Unusual career: Interview with a dog behaviourist

This piece was written by freelancer Lucy Skoulding

If you’re trying to decide what career to follow, the one thing you should know is that there is so much out there to choose from. While some might argue this makes the choice even harder, the myriad of unusual jobs out there can come as a comfort if you don’t like the idea of one of the more common careers on offer. If you love animals, how about a career as a dog behaviourist? A role that involves assessing the behaviour of a dog and, if needed, working with the dog and owner to alter the dog’s behaviour. We caught up with Steven Havers, dog behaviourist and photographer, to find out what it’s all about. Steven is the founder and owner of Havers Dog Behaviour and Havers Dog Photography.

A fierce family man who would never let work impinge on his down time, Steven is a husband and father of three who spends a lot of time taking his children to their various sporting activities as well as coaching rugby at Market Bosworth on a Sunday, the same club his son plays at. While he has a packed family schedule, Steven somehow finds time to run his own business, with two very unique service offerings. He explained that his aims as a dog behaviourist are to; “market my services so that as many dog owners with problems can get in touch to get the help they need. I will then visit them and teach them how to resolve those issues.”

On the photography side of the business, Steven’s role is “securing the work, managing the project, and delivering it on time both in the studio and on location. I also work on post-production of the images and delivery to the client.” This is how his role as a dog behaviourist works…

What is a typical day like?

Most of us find it difficult to describe a typical working day as each new one often brings new challenges, but Steven was able to give a flavour of what it’s like to be him for the day. “A typical day starts around 6am, when I begin getting on with the admin of generating emails to prospects and scheduling social media releases.” On the dog behaviourist side, one day would comprise “several home visits to clients. Then maybe a group dog behaviour walk, returning telephone calls, and writing blogs and newsletters on this subject.”

Steven has to slot his photography projects alongside this, including going to a studio or location shoot, testing new ideas, and finding new business. Among all of this he always makes sure to “find time for my own family and my own dogs.” 

Challenges and best parts

Steven is certainly kept busy. He admitted that fitting everything in “is the biggest challenge.” He likes to get back to client enquiries in good time but can find that difficult when he is driving around a lot and can’t be on his phone. When it comes to the photography side of his work, Steven admitted the biggest challenge was future aims. “Growing the business is the biggest challenge. It’s finding time for business development while meeting day-to-day deadlines.” While he navigates the challenges, Steven is always remembering why he loves his job. He explained: “I love seeing dogs change their behaviour for the attention of a complete stranger. It shows the owner that their dog can change. Then it’s my job to help them change and it’s so rewarding when they finally embrace this.” He also loves it when he produces photos that make his clients “‘go wow’”.

So what does Steven learn from working as a dog behaviourist and photographer? “My job teaches me about how different people cope and deal with the challenges in their lives, how much patience they have, and how much commitment they are willing to give.” When asked to share something unexpected about his job, Steven said “nearly everyone I work with is baffled about how dogs interpret eye contact and how they can easily manipulate you just by making you look at them.” He also noted that a dog will never bite you “unless you make it, or you make a mistake in your approach or your timing.”

Getting into the job

Steven moved into dog behaviourism from working as a business to business salesman. While this might seem like an unusual transition, his prior work did teach him a lot of relevant skills. He explained that “all the learning was about the psychology of people, upon which I built my dog behaviour method.” Steven explained that getting into the job was, “more of an evolution. I observed the behaviours of the trainers and handlers during the dog training classes I attended with my first dog” he said.

“I went to four and no one could help me out so it got me thinking what dog owners do when classes aren’t enough.” He then decided to pursue dog photography alongside this because he had been pursuing general photography as a hobby for ten years. Some dog behaviourists have backgrounds in veterinary science, or subjects like zoology, sociology, biology or animal behaviour, and some people will go to college or university to study this with the intent of working in this field.

However, you don’t have to have a university-level qualification to pursue this career path. Other people come into the role because they are experienced dog-handlers. Some are simply animal-lovers who make this career choice because they are interested in it. From Steven’s point of view, no official training was needed since he has over 25-years of experience in helping people realise how they can change, and therefore felt able to make the transition into helping people help their pooch to change. His transition shows that career moves are most definitely possible, no matter how different the jobs seem. Many roles teach us transferable skills which can be utilised in different jobs and industries. So if you fancy a career change, a dog behaviourist could be on the cards, no matter your background…

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