I finally bought some training! To recap, I was debating between three options for dog training:
- Classes at my local pet product/daycare shop CityDog (most expensive option)
- Classes at the big chain store PetCompany (roughly half the cost of CityDog)
- DIY internet training (free, but will be out the initial deposit)
As I outlined in my original post, this decision is not just about saving money. I actually really do want to change my dog’s behavior. I want to invest in training that will work, guaranteed.
RULING OUT THE DIY TRAINING APPROACH
Pretty much right off the bat I was able to rule out the cheapest option of doing the training myself, mainly because I recognized that the idea of doing it myself was simply a reaction to the cost of paying a professional. It’s particularly tricky to pay for professional services that you can’t see or touch or use before the point of purchase. You hope the training solution will work (heck, you actually need it to work), but there is a very real fear that your money and time will be wasted. And even worse, you’ll be left with a bunch of untrained plebs (or in my case, an unruly dog for the next 15 years) with no budget left to fix it.
This goes back to wanting training that works, guaranteed. If I truly want the best chance at guaranteed results, which of these scenarios is most likely to produce a well-trained dog: me trying to do it myself by googling ‘dog whisperer’ or a professional dog trainer that has years of hands-on experience working with all kinds of dogs?
So, yeah. This is also why I don’t cut my own hair, fill my own cavities, or fly my own planes. There are professionals for a reason, and there is value in not doing everything yourself. As such, I knew early on that I wanted to hire a professional trainer. I decided to try and follow my own advice that I give folks during the e-learning purchasing process.
Basically the idea is that at the end of the day, finding the right training partner is about answering to two basic questions: can you do this work and are you good to work with?
CAN YOU DO THIS WORK?
In the e-learning world, this question is all about portfolio work and case studies. Show me what you’ve done and the impact it's had. With dog training, the concept of portfolios/demos/case studies doesn’t really exist, so the next best thing is customer testimonials. I hit Yelp hard, combing through stories of training classes at both CityDog and PetCompany. Both locations had stories of good and bad client experiences; there wasn’t a clear “better” option. Plus, do I really trust the opinions of internet strangers? (Keep reading, I'm totally trustworthy!) This steered me back to the only ‘apples to apples’ comparison I did have: cost. If I’m just comparing cost, PetCompany is the preferred option at half the price. But for me, it's not just about cost.
ARE YOU GOOD TO WORK WITH?
I love this question because there is no real way to actually answer it prior to hiring someone. Yes, you can read a billion customer reviews or contact their client referrals, but let's be real. Those are often curated by the company, meaning references will often have nothing but good things to say about their experience.
So if you can’t really answer this question, why is this one of the two recommended questions we encourage folks to consider when selecting a training partner?
Because we love mind games. But also because finding a good partner for anything is all about finding something that feels like a good fit, which involves trusting your gut (note to self: trademark Fit Gut). It’s not black and white. You can’t really make a spreadsheet that compares your gut reaction to five companies.
In the e-learning industry, a lot of RFP processes are designed to remove the idea of feeling and fit and guts. Vendors are intentionally kept at arm's length and are asked to summarize who they are, their vision for the project, and how they work in a paragraph or two. They are often not allowed to speak directly with the folks that they will be collaborating with on the six-month long training project. Folks are told to use scoring rubrics and math (ugh) to find the best vendor and to be clear-headed and objective in their decision.
BUT HAVEN’T YOU MADE SOME OF YOUR BEST DECISIONS BASED ON A GUT FEELING?
I know I have. And so I did. I bought training and my decision was entirely driven by my answers to these two questions. I chose to trust my gut and go with my first instinct (and most expensive option) CityDog. On the first day of class I stood nervously clutching a bag of dehydrated chicken hearts while Zeke circled my feet, sniffing the unfamiliar blue floor. The trainer walked in the room and in one breath instantly reminded me of something I’d entirely failed to consider during my epic decision-making process: my role in producing effective training.
“I’m not here to train your dog. I’m here to teach you how to train your dog.”
I was looking for training that works, guaranteed, but had failed to consider that I ultimately control the outcome. I had failed to realize that I’m the guarantee.
*Stay tuned for Part Three of this blog series wherein I learn what it's like to be on the 'client side' of training.