It seems that every so often, I scroll across my newsfeed and people are sharing videos of the work of other trainers for the sole purpose of criticizing them.

They do it with well-known TV personalities like Victoria Stilwell and Cesar Milan, and they do it with popular trainers, helpers, decoys, and competitors.

Why someone would share the work of others for the sole purpose of poking fun of, or criticizing, with nothing constructive or educational to glean, I’ll never understand.

But that’s beside the point.

The thing is, if you’re a dog trainer, personalities like Victoria Stilwell have something you don’t.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret…it isn’t fame.

Sure, the fact that they are on TV makes a difference in how many people they reach. But the plain and simple truth is, TV personalities like Stilwell do three things you don’t.

And for that reason, they will always be popular, and they will always have LOYAL followers.

Here’s what they do:

No. 1 – They try.

Listen, let’s be honest. You are helping what, 4-5 dog owners per week? If you’re really good at this, maybe 10-20? You could be the best dog trainer in the world, but how many dog’s lives are you actually affecting on the regular?

You guys…there are over 43 million dogs in the United States alone. So even if business is booming, you’re probably not having the kind of impact you’d like.

The thing is, dog trainers seem to despise marketing. They don’t want to do it. Because somehow it will make them less than. Because marketing is the stuff of sheisty used car salesmen. I mean, after all, your technique should speak for itself? Right?

Not so much.

Truth is, most dog owners don’t understand the difference between a trainer who has perfect timing and a good grasp of the concepts of operant conditioning vs. one with poor timing, preaching methods that produce seemingly instant results with a ton of fallout.

Not to mention, dog owners aren’t ever going to find you if you don’t put yourself out there.

So you can sit behind your computer all day and complain about trainers that actually try to reach more dog owners if you want. But let me tell ya, you’ve gotta try harder if you want your methods seen, and your message heard. Because right now, the trainers who spend time marketing their businesses (or have a team that markets it for them) are winning.

No 2 – They understand their audience

Guys. Dog trainers LOVE dogs. And they speak dog better than they speak human. But with decreasing attention spans and the prevalence of social media, sitting through an hour-long lecture on the concept of operant conditioning and the Premack principle isn’t going to fly with a vast majority of dog owners. I’ll be honest, there are many trainers out there that I respect wholly but whose videos I won’t watch all the way through because they are just…too…long.

In fact, I’m constantly refining my own courses to “get to the point already”, a task I find daunting but necessary as the longer I talk, the more people check out. (I’ve not mastered this yet – but I’m always improving!)

The thing is, I’m passionate about dog training. And I want to tell you everything you ever needed to know and then some. I could literally talk for hours…and I gladly will if given the chance.

But the longer I ramble, and the more I give people theory without action, the more people are going to check out, feel overwhelmed, and stop dead in their tracks.

Personalities like Stilwell give easy to digest and implement lessons. Sure, they might not feature the soundest dog training in the world, but the average dog owner can understand them, can easily digest them, and can (at least try) to implement them.

While you are talking theory (because you think they HAVE to know it to be successful), people like Stilwell are giving them action. And the average dog owner will almost always choose action over theoretical discussions.

No 3 – They are doing while you are hating

I’m not watching people like Victoria Stilwell get in catfights in Internet forums day in and day out. Why? Because they are busy with their career.

They aren’t spreading hate in chat rooms, talking about other trainers on social media, or even worrying about what other trainers are thinking or doing.

They are out taking action.

Working.

Building their business and their name so they can continue to reach even more dog owners.

All while so many other dog trainers are spending their time arguing in forums, belittling them, and hating each other.

Who is more effective with their time?

Listen. You don’t have to like the big TV personalities. And you don’t have to like every trainer out there. You never have to agree with their training.

But you have a choice.

You can work to reach more dog owners with YOUR message. One that you believe in, and one that you find is sound. You can spread YOUR training ideology. Or you can waste your time hating, being critical, and bashing other trainers because you think your methods are far superior and should speak for themselves.

But I’m here to tell you, if you choose the latter, the other trainers will continue to take your clients, and your really awesome method and well thought out training will get lost.

Dog trainers. We need you. Dogs need you. So please, put your time and attention where it matters. On reaching and impacting more dog owners and on better serving them with information they actually want, and can actually process.

It’s the only way that good, sound training will win out over the bad.

Oh, and one more thing. Next time you see a trainer you don’t like, rather than sharing their work in order to poke fun, I’ll challenge to instead ask yourself what you might be able to learn from them. Because regardless of how much you disagree with their methods, or you despise their personality and what they stand for, we can all stand to learn something from one another…if we simply open our minds enough to try.


Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    1 Response to "What Victoria Stilwell has that you don’t (Besides Fame)"

    • Shari

      Hi Meagan,
      I completely agree 100%! Ego runs so rampid in this industry that I have actually had other trainers show up where I was teaching just to heckle me or my assistant as we are conducting business. I kept my cool and pulled them aside and had the venue remove them from the premesis. I don’t even know these people!
      I have always offered an open door policy and have encouraged other trainers to come and learn from me. I have also been kicked out of other places while attempting to learn new things that I do not understand, like Nosework. I just wanted to have fun with my dog but once they found out who I was, they had to kick me out. I don’t understand why this is. It bothers me that we can’t just work together?

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