3 Common Mistakes that Detract From Your Professionalism – And How To Avoid Them

Professionalism is More Important Than Ever

Professional ethics is front and center in today’s news, and will likely remain so for quite some time.  In the dog training world, the majority of the most well-known certifying bodies contain statements of ethical guidelines its certificants are supposed to follow.   But professionalism reaches beyond what’s covered in most of those ethical statements.

In this article we have three examples of mistakes we see all the time that in our view detract from one’s professional image.  We find it helpful to put ourselves in the shoes of clients or other professionals who are visiting our website, watching our videos, reading our business brochure or business card, or listening to our telephone voicemail greeting.  Will what they hear, see, and read make them more or less likely to hire us?  Will the image we project be of a thoughtful person who will be polite and respectful to them and/or their clients?

Name Calling

If visitors see examples of name calling on your website, it’s easy for them to conclude the same thing could happen to them if you don’t approve of something they do or have done.  Labeling a technique, procedure, or training tool cruel for example is something we’ve read on many blogs.  Ignoring the criteria by which that judgement is made for the moment, calling XYZ tool cruel is inextricably intertwined with judging the people who use that tool as well.  That’s why it’s easy for criticism about tools and techniques to become personal.

Many of the ethics documents from certifying sites include statements about refraining from public defamation of colleagues, – but it’s not clear whether this is meant to apply to specific, named individuals or if it also applies to a group, as in the above example.

There is danger in using emotionally laden words like cruel and cruelty.  Depending on the tool or technique you are referring to, it’s quite possible potential clients reading your website may have used that tool.  The immediate assumption is that if you make a general statement saying a piece of equipment is cruel, then that must also mean they are cruel for using it.  Will that make them more, or less likely to hire you to help their dog?  You may be turning off the very people who might need you the most.

That leads us into the second mistake to avoid.

Making Exaggerated Claims

So let’s continue the thread from above using choke chains as an example.  First, we haven’t used them in years.  But decades ago when Suzanne was showing her first Dalmatian in conformation, choke chains were the norm.  Many dogs wore them at dog shows, and while we saw them used in ways we never did, we also saw them used in ways that in our opinion, would not come close to being cruel.

So if we read that choke chains are cruel, and we used them years ago – the implication is that the writer of that claim would label us cruel people.  Are we likely to feel comfortable working with a person who might hold that opinion of us if we share that we’ve used choke chains?

Similarly, while we don’t use remote training collars, we’ve seen them referred to as “electrocution collars”.  Do you think a dog owner would find that statement credible?  How many people have read about dogs being electrocuted by a remote training collar?

Making over-reaching claims and statements about methods and equipment you don’t like often doesn’t convince people not to use them, but instead detracts from legitimate concerns about the tools.

A better approach might be to list your concerns, disadvantages of the equipment or method, examples of how the equipment can be mis-used, and examples of harm you’ve personally seen as a result of its use.   Follow that up with what you recommend instead, and why – again without exaggerating.

Another option is to add some limits or qualifiers to the claim.  Rather than saying choke chains are cruel, how about saying something like “We don’t recommend the use of choke chains because it is so easy for them to be mis-used and cause harm to dogs”.   Insert your own wording or reason, that’s just an example.

Over Stepping Professional Boundaries

Without a DVM or VMD, (or perhaps certification as a veterinary technician) it’s not appropriate to claim you are qualified to make recommendations about a pet’s diet or what prescription medications the pet should be on.  When it comes to those topics, we should only be sharing information available on public websites, or information in published scientific papers.  It’s up to the veterinarian to make those recommendations about what’s best for the pet’s medical health.  And keep in mind that public websites, as we all know, may or may not contain accurate information.

The Bottom Line

Professionalism is important.  It contributes to credibility.  When passion undermines professionalism it becomes a detriment, not a positive force that helps us, our clients and our colleagues, strive to do better.  Make pet owners who are your potential clients and other professionals who are sources of referrals feel welcomed and supported from what they read, see and hear from you.   Don’t leave them thinking the cause of promoting your own approach to training is more important than helping them and their pets.

Want to Enhance Your Professional Image And Receive More Referrals?

Start by listening to our free podcast on Project Professionalism.  As we were writing this article and recording the podcast, we searched our course catalogs both in Behavior Education Network and Pet Pro Webinars and were surprised to find how MANY webinar courses and previous articles we have on this topic.

We chose just TWO of these resources and created our Professional Package.  If you are ready to enhance your professional image, improve your relationships with your referral partners, especially veterinarians, and increase your credibility then our Professionalism Package is perfect for you.

Register for BOTH the webinar courses from Pet Pro Webinars –  Increasing Veterinary Referrals AND Professional Business Tactics and take 20% off  the combined registration fees. Use the coupon code PRO20.  Click on the course titles for complete course descriptions and to enroll. (NOTE: you will have immediate access to the first course.  Because our system cannot automatically enroll you in both courses, we will manually add you to the second course within one business day of purchase).

Behavior Education Network Members – You have access to Increasing Veterinary Referrals course as a member benefit as a BEN member, you already have a 25% discount on the Business Tactics course (purchase from within BEN).  AND MANY MORE resources to help enhance your professional image and grow your business, including:

  • Webinar Course with Dr. Jen Rommel on “Impress the Vet”
  • Webinar Course on “How To Use Behavior Reports to Promote Your Business”
  • Month long article series on “Five Easy Yet Powerful Marketing Tips”
  • Month long article series on “Five Steps To Take NOW to Jump Start Your Business in January”
  • and MORE!

So if you aren’t a BEN member, your BEST option is to JOIN TODAY!.