Let me tell you a story
When I was a kid, we did Dog Stuff a LOT.
I did junior handling, our dogs were working therapy dogs, we raised puppies, travelled to visit breeders and handlers and I basically just absorbed as much as I could.
And I was so sure I didn’t want to work with dogs.
As much as I loved them, I had seen too much of the underbelly of the pet industry, and I wanted no part of it.
I realize now what I saw was burnout.
Dogs being treated as objects, trotted from grooming table to ring, from ring to kennel, from kennel to van. Their autonomy disregarded.
I saw incredible violence, and the shocking desensitization of many pet professionals to the harm being done to dogs all around them.
I saw poverty as well. Techs, groomers, rescue workers working for criminally low wages, despite their expertise and skill.
I struggled to imagine being able to live my life steeped in dogs without succumbing to burnout, making poverty wages or becoming numb to the welfare of my pets. As a child abuse survivor, I wasn’t going to put myself in a position to be a perpetrator.
So I left. I stopped training. I moved away (and impulse bought a cat) (not recommended)
I thought I’d had a pet dog, maybe train some tricks.
As I’m sure you can tell, that didn’t exactly work out.
I missed dogs, and almost just as much I missed dog people. I missed nerding out about behaviour and breeding and health.
So I bought a dog as a university graduation present to myself (also not recommended)
But how did we get from buying an ill-advised puppy to doing the exact opposite of what I’d always said and being a professional trainer? What changed?
Well, like many things, the spark of change was desperation.
I had this godawful boss. I hated this job *so much* and so I started just applying to literally anywhere I possibly could. What were skills I had? Well, I knew dogs. So I applied for dog jobs.
And thats when I found Megan at Dog Utopia.
Finally, here were the dog people I had always wanted to know! Kind, generous, interested in science and who had unwaveringly high standards of care.
Through her I met vets, dog trainers, groomers, pet store workers, dog walkers and more, who loved each dog, who protected them and treated them with respect and care.
I started dipping my feet back into the dog sport world, and visiting my breeder friends more often.
And because I was now able to curate the people I spent time with, things just sort of snowballed. Before I knew what had happened, I was training full time. Funny how things just slide into place like that sometimes.
But I’ll never forget those formative lessons. I learned so many valuable things and had so many incredible experiences throughout those years, but for a long time they were overshadowed by the bad. It wasn’t until I was able to find my community of caring dog people, who battle burnout with connection and who prioritise the quality of care above all else, that I was able to really absorb those good lessons. And then I was able to share them with all of you.
We have a real problem with burnout and low wages in the pet industry. It’s causing undue harm both to the dogs and to the people.
So curate your dog community.
Find those people who love the dogs, and who show their love with compassion and care and science based solutions.