As you might imagine, dog trainers are not known for their love of humanity.
They love dogs, or even animals generally. They love the challenge. They love the craft. But they do not necessarily love you, the client. And if it helps at all, they don’t love each other any better.
Add to this a decade of dog training “reality” shows that tend to mislead the general public as to what it is we really do, how long it really takes, and what the result should finally look like.
Should it come as any surprise to us when a client confidently orders up a side of spaghetti with her risotto? [Yes, another cooking analogy.]
Still, dog trainers stew endlessly over having to cope with such random and occasionally distasteful expectations, and frequently suffer offense when our labor or advice goes unappreciated. Meanwhile, our clients wind up feeling underserved or disappointed, because at the end of the day, either their personal wishes were not honored or their needs were simply not met.
Recently, a question was raised on several trainer lists regarding the ethics of squaring a client’s perceived needs with what the trainer deems appropriate to offer, including whether it’s somehow harmful to our profession to discount our usual services in order to meet a client’s stated budget.
Various strategies for resolving this conflict were offered up, some of which will appear in an upcoming feature on Professional Ethics in the APDT Chronicle (part 4 of series by Marjie Alonso).
The discussion brought to mind what an architect client once told me. In his negotiations with clients, he explains that every project has three major variables. These are cost, quality, and scope. He then explains that one may control any two of those, as long as one sacrifices control over the third.
This encourages an honest and practical discussion of priorities, as you can imagine. And of course, the architect reserves the right to pass on any job that offends his personal sensibilities.
I think in an ideal world, a trainer’s negotiations with his clients would run along similar lines. There would be transparency regarding different options, and the opportunity to engage in a frank discussion of priorities and costs.
Maybe we end up substituting crab for lobster or serving up a smaller portion; maybe we convince the client to splurge after pointing his attention to the bliss being enjoyed at surrounding tables; maybe we even pour a free cocktail to make up for not serving the Cesar salad.
And if despite our best efforts to cajole or educate, the client insists on a side of french fries and a bottle of ketchup with his seafood risotto, we can always send him along to the nearest MacDonalds.
© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2013.