The Crux of the Matter

A facebook friend, Amy, who is a (kick a$$) hairstylist wrote this on facebook earlier today:

Hairstylists are magical creatures that can listen attentively, care about you and make your hair fabulous, however, these are things we can't necessarily do:
1. I can't actually turn you into Meg Ryan or Heidi Klum. I can give you Hollywood hair but I can't cut 35lbs off of you with your hair or employ a fulltime trainer and personal stylist team for you. 
2. I can't ensure that your hair will look as styled as it does when you leave the salon if you insist on using crappy Pantene, don't want to touch a styling product that we used and think your hair will style itself by sleeping on wet hair. 
3. I can make your hair look polished and professional but can't actually make someone hire you. Joint effort required here.
4. I will happily share my infinite hair wisdom with you and always try to make your day a little brighter but if you take my "infinite hair wisdom" and run with it.. With scissors you picked up at walgreens... And "tweak" your own hair and wind up with a pseudo mullet... That is not my fault.
4. I can't make you take my advice. But if we look at pictures, obsess over swatches for almost a half hour and I make your hair look just like the pictures we agreed upon and you call me two weeks later saying you look nothing like Meg Ryan because you are unhappily (and self admittedly) 40 lbs overweight, out of work, and refuse to style your hair at all then again, not really my fault. I must have lost those super powers along the way somehow.

I've been wanting to write this blog post for some time, but couldn't think of the proper context and then here it is, staring me in the face. In any vocation (a job that requires skilled physical labor) there are a few key elements:

Skill (which comes from intentional and correct understanding and practice)

Quality equipment

Realistic expectations

This is why we include equipment with all of our training programs. Webbed cotton or biothane for long lines, and leather or biothane leashes... Herm Sprenger branded slip collars or prong collars... remote collars from one of the big names, not a $59 special from Amazon. People who are serious about what they do use appropriate equipment.

This is why we don't care for single session programs where we give someone a "plan" and wish 'em well. To develop the necessary skill to effect change in, and manage, another living being's behavior, it takes time. And then, even with a measured amount of that skill, the onus is upon the end user to actually DO what is taught. This is an area where even many trainers fall victim. Having a theoretical understanding of something, but lacking the skill to execute it in practical application, can have detrimental effects at worst or leave the situation unchanged at best. If you think differently, I invite you to view proof of my statement.

And finally, setting realistic expectations... Trainers can create massive changes in behavior, make the fearful dog more brave, the boisterous dog more reserved. But we cannot make a German Shepherd into a Labrador Retriever, a Pit Bull into a Pointer (though Marc and Zwei do act an awful lot alike)... Or completely account for missed developmental opportunities for a puppy pulled from it's litter at 4 weeks of age, or make a current dog into a beloved past dog. We are working with animals that have personalities, emotions, innate predispositions and drives, and certain biological imperatives that are frankly... what make them dogs. We also cannot make a dog a person. Our job is to help you live a safer, more enjoyable, more communicative, and more fulfilling life with your dog.  That takes some give-and-take at both ends of the leash. 

It also comes as no surprise that the products of most vocations require maintenance. Hair requires washing and styling and other appropriate care. Houses and cars require things to be replaced or repaired from time to time. Flush Q-tips and paper towels down your toilet and it will stop working properly. So when we get questions like "How long do I have to do this for?" and the answer is "Until you don't have to anymore." or "Until you do it correctly," it's not us being abrupt. It's us providing concise and honest feedback. I'll never tell a client that the solution to their problem is management, rather than training, unless I really feel that is the only option. But if they find my solution disagreeable, I may have limited options. So if Amy's client doesn't want to buy the right products, sleep on wet hair, and  scissor their own hair with Walgreen's shears... her only option might be to tell them to put on a hat.