Why Your Dog Trainer Doesn’t Answer the Phone

Why don’t I answer the phone? Everyone wants to have a phone consultation before they set an appointment. I can understand this, I also like to know what I’m getting into before I commit to something that will cost money and involve interaction with my family. I’ve seen the pamphlets on “How to Choose a Dog Trainer”, and “Questions to Ask”.  I understand your trepidation, I really do. Choosing a trainer is an important decision.  However, there are several reasons I don’t answer my phone, and prefer that clients and potential clients e-mail or text me.

One, in my professional capacity, I can’t afford to spend an hour of my time talking to you on the phone without compensation, gathering information that is in the intake form I will send you to complete, to save us both time and money. Two, I need to have clear notes available to me of what advice I’ve given you, at this time, and previously. Three, I need to prepare for our discussion, so that I can give you my full attention and make our time together worthwhile to both of us. Four, I do have a life outside of dog training and behavior consulting, and I would like to maintain that life.
When you call me, chances are, I am working with my children on some homeschool activity, working with another client and their dog, working on my house or a project, or spending time with my family and friends. What I’m not doing is sitting idly, waiting to talk on the phone about dog training. I have a very busy life, and it is almost never conducive to a phone conversation, especially one which requires me to stay on task and impart useful information.
Like your doctor, I am a professional. I have worked hard for my credentials, pay a lot of money for my insurance and professional memberships, and work constantly on continuing education, to stay up to speed with the latest training strategies and updates in learning theory, veterinary medical breakthroughs and the science of teaching and training humans, as well as animals. Like your doctor, my professional time is where I make my living. The hours I spend discussing your pet’s behavioral health are work time for me, and I need to be paid for it, if I expect to pay my bills. Unlike your doctor, I don’t have a receptionist, desk nurse, and assistant to take your calls for general information, and field your worries and concerns on a daily basis, and ask me questions to call you back with answers. So sending me an email or text, which I can return at my convenience, is a much better use of my time, and yours, and will likely yield a better, and more complete, answer than I could give you on the phone.
My children are home schooled, and they deserve the very best of me, and my full, undistracted attention when they are learning new concepts or practicing known concepts. We may be at a camp, coop, meeting, or lesson, and they need and deserve my attention and input. They will only be at home with me for six or seven more years, and I want to enjoy my time with them, as well as help teach them everything they can possibly learn, and facilitate their other learning opportunities.
My other clients pay me the same amount you pay, and deserve my undivided attention during their sessions, so that they and their dogs can progress through training, and so that I don’t miss something when we are practicing together, or discussing behavioral issues and how to solve them. I need to be able to focus on their dogs, watch the dogs’ behavior, and watch the client work with the dog. Coaching is important to me, and I don’t want to be distracted while I’m doing it, it’s not fair to the dog, the client, or to me.
I need a paper trail of what we have gone over, what I have told you, and how I’ve told you to execute your role in training. I had a perfect example just yesterday, someone called me, I was eating lunch with my kids and dogs, and I misread the number and thought it was a friend calling. I answered the phone. It was a potential client, with a dog with separation issues. She had been referred to me by a friend and fellow trainer. I talked with her for probably 45 minutes, telling her that separation distress is a very workable issue, and that unfortunately, I don’t service her area, and referring her to another trainer. I also told her that if the trainer I referred to couldn’t take her case, to call me back and we would figure something out. She called back my trainer friend who referred her. Somehow, out of our discussion, she had gotten that I told her to send the dog to daycare or euthanize it. Never once did I mention euthanasia, though she continuously brought it up. I assured her, or thought I did, that this was a situation that could be worked through, especially with an owner as dedicated as she sounded. So, now I have spent 45 minutes of my time, unpaid, with a potential client who will spread the word that I recommend daycare and euthanasia for separation distress cases. Sigh. If this had been an email conversation, I could have referred back to previous emails and said, “no, I don’t see anywhere that euthanasia was recommended”. I want to be able to give you accurate information, and I want you to be able to refer to it later, when you likely can’t remember the information I gave you in the moment. Science tells us that people only retain a small amount of information given to them in any particular class or discussion. I want you to have access to the information I give you, so that you can come back and re-read it, to get what you need from it.
I need to prepare for our discussion. If I am going to be making recommendations that will affect your dog’s life, and your quality of life, I want to have all the information in front of me, and I want it to be correct. I want to know what the dog’s history is, how many people has he bitten, how badly. Is there a pending lawsuit? How much work have you already done? What is the baseline behavior issue? Is your dog on medication? Have you been working with the vet behaviorist? Do we have management in place? I also want to have my notes available to add to, when I talk with you. I don’t want to miss any nuances of what you may have told me, or drop the ball on something big, like your family is adopting another dog, or a human baby!
I cannot give you quality time if my head is literally in a hole in my ceiling. I have an old house, I do a lot of home repair, if you call while I’m cutting the ceiling out of my bathroom, painting my ceiling, or sanding a floor, the likelihood of me remembering exactly what I told you about leash handling, management, or greeting other dogs being at the forefront of my mind is quite low. Me leaving the task that I am working on is also not likely.
If I am having movie night with my husband and kids, tracking class with my dogs, a walk in the park with the family, or a family meal, my focus is going to be on them. If I’m having a book club or a coffee date with a friend, my focus is on them. I am not willing to change that. I choose to live my life fully in the moment that I am in. This benefits me, and this also benefits you. When I am with you and your dog, I will be fully there with you both. When I am with other clients, or my family, I will be fully there with them.
I hope that this helps people to understand a bit more about why it’s important to me for clients to email me, rather than call my cell phone. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, it’s that I want to talk to you in a quality way, which will benefit all of us, me, you, and most of all, your dog.

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