Today I became a victim. A victim of stereotyping. I saw a client who during the session admitted a friend told her not to call me for help with her dogs because "She's been in the Marines and is heavy handed with dogs".
For the record the Marine Corps part is true. I spent 6 years right out of high school in the Marines as a jet mechanic on A4 Skyhawks, (seatshop) and as an Embassy Guard. (with tours in Geneva Switzerland and London England) I was even in the first class to admit women in the embassy guard program. (which explains my non-hardship tour, they had no facilities for women at that time) There are 5 of us women in the first class with 3 of us graduating the school. Two of us finished the full program successfully. (one went home early for personal reasons) I am very proud of the time I served and it was a very exciting time in my life. Being a women in the military back then was a challenge for sure.
However, how this translates to me being heavy handed with dogs has to be a mistake of stereotyping. Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I am a positive reward based trainer. Since becoming a professional trainer I have always used positive methods with my own dogs as well. Previously I had been a traditional method trainer with them. When you know better you do better.
My husband got a good laugh when I told him about it. It would be laughable to me too if it wasn't something that I consider a negative perception of me and the training I offer. Even my dogs would laugh about it if they could understand the story.
All of my clients now are taught with positive methods with the RARE exception for special cases. (like the police drug dog that was previously trained with a prong collar and no food rewards allowed) The key to traditional methods is timing and knowing how to use it to be fair to the dogs. It is NOT used for behavior modification which I do a fair amount of. I seem to be one of the only trainers in the area who sees behavior cases. Thankfully considering one trainer (trainer X previously mentioned) seems to not know very much about normal canine behavior. Scary considering they are teaching group classes including puppies.
But I digress.
I would urge anyone looking for a trainer to check them out before using them. Don't just take a friends word for something unless they are describing their own experiences with the trainer. (and even then consider your source if they are prone to dramatics) Ask around to other people and possible clients of theirs and your local vets. See if they are online with a website. Find out for yourself about the training they offer. Call and ask them! Trainers expect questions from potential clients.
Hopefully after working with her and her dogs today she can nip that rumor in the bud. I would love to know who started it of course and I have my suspicions. I admit it took me back as it is the first time I have heard negative stuff about me as a trainer. Thankfully it is unfounded. It does make me wonder if others have the same perceptions. I guess I'll need to look at my presentation and see if it should be tweaked. It's always something isn't it?