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The Social Pressures on Canine Professionals

Dec 7 / Charlotte Garner
It is often not completely appreciated just how much canine professionals
have to contend with on a day-to-day basis. 
Whether you are a dog walker, canine behaviourist, or a rescue worker, the social pressure you feel from others can be intense.

There is no doubt that caring for, and working with dogs in any setting, comes with a huge amount of responsibility. The dog’s guardians trust you implicitly to do the very best for their dogs, which can quickly become exhausting. When you genuinely love each and every dog you work with, as if they were your own, it can easily become overwhelming and very emotionally draining. The notion of "compassion fatigue' sums this up perfectly as only when you care so much for other living beings, can you truly understand the impact this can have on you personally.  

Rescue workers and volunteers are often pushed to their breaking points, by continually feeling pressured to take in just one more dog. Behaviourists and trainers are pressured to undo years of behavioural issues in just a single session, when in reality this is just not possible. Physically and mentally, this becomes exhausting for even the hardiest of dog professionals. It is an extremely difficult concept to accept that not every single dog in need can be helped at once. 
Members of the public who do not work with dogs, but do care about them, will often seek out any canine professional to assist with a dog, simply because they know their knowledge will be greater than their own. Canine professionals are often viewed as an oracle of all things dog, and with this comes endless requests for advice. Some questions may be completely beyond their current knowledge, yet they still feel pressured to give a response to the best of their ability, or help in some way, as a dog’s wellbeing is often in jeopardy.

Once you have had your eyes opened to the world of dogs, it is nearly impossible to then close your eyes to it. In a sense, you are always in duty, on high alert ready to help any dog who needs it. You notice the dog being walked down the street is limping slightly and hope that their guardian has noticed this too. You hear the dog howling in the next street and wonder if their guardian knows they are struggling with being left alone. You cannot un-see, you cannot un-hear, you cannot un-know. You cannot stop caring and that in itself is huge burden to carry with you. 
Alongside this, the pressure on dog professionals to have ‘perfect’ dogs is often huge. People in the wider community may automatically think ‘well they work with dogs so their dogs should behave.’ 
If only it was that simple!

In fact, so very often, it is the dogs who canine professionals share their lives with, that are the most complex. This can leave dog professionals with feelings of guilt, for being unable to ‘fix’ their own dogs or embarrassment when their dogs are not behaving impeccably at all times. Although this guilt is unfounded, it is there non the less and can be very difficult to overcome. In reality however, these dogs are often understood and respected much more than most. For dog professionals, emphasis is usually placed more firmly on allowing their dogs to behave like dogs, instead of the more socially accepted, stereotypically perfect, dogs that people are more accustomed to seeing.

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