By Lynn –

It’s a bit long for me to type out, but for those of you who’ve seen Miss Congeniality, allow me to bring up the interview scene, where at the end, Gracie’s coach (Victor Melling) states “One brief shining moment…and then that mouth.”
That’s almost, ALMOST how things went in the office yesterday at PetsMart.

First of all, they lost my application that I spent 45 minutes painstakingly filling out, or if they didn’t lose it, then I contend that the application company lost it. So the guy said we’d do it the old-fashioned way and just start at the beginning. (Though now that I think about it, maybe my one complaint at the end came true! I was asked for feedback about the online application process and wrote a small essay about how I didn’t like the personality test and how I thought that simple observation and whatnot were the key to figuring out a good employee!)

I told him about myself, yadda yadda, got to the part where he told me about the pet training program and what it was about. I sat through it all like a proper woman, especially the part where he said that the program is positive-reinforcement based, explained the program from puppy classes to the big-dog obedience and whatnot. They need someone for Tuesday-Thursday training, so that would be my time slot if I were hired, and as a new trainer I’d get 15% commission per student signed up for my class (at US$109 per 8-week class and a 5-7 student limit PLUS hourly wages, it’s money and I won’t laugh at it). Then it was my turn to ask the questions. I didn’t have any prepared, but during his spiel, you bet that some came to mind!

First was the puppy class age range. They take puppies from 10 weeks to 5 months. OK that’s fine…forgot to ask about divisions based on age, but from the answer to another question of mine, I think I figured that out. They don’t divide classes by dog size either, but usually one or two people will end up switching classes for that reason, so they can be with other dogs that are closer to their own dog’s size. Which works, I don’t see why a Sheltie shouldn’t be used to working alongside a GSD, but that’s just how things are done at my local dog training club: small dogs, medium dogs and large dogs, same beginners obedience, but different times and different rings.

Next: What about cases of aggression or general over-unruliness or hyperactivity? Well, they’re kept in class but separated a bit so they’re not so ‘in’ the group with the other dogs. We’re to include them in with general talks and whatnot, apply some advice to other dogs that might come in handy. The next step would be to recommend that they meet privately with the instructor one-on-one and past that, they will recommend that the dog’s owner seek professional help with their dog.

Now, the kicker. I’d done some homework since I’d arrived early, and gone straight to the collar aisle just to check out some things regarding training collars and other tools. So I asked him exactly why they recommend only positive reinforcement and Gentle Leaders when their own advertising says that “Correction/Chain collars are a great way to gain control of your dog.” I also added a phrase with his words, regarding dogs that sometimes need alternative methods of handling, about using one tool to the exclusion of others. He told me that it’s company policy to start out as positive as possible, especially when dealing with the public and being out in the store with a dog: I will agree that when people see a correction done with a prong collar, it looks cruel…so for their image and political correctness, they prefer to start at the lowest level. I don’t recall if he said anything about the correction collars damaging necks, but I do recall starting to speak up about the very real possibility that dogs can rip their muzzles open and scratch their eyes trying to get the halter off, as well as the possibility that a well-meaning handler or a rambunctious dog can inadvertently damage the cervical vertebrae. Not to mention that dogs aren’t horses! Either way, he said that some people either request to use correction collars or the use of the collars is recommended because apparently positive reinforcement might not be enough for that dog! In that case, the owner is made to sign a release in case the dog is injured with said collar. Which, sadly, I can see why they’d do that…if the owner isn’t instructed properly how to use it, which I can see if everyone there only uses R+ and no punishment etc, there is a very real possibility for misuse. (I swear, I am not a pompous ass…at least I try to not be, but sometimes I can sound like one 🙁 . Hence why I introduced this post with that one quote.) After he said all that, I told him that my background in training is only with correction collars and that I have no experience with halters of any type…explained that I considered myself a “balanced trainer” with consequences for every action, be they positive or negative…tried to not talk too much on that, just enough to get my point across.

Those are the main points I can probably talk about, the others being mostly general employment things. He said that if hired, I’d have to spend 1-2 weeks with their regional training manager or whatever the position’s called, do homework and bookwork (now THAT I’ll laugh at but do anyway) before being allowed to roam the floor as an associate/pet trainer. And by this time next week, he’ll have met with his field managers and whatnot for the store and decide whether or not to call me in for a second interview.

My feelings on all of this?

Honestly, I’m not sure now. I know I want to train dogs, but everyone this guy brought up had some sort of credentialing and the usual “They’ve been doing this for X years.” I keep telling myself that everyone has to start somewhere, and darnit, if that kid could graduate from National K9 at 17 years old, then if I can prove that I know what I’m doing, why shouldn’t they take me, other than they don’t really like to use corrections and I do? My other feeling is exactly that; I don’t know if I want to walk into their ‘pet training-training’ and start asking questions that sound like I know more than they do (whether or not it’s true)? Even humans follow the three phases of learning: we go into a new job and we’re taught the ropes, given some slack for a week or two…then when we’re comfortable doing what we’re doing and we’re caught goofing off when the deadline is in a few days and we haven’t even started, we get reprimanded. Even in school, the first few days, the kids learn the routines, feel out their teachers, and then when hard-core teaching is underway and they misbehave, off to the office with you!

WHY do we not offer that same courtesy to dogs? They know to sit or lay down if taught properly…so why are we not allowed to give them a little “Hey, I call you haul” when they choose to not listen or are otherwise distracted?

So in all, I’m not sure about it now. If I’m called back for a second interview, I’ll discuss some things with them because it’s seriously unfair of me to make them waste their time and resources on me when I’m just going to back out because “Hey, I’m sorry, I cannot, with conscience, teach people something that goes against what I’ve been taught and have experienced to be the right thing. I’m all for positive reinforcement, but not to the exclusion of anything that balances it out.” Duality: yin and yang…God and Satan…Newton’s Third Law…positively-charged nucleus and negatively-charged electrons in atoms…same with elements in the periodic table that enable us to live because of how they stay together! And if nothing else, then at least if I don’t need the negative, the option is there, I’m open to using it and I have the know-how of how to apply if fairly and appropriately.

It’s the same reason I can’t ever, with conscience, point a gun at anyone, even in jest (but the option is there if I need it because there are people out there who might threaten my life at some point and I will get my CCWP some day)…it goes against everything I’ve ever been taught.

I write too much 🙂