Keep Your Candle Burning: Avoiding Professional Burnout - Karen Pryor Clicker Training
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Keep Your Candle Burning: Avoiding Professional Burnout

Kathy Sdao - Portland 2017

You’re a professional dog trainer. You may be self-employed, or you may work at a training school or shelter. You’ve completed many classes and attended several conferences to gain a better understanding of the science of learning. If you’re lucky, you’ve had one or more excellent mentors teach you the physical skills—the “chops”—of training. You’re working in your dream job. And yet… why do you sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a barista instead?

Our work as trainers can be relentless, exhausting, and heartbreaking. Often, clients hire us to “fix” a pet’s destructive or dangerous behavior, after intervening in ways that, unwittingly, made the problem much worse. We need to empathize with our clients’ disappointment and frustration while teaching them new habits, all while knowing the pet’s life may be at risk.

Because dog training is such an unregulated profession in much of the world, we may work among other trainers who lack a solid foundation in education, experience, or ethics. We can find ourselves vacillating between wanting to “out” them and feeling demoralized by their slick, successful marketing efforts.

Given this, how can we keep doing our work, with both skill and joy? You already know how to teach a long-duration behavior, such as a down-stay, to a dog. We’ll examine these same concepts (e.g., frequent, varied, well-timed reinforcement; minimization of pain and pressure; agency) as they apply to our own behaviors as training professionals. In addition, we will look at the topic of peer-counseling as one beneficial yet underutilized, resource.

Total run time: 52 minutes