I am now a Certified Pet Dog Trainer.  It’s one of the steps I told myself I would take after graduation, and it’s done.  The certification process includes a verification of 300 hours of instructing experience, an application, a chunk of money, and the passing of an exam (which I nailed, BTW) that covers ethology, learning theory, intruction skills, canine husbandry, and equipment knowledge.  It says I am ethical, experienced, and educated. I think certification is important since dog training is an unregulated field–essentially any Joe Schmo can call himself a dog trainer and take Average Dogowner’s money for his services–and I think certification needs to become more mainstream.  So I did it!  The problem is that now I’m not sure what my next step is.  My plan was 1)Graduate from CSU 2)Become a CPDT  3)Go to the San Francisco SPCA’s Academy for Dog Trainers and 4)Start my dog training business.  Now things are turning out a litte different.  I graduated and am certified.  I am working at an amazing training center with amazing dog trainers.  Together we are building the kind of dog training facility I have dreamed of, where positive training is the ONLY way, and we offer a variety of classes far beyond just pet training.  Do I want to leave this place for San Francisco?  Do I NEED to go to San Francisco (Ashley says no, that it wouldn’t be worth my money, that most of it would be review)?  It involves a $10,000 loan.  It involves leaving the Willie for 6 weeks (way more painful than the money).  It might involve falling in love with a city and never returning to my family and friends.  The bigger question is not “Should I go to the SFSPCA Academy?” but instead “If I don’t go, what is the next step?”  I feel like I can’t just skip this step and start my business.  I’m already training classes and doing in-home behavioral consulting.  I am going to cut back my daycare hours this summer and increase my training hours.  Can I do this until my training supports me in full and I can quit daycare?  How long will that take? Do I want to live in Fort Collins for the next chunk of my life?  Can I have my dream job of presenting seminars and workshops around the world, leaving time to train my own dogs and enough money to take time off here and there to avoid burnout?  I don’t know any of these answers, so for now I should probably just train Idgie to the level I know we are both capable of, and put myself on the map with this dog.  That way I can get on to writing my book and traveling around spreading the word about what positive dog training can really do.

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