Interview with Christina Pannell
Christina Pannell is a Dog Trainer and so much more. She has worked with dogs for over 20 years in all capacities. Her business is also multigenerational with her Mom encouraging her to get into the business and now her daughter following in her footsteps!
You’ve been doing this for 12 years. Did you grow up with dogs?
It’s my mom’s fault. When I wasn’t in school, I was with her cleaning cages, walking dogs, cleaning exam rooms, and stuff. When I was really little, she always joked with me that, you know, veterinary medicine is great, but you know, you don’t make much money. It’s her fault. But definitely, I’ve always done something with animals in one way or another. And then, my first job out of high school was working at an 80-acre animal sanctuary where they rescue dogs and cats and farm animals. So I spent two years there, which is really like the basis of my animal behavior knowledge. Cause you have to be knowledgeable with rescue dogs just for everybody’s safety. You know, you can’t go in not knowing anything about dogs. That’s a good recipe for getting bit. So that was where I learned most of my behavior type stuff. But yeah, it started young, and my daughter’s the same way. So she’s three and her first word was dog. She has one of our company shirts, that says “Future dog trainer” on the back.
Lessons you have learned?
It’s not just about the dog, it’s about the owner. So that was the invaluable part to me; it was learning to be open-minded and find out ways to connect with people and get the point across. And if something’s not working, try and find another way to explain it so it does work. That’s a hard line to take. I don’t necessarily consider myself one of these trainers that deals with significant aggression issues. Here, our mission statement is the best way forward is keeping dogs out of shelters and in their homes with proper training.
…there’s no way to know everything. So you have to be a perpetual student. Just the other day I was taking classes, even though I’ve been working with dogs for 12 years…
What are your training goals?
So that’s my main goal to either make a shelter dog more adoptable by training them or making a dog fit into a family where they don’t have to be rehomed. And besides that goal, my next goal is kids and dogs being safe together. As a Mom, that’s like my number one hot button. If you want to hear me get not very nice, it is when kids and dogs are not very nice together. That’s a tough discussion to have with people, you’re letting your daughter, you’re letting your child be inappropriate with your dog, and you need to rein that in. I’ll be honest with you. I have had people not call me back because they weren’t pleased with the fact that I said, this is unsafe, and you need to fix it, and it’s your responsibility.
What attributes do you need to have to do this job?
It’s not a love of dogs. You have to be obsessed with them. You have to eat, sleep, breathe, dream about dogs. I mean, when I have training dogs at my house, I am married to my house. I can’t go out and have a romantic weekend with my husband because the dogs can’t be left unattended. I work by myself. They’re in my home. So, I always have to plan my life around the dogs.
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How do you sharpen your skills?
There’s no way to know everything. I call myself a perpetual student. Just the other day, I was taking classes, even though I’ve been working with dogs for 12 years. I’ve had them my whole life. I’ve been doing this professionally for a year. I still take classes in August. I’m going to a seminar with a big name trainer. So you have to like to learn. And then you also have to want to impart that teaching to other people and be open to them teaching you. I’ve had clients who have taught me a lot, just people in general who I didn’t know. I said, you just have to understand that there’s always going to be people involved with this job, you can’t hate people, and be an antisocial type of person because ultimately it’s not the dog paying you. It’s the owner’s paying you.
What’s your theme song?
So my cell phone ringtone is, “Who Let the Dogs Out.