Dress Up and Dog Trainers
I wish I could wear my super skinny jeans to work. Throw on a pair of boots and I look pretty classy, for wearing jeans. I am a fashion-following nut case and I love to shop, which generally means that I hate being told what to wear.Why am I telling you this?
Because I about threw myself on the floor when I was first told how to dress when training dogs.
Me? All I needed was the “WHY” of the conversation and I was on board. I’m a science girl, and if you bombard me with reasons that make sense, I’m usually in agreement before the conversation is through.
So let’s talk WHAT and WHY!1.) The Pants
What to Wear: Slacks. Cargo Pants. Should be the entire length of your legs. The material of the aforementioned dress pants should be thicker, as in not-paper-thin, and the color should be an earthy tone. (Earthy tone = gray, black, brown, tan, beige, etc. Earthy tones look much more professional and serious.) The material should be loose without being baggy.
What NOT to Wear: No shorts, jeans, form-fitting (tight) apparel, or anything that doesn’t cover your entire leg.
Here’s my note about jeans: Pretend for a second that I don’t think they look unprofessional. The deal is that most of us are wearing jeans that don’t fit properly with the above-mentioned standards.
Now let’s get to the WHY! (which will touch, again, on why I keep saying no to jeans.)
Slacks (dress pants) look really professional and can look business casual or formal depending on what you wear for a shirt. They’re versatile, and they’re comfortable. Cargo pants …. are not my favorite, and can’t really go beyond business casual, but tend to give whoever is wearing them a down-to-earth appearance.
The pants need to be loose, but not baggy. Why? Because no matter how well you prepare yourself or how vigilant you are, a dog may try to bite you.
If he goes for your leg, the difference in how he lands the bite may come down to the pants you’re wearing. Some dress pants (like Carhartt for example,) are a little harder to bite through than, say, jeans. And if the fabric is not clinging to your legs, he may not get your leg. If it is, he will.
It’s gotta cover your whole leg. Why? Because, yet again, it’s a safety precaution. A dog who lunges forward has more of a chance of grabbing your safety-savvy, professional-looking dress pants instead of your leg only if you’re wearing aforementioned pants.
Here are a few notes: If your pants can also substitute as a bra, they’re too high. On the flip side, if you bend down and your underwear show, they’re too low. Your underwear should not be higher than your pants, and your clients should not be able to see your panty line.
Yes, there is underwear out there that won’t show through your dress pants – find them. Please. Also, there are dress pants with pockets strategically placed so that your panty line will never show. Find those too.
You need a relaxed fit – which means that your pants are loose enough that they aren’t digging into your sides but not so loose that they are practically falling down.
** I believe in being prepared because our job can be dangerous. I believe that wearing the kind of pants I mentioned not only makes you look like a professional who takes his or her job very seriously, it put you in a mindset of a professional who takes his or her job very seriously. And it’s safer. Dress smart.2.) The Shoes
What To Wear: Dress shoes. Boots. Steel Toes Shoes/Boots. Something that COVERS YOUR ENTIRE FOOT and matches your clothes. (Please no brown shoes with black pants….)
What NOT to Wear: High Heeled Shoes/Boots. Sandals or Flip Flops. Shoes that don’t cover the tops of your feet, etc.WHY?
If I have to say SAFETY again, I’ll step on someone’s foot.
It’s not just that a dog could try to bite your foot or that working in close proximity to dogs could mean sharp nails on your uncovered foot, it’s about presentation. High heels look nice, but I wouldn’t take you seriously if you were trying to teach an agility class with them on.
We expect our trainers to be more hands-on and look like professors one moment, dog trainers the next, and agility-course-demonstrators a moment after that, and all without having to change their clothes. Your attire should be able to meet all of those requirements. And it can.3.) Shirts
What to Wear: Something that squares of your shoulders (no I’m not talking 80s/90s squared shoulders, here) like a button-down dress shirt, polo shirt, etc. It SHOULD have your company logo on it. Colors, again, should be earthy in tone (no hot pinks or florescent greens).
What NOT to Wear: t-shirts of any kind (even those WITH the company logo), dress shirts (other than the button-down shirt), or basically any other shirt.WHY?
First: The LEAD instructor (that’s you) should be easily identifiable and should look more professional than anyone else. A button-down shirt IS NOT overdoing it. It presents an air of authority, knowledge, competence, and professionalism that the military and traditional trainers are already on top of. We’re better trainers than they are, so let’s not give anyone an excuse to dismiss us or to think that we are not ten times smarter and more professional than they are.
Polo shirts… I hate them, but they work. It’s business casual, and if it still has the company logo on it, you’re good to go. Here’s the deal: It HAS to be an appropriate length – that means that when you raise your arms as high as they can go, no one can see your stomach. Or the very top of your pants.
I hate to feel the need to say this, but it also shouldn’t go down to your knees.
So why no t-shirts?
“T-shirts (with company logo) are great for daycare workers, assistants, and volunteers, but don’t give a lead instructor the overall feel of a lead instructor. First, you should always be dressed better (more professionally) than your clients; and second, you want to be easily identifiable. <–I’ve said that twice now, I know.”
Here’s a general rule: If you’re getting ready to teach a class and you look like you could just as easily be going grocery shopping, you need to rethink your outfit.
You should look like a teacher, the owner of a business, and a professional consultant because you are all three.
Like I said before, the military and traditional boyos KNOW this, and they are on top of it.
It doesn’t matter how much you know. First impressions require you to LOOK like you know as much – or more – than you do.
A couple of fun examples:
We expect doctors to dress like doctors. There’s a reason you pay 700$ plus for a single office visit to see the guy in the slacks and white coat as opposed to going down the street to see the lady who wears sweatpants that could very well also be her bra who would sell you the same medications you need – for less – with no prescription.
Sadly enough, that lady could be smarter than the doctor. Or she could be a doctor taking a day off.
It was just tax time, so let’s take our sweat-pants lady and put her in the role of a tax consultant. If you set up an appointment to do your taxes and walked in to see that your consultant was dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, you may very well think, “This lady obviously has no idea what’s going on. How did she even get her CPE? I’m going elsewhere.”
…And it could turn out that she is the smartest CPE in the country. You just don’t know. And you probably went somewhere else, to someone who dresses like she takes her job seriously.
So dress like you take your job seriously.
3.) Dog Trainers
4.) The Owners of Small Business
5.) Better at what we do than our competition, Smarter, Well-Researched, Caring, and Way More Fun.
But no one will see those things if you look like lady sweatpants.
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