Wednesday, March 28

Therapist or Trainer?

As a trainer I am often brought in on very personal information about the lives of my clients.  Sometimes this information is the key to what is going on with their dog and sometimes, I just happen to be a kind listening ear.  But recently I found myself in the middle of something that I just wanted to get out of.  It was out of the realm of what I do and very uncomfortable, but the worst of it was that I don't think I was able to help the pup that was at the center of this whole thing.

I started training a puppy and his owner about two months ago, the owner is very busy but had always assured me that the pup was taken care of while he was working by his partner or a roommate.  Understand that my concern is always that there is a caring hand to care for a dog and especially a puppy, if it is not the owner, that is not for me to say.  I warned him that his absence may impact the training and the relationship with the dog, but by me knowing this is the case, we could work through it.  I hadn't heard much from him recently so I assumed all was well and he was just busy.

I then bumped into his roommate who informed me he was taking over ownership of the puppy and would be continuing training with me.  I was thrilled and confused, but sometimes owners have to make hard decisions.

In a matter of a few hours I was getting a phone call from the roommate saying the owner was keeping the pup and moving out ASAP.  This was disturbing for him because the pup was being left in a very hot room with no water and for periods of 10 - 12 hours a day.

After talking him through what some options might be, he expressed that he wanted to call animal control and report this as abuse.  I supported him in the this decision, if this is the case, I wouldn't want the pup to be in danger and if it is not true, animal control would do nothing.  I thought this was the end.

An hour or so later another call with a very upset roommate.  This is when I decided to talk to my client and owner of the pup.  After a few minutes of talking to my client I realized I was in the middle of something very personal and complex.  The story he told was completely different and he too was very upset.  I did my best to try to explain what the best situation would be for the puppy, no matter who the owner would be.  He felt very confident that he was providing that home and care situation.

At that point, I had no choice but to back off and wish him well.  I relayed my conversation to the roommate and tried equally to calm him and offer possible resolutions.  At the end, it was a he said, he said situation that I was left feeling completely ineffective as far as conflict resolution was concerned.  But I was proud of myself for going into an awkward and uncomfortable situation in order to try to ensure the safety and well being of this innocent puppy.

There is a big part of my job that sometimes feels more like a therapist than a dog trainer, and for the exception of situations like above, I rather enjoy providing that type of support and assistance.  It just sometimes gets a little too personal for this trainer.