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Should You Be Working With Dogs?

Jay Gurden
I really like the idea of working with dogs.” This is a sentence said by many people. Working with any animal can be an incredibly rewarding experience and life choice. Working with dogs in particular, ‘man’s best friend’ as they are called, can be especially rewarding.

The canine professional industry is, as of right now, self-regulated and there are few restrictions on the requirements to start a career working with dogs. To be a successful and, most importantly, kind and ethical canine professional there is much quality education available that can be easily found by searching. It is these kind and ethical people of whom we need more working with dogs. The people who will go about their work with the welfare of the dogs under their care as the most central part of what they do.

The most important qualities needed when contemplating working with dogs are observation skills, empathy, and patience. When working with a different species, the onus is on the human to make an effort to learn how to communicate with the other species, and how they express themselves back in turn. This is where well-developed abilities in observation are essential.

To be thoroughly effective in a job working with dogs requires that we learn as far as possible to understand their body language. Whether working as a dog walker, groomer, coach, or behaviourist, each role needs the human involved to do their best to realise what the dog is telling them with the communication methods they have. Obviously, dogs cannot talk to us in our own language, and so body language is the clearest way they have to relate their feelings and needs. The language of dogs is often very subtle, and our observation skills need developing and honing in order for us to understand. Learning these signals, and what they mean in the context of the environment around the dog, is vital.

Linked to this ability to read and understand what a dog is trying to tell us in a situation is the concept of empathy. This is probably the most important factor anyone can bring to a career working with dogs. To be an effective and kind professional requires empathy, for both the dog and in many cases their human carers, particularly in the case of behavioural issues. Empathy in a canine professional promotes understanding of what both dog and human are feeling, and helps develop methods that enable everyone to exist in as much peaceful harmony as possible.

Patience is vital in any line of work but when your professional life involves non-verbal animals, whether that is working with dogs or any other animal, it is particularly important. We cannot explain to a dog why the things going on around them are necessary, or why we want them to respond to a cue in a certain way. The ability to step back and think about what you are asking of that dog, and to see if there is another way to progress that the dog may understand or cope with better is central to being the best canine professional that you can be. If the dog in front of you is not giving you the responses you expect, it is time to look at the question you are asking of them.

Working with dogs is a wonderful, rewarding career path to choose. With skilful observation, empathy, and patience, anyone choosing dogs as a professional sphere can be happy that they are making a real positive impact on the dogs around them.

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