Photo: Unsplash/Martin Jernberg

What a Visit to the Esthetician’s Office Taught Me About Behavior and Training

I go to this lovely woman for my skin. You see… I am one of the few blessed with adult acne. I cleaned up my diet. I drink ridiculous amounts of water. I change my pillow cases nightly. I still need professional help. She works miracles – or at least that is what her Yelp review said.

Her office is adorable, her professionalism perfect, and as soon as she starts talking I can tell she means serious business. She drills me on the commitment needed to get that eternally just-out-of-my-reach baby-butt face.

Commitment? I have enough of those already!

I am scared.

“Yikes…I thought it was just acne. You mean you can’t just slap some cream on my face and fix it?”

She smiles. I know that smile. It is the smile I give clients when they too want their problem “fixed.” It’s the “it’s going to be okay” smile.

It is not “just acne.” And it is not “just an unruly pet.”

Here’s what I learned:

If you don’t commit to the plan, you won’t see results.

When you hire a professional (skin, dog, etc.) you can have the best plan in the world, BUT if you only follow it half-heartedly, the lack of results will break your heart.

“You mean the protocol requires that I put three different things on my face before bed??? Well, that is inconvenient.”

So is acne.

And so is a dog who struggles with reactivity.

The truth of the matter lies in understanding that without commitment to the plan – true commitment (washing your face three times before bed every night kind of commitment) – results will be subpar.

If you are paying an expert for help, follow the plan even if it requires more time and energy than your usual routine. The results will be worth it.

Don’t fall prey to preconceived notions.

Focus more on HOW you view your animal and less on when the results will show up.

Here’s why: we’ve all heard it, the age-old, “Well, it’s a dog, so… (insert preconceived notion from childhood of what a dog SHOULD be).”

Me: “Well, it’s hormonal acne, so…”

Wrong! I assumed hormonal acne was normal, and that perception produced very specific behaviors. Hating mother nature being one of them.

The point is that we put these same notions on our animals.

The trouble comes when we believe we know how something or someone works. That influences how we think, our expectations, and, above all, how we behave.

Question the assumptions behind your ideas. Get educated. Don’t rely on your distant memory of Lassie episodes to develop your foolproof strategy moving forward.

Once this kind of understanding happens, the results start to show up a lot faster.

Set expectations and be prepared. Did you pack your hiking gear?

I walked into her modern, feminine, chic office with my figurative flip flops on. Then she tells me that this is a trip to Mt. Everest.

What?!

I thought we were just going for a stroll! Massage my face with some miracle potion. The dog owner sentiment: toss some treats every now and then.

You are about to embark on an epic journey when you decide to train your animal. Most times, you don’t even realize it is a mountain. When I work with clients, I inform them about the extent of the peak… Everest, Mt. Saint Helena, Big Bear. You have to know what kind of shoes to pack.

I so often see clients in both my human behavior work and animal behavior work not understand the full extent of what they are taking on. And this can cause problems. If I think it’s a walk around the block, and I don’t get my walk around the block results after the first visit, I am frustrated.

Commitment. Question. Clarity. Three rules I now live by when training people and animals.

It is not always an Everest. But it is not always an overnight fixer-upper either. Compliance with the behavior modification plan and consistency makes all the difference. It makes the difference between sore feet at the bottom of a mountain and selfie pics at the top. Setting proper expectations and being prepared for the journey makes all the difference.

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I am an animal trainer and owner of Bark and Soul. I have guided hundreds of people to new, empowered and educated relationships with their pets through my science-based and heart-centered approach. I earned my degree in Biological Psychology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior from UC Davis and worked in veterinary clinics, shelters, farms and sanctuaries before opening my own practice. My unique approach integrates the latest research in the fields of psychology and mindfulness studies.

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What a Visit to the Esthetician’s Office Taught Me About Behavior and Training

I go to this lovely woman for my skin. You see… I am one of the few blessed with adult acne. I cleaned up my diet. I drink ridiculous amounts of water. I change my pillow cases nightly. I still need professional help. She works miracles – or at least that is what her Yelp review said.

Her office is adorable, her professionalism perfect, and as soon as she starts talking I can tell she means serious business. She drills me on the commitment needed to get that eternally just-out-of-my-reach baby-butt face.

Commitment? I have enough of those already!

I am scared.

“Yikes…I thought it was just acne. You mean you can’t just slap some cream on my face and fix it?”

She smiles. I know that smile. It is the smile I give clients when they too want their problem “fixed.” It’s the “it’s going to be okay” smile.

It is not “just acne.” And it is not “just an unruly pet.”

Here’s what I learned:

If you don’t commit to the plan, you won’t see results.

When you hire a professional (skin, dog, etc.) you can have the best plan in the world, BUT if you only follow it half-heartedly, the lack of results will break your heart.

“You mean the protocol requires that I put three different things on my face before bed??? Well, that is inconvenient.”

So is acne.

And so is a dog who struggles with reactivity.

The truth of the matter lies in understanding that without commitment to the plan – true commitment (washing your face three times before bed every night kind of commitment) – results will be subpar.

If you are paying an expert for help, follow the plan even if it requires more time and energy than your usual routine. The results will be worth it.

Don’t fall prey to preconceived notions.

Focus more on HOW you view your animal and less on when the results will show up.

Here’s why: we’ve all heard it, the age-old, “Well, it’s a dog, so… (insert preconceived notion from childhood of what a dog SHOULD be).”

Me: “Well, it’s hormonal acne, so…”

Wrong! I assumed hormonal acne was normal, and that perception produced very specific behaviors. Hating mother nature being one of them.

The point is that we put these same notions on our animals.

The trouble comes when we believe we know how something or someone works. That influences how we think, our expectations, and, above all, how we behave.

Question the assumptions behind your ideas. Get educated. Don’t rely on your distant memory of Lassie episodes to develop your foolproof strategy moving forward.

Once this kind of understanding happens, the results start to show up a lot faster.

Set expectations and be prepared. Did you pack your hiking gear?

I walked into her modern, feminine, chic office with my figurative flip flops on. Then she tells me that this is a trip to Mt. Everest.

What?!

I thought we were just going for a stroll! Massage my face with some miracle potion. The dog owner sentiment: toss some treats every now and then.

You are about to embark on an epic journey when you decide to train your animal. Most times, you don’t even realize it is a mountain. When I work with clients, I inform them about the extent of the peak… Everest, Mt. Saint Helena, Big Bear. You have to know what kind of shoes to pack.

I so often see clients in both my human behavior work and animal behavior work not understand the full extent of what they are taking on. And this can cause problems. If I think it’s a walk around the block, and I don’t get my walk around the block results after the first visit, I am frustrated.

Commitment. Question. Clarity. Three rules I now live by when training people and animals.

It is not always an Everest. But it is not always an overnight fixer-upper either. Compliance with the behavior modification plan and consistency makes all the difference. It makes the difference between sore feet at the bottom of a mountain and selfie pics at the top. Setting proper expectations and being prepared for the journey makes all the difference.

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