Last week, in No Dogs of My Own, Part 1, I talked about why I didn't grow up with a dog, and why I still don't have any personal dogs. This week, I want to share how that impacts me and my business.
Although boarding doesn't take the place of having a personal dog, it has given me a stellar education on management and transitioning new dogs into the home. The first few weeks with a new dog in your home can either set everyone up for success and enjoyment, or for failure and anger. After 12 years of boarding, I've got gobs of experience bringing new dogs in with a minimum of destruction and frustration.
A dog-free home also means that our low-stress, home-style boarding atmosphere is open to almost all dogs--regardless of their sociability with other dogs. We've cared for several dogs who are dog-aggressive, and it gives me great pleasure to be the gentle boarding option for these families.
Boarding also means that I have lived with a variety of different dogs, and can personally relate to some of the struggles my training clients deal with on a daily basis.
Being dog-less was something that concerned me when I started Koinonia Training. Who goes to a marriage counselor who hasn't been married, or a child therapist who doesn't have kids? I figured the same would be true for families looking for dog help. Surprisingly, that hasn't been the case. No one has "fired" me when they discover I don't have a dog.
It's not all roses and rainbows, though. My boarding clients love their furry family members so much it can be hard for them to understand that living with their dog is work for me and my family. After a time, you and your personal dog settle into your routine and lifestyle (or so I'm told); your relationship deepens and you truly become family. That's not the case with boarding. When I think about living with a dog, I think about it being a lot of work. That's not to say that having a personal dog isn't a lot of work, but 12 years of dogs who stay an average of 5 nights each is a different kind of chaos.
Aside from that, one of the biggest personal downsides to being dog-less is the lack of time. As a trainer, I miss being able to train complex behaviors that take time. (Isn't it strange how we can miss something we never had?) I geek out about behavior modification, but most of my clients aren't quite that far gone. They are interested in getting their dog's problems solved a soon as possible, and I don't blame them. Professional trainers will train for the fun of it. Pet owners train to solve their problems.
Echo is the yellow Lab pictured above, and she holds a special place in my heart. Rocky and Legend stayed with us for 3 months each, but I trained Echo for a year. She was my fun dog, and I got to do things with her that I'd never done before. Until I decide to take on the responsibility of dog-ownership, I'll enjoy the Echos that bless my life and career.