But working with dogs (or any other animal) isn't just a nice job - it's a way of life.
Please remember that I am speaking with the voice of hands-on experience!
And this is what it takes :
- Infinite Patience
- Compassion and a caring nature
- Complete commitment
- 100% Total Dedication
- A strong sense of responsibility
- Even more dedication!
- Physical fitness and stamina
- Good powers of observation
- Attention to detail
- A willingness to learn
- The humility to realise that you are never going to know everything about animals
- Good communication skills
- People skills
- Courage (mental, physical, and emotional)
- Being prepared to do unpleasant jobs
- You may have to make difficult decisions - including life & death ones.
- Be willing to undergo further education & training
You must also :
- Know your strengths
- Even more, know your weaknesses
- Be mentally, physically and emotionally robust
The welfare of a dog comes before your needs.....If an animal's welfare is compromised you stay until it is sorted - even if you have made plans to go out!
Good observation, even of something apparently insignificant, can mean life or death to a dog!
Most work with dogs is badly paid! You won't get financially rich, but you will become rich in many better ways.
Some things like communication and people skills can be learnt, others like observation and physical fitness can be improved by practice. Other things are down to your personality.
Knowledge comes with experience and training. You may have to take one or more courses and obtain qualifications. Learning is a lifelong activity!
Think long and hard, do some voluntary work with animals. Appropiate work experience can be an eye-opener!
I will give you two real examples of what I mean.
1) On observation. A man brought a stray female dog in just as I was locking up for the night. When I got her out of his car, I noticed a tiny spot of very dark blood on the blanket he had put in for her. I checked with the finder and he said it wasn't there when he put it in. ALARM BELLS! I checked her vagina for discharge by swabbing with some damp cotton wool. The result - a dark blood-like discharge. Potential pyometra. (Serious womb infection). I took her straight to the vet and she underwent a life-saving operation. If I had not noticed or had chosen to ignore the spot of blood, I would have found a dead dog in the kennels in the morning!
2) On dedication. A dog had been locked in a house on its own for 2 days. The owner had been injured and was in hospital. The local people were unable to deal with the problem. I waited at work until gone 6pm for a phone call from the police. Then, with a colleague, drove a 40 mile round trip to collect the dog. Once it was fed and settled, I locked up and then arrived back home just gone 8.30pm. The theatre tickets for that evening went in the bin!
Look out for Part 2, where I will write about the different sorts of work with dogs. I will also discuss qualifications and training.