References Available Upon Request….?
By Robert Forto, PhD
My name is Dr. Robert Forto and I am the training director for Denver Dog Works and The Ineka Project in Colorado. I specialize in canine aggression and I have been qualified as an expert in this field. I also fully understand that my training school and I are only as good as our reputation with our clients, past and present, our referral sources such as veterinarians, other canine trainers, groomers and other pet professionals.
Of course, throughout the years Denver Dog Works has had many satisfied clients and several that were not. It is difficult to please everyone, especially when it involves their beloved dogs. If you were to look on any canine trainer’s website almost inevitably you will find a “testimonials” page that list comments from clients past and present about how good a job the trainer did with their dog. What you will often find on this page is a joyful rendition of just how good the trainer was and the results they see. Then you will find at the bottom of the posting a first or last name and an initial (ie. John. D.) Just who exactly is John D.? Could it just so happen to be the infamous John Doe? That is what this article is all about. I am here to warn you that if a training school refuses to give you a reference, walk away.
Be on the lookout of trainers who just REFUSE to give you any references. You can bet your dog’s life on it that this is a red flag. Think about it, if they are truly proud of their training method, delivered what they promised, and have the right work ethics with their clients, then they should have no problem giving you a few names. This is even more important if they DO NOT have any classes for you to observe.
At Denver Dog Works and The Ineka Project we offer a highly specialized training service for dogs. While most of our classes are by appointment and we do not have a schedule of weekly classes like the big-box corporate pet store chains with trainers in uniforms and a dry-erase board full of class times, I urge anyone that would like to observe any of our training programs to give us a call and we can let you know what is on the schedule that day. Saturdays are by far our busiest day and the best chance for you to catch a class if you just “drop in”; I always encourage you to call first.
Get at least five references, three recent and two from six months to a year ago. At Denver Dog Works and The Ineka Project we train about 300 dogs a year. That is 300 clients that we should be comfortable in using as a reference for future clients. Do not fall for “client confidentiality bologna.” I urge you to push again and say, “Look. I am not asking for their last names, addresses or social security number for crying out loud. I just want the very best for my dog!” I also urge potential clients to ask if a training school is registered with the State and if they are members of the local Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau or similar agency. Check to see whether they are, and importantly, ARE NOT allowed to train or board dogs. In Colorado the Department of Agriculture overseas all canine training schools and boarding facilities. This also includes private trainers offering in-home classes only. If a school is operating without a license from the Department of Agriculture they can be fined and possibly be shut down. I urge all potential clients to call the State to see if the training school and/or trainer is registered. Wouldn’t you want to do business with someone who is professional and legal and legit? Your wallet, your dog, and your precious time are depending on it. No matter how impressive their web sites seem or how convincing they may sound on the phone, do not skip this. You won’t regret it. If someone’s happy with you, then they won’t mind bragging about you. Don’t you already do this when it comes to good movies, good books and good restaurants?
There is a saying in business called the Rule of 250. It goes something like this: Everyone has a circle of friends. The average person has about 250 people he sees regularly during his life and there is a lot more people that he sees in a week during the ordinary course of his business. I know that I cannot afford to have just one person come to see me and have them leave sore or unsatisfied. Not if that person influences 250 others in the course of his life. And that is a lot of references!
As you know, people talk a lot to other people about what they buy and what they plan to buy whether that is a product, a service, or anything in between. Others are always offering advice about where to buy and how much to pay. That is a big part of the everyday life of ordinary people. I know I can not jeopardize that relationship with any of these people. I know how much my reputation and my business comes from people telling other people about me, my trainers and my training school. It is a powerful force in my professional life and it should be in yours too.
We say at Denver Dog Works that we try to build relationships with our clients, not just one time dog training courses. We do this for a reason. We know that your dog is an important part of your life and you are coming to us for basic manners to make the bond between you and your dog more satisfying or in many cases to rehabilitate a problem that has gotten out of control and sometimes is even dangerous. We would love to have all of our clients talk with joy and admiration, and have their dogs “walking billboards” for our training prowess but is that truly what we are after? No. We want to be on your side when your dog has a problem and we would love to have a referral if we did our job well.
If you do get a reference from a training school or a trainer and they say, “Well. I could give you my best friend or my brother’s number as a reference to trick you.” Just say, you will take it. Let’s see what your own family and friends say about you first. Do you see where I’m going with this? Once you get a few references, this is where you ask what you like and didn’t like about them, their trainers, and whether the dog listens off-leash, without treats, from far away. How about around other dogs, cats, kids and your guests?
While it is true in dog training as well as when you are looking for a job, most references that a person will give you will only be “good ones” I mean would you give a reference of an ex-girlfriend to a potential date if you ended on a sour note? I doubt it. But, if they do give you a name, and more importantly a number that is a start. Do a little detective work on your own and ask questions. Remember that the only dumb question is a questioned not asked. Do your homework and ask the questions you want answered. At Denver Dog Works we want to earn your trust and we want to help you in our time of need with your dog.
Check us out anytime and give us a call. We will give you the references that you desire and we will gladly answer any questions that you may have.
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