Episode 51: Building Community with Claire Goyer

Marissa MartinoPaws & Reward Podcast

building community

In episode 51 of the Paws & Reward Podcast, I am really excited to speak with Claire Goyer, a colleague I met while collaborating together on Grisha Stewart’s amazing online school. Claire and I wanted to talk about building community. Watch our conversation on my YouTube Channel.

How are we defining a dog training community? And, what communities are we referring to?

A community is a collective group of people who share common values and want to move towards achieving a common goal.

In terms of dog training, our community can sometimes be very fractured. We don’t have a cohesive global community. We have smaller groups of people and bringing those groups of people together has proven to be very difficult.

One of the reasons is that we focus too much on “black and white” or a list of rules those people must follow in order to join that community. This alienates other groups of people who otherwise would be wonderful additions to the community. Some of these people even show a desire to learn and grow, but we don’t allow them to participate in our community because we have labeled them as “aversive trainers” or trainers we don’t want to associate with.

There’s a non-recognition of the gray when it comes to values. Values can have shades of gray. We can collectively agree not to use aversives on a dog, we can collectively agree on certain methods, and we can understand one another if we choose to listen instead of arguing.


What is the best way to build a dog training community? 

A strong community is built on trust. Trust that you’ll be heard, understood, and not judged for asking questions or making a mistake. The feeling of safety holds communities together and builds on a foundation of trust over time.

A community fails when there is judgment, dishonesty, gossiping, and exclusivity. No voice should be more important than another and all should have respect for the other.


What skills are needed for us as individuals within a dog training community?

  • Self-awareness (observation skills from our dog training toolbox)
  • Curiosity about ourselves and others
  • Recognizing needs
  • Ability to admit fault
  • Willingness to listen to experiences different from our own
  • Honoring boundaries

What skills are needed to nurture the dog training community? 

  • Inclusivity – being able to shift when told someone feels unheard or unable to participate due to certain environmental or emotional roadblocks.
  • Safe Place to Explore Ideas – not immediately shutting down a new concept or idea simply because it doesn’t fit into a black-and-white binary of values.
  • Code of Conduct/Ethics – this will help create that feeling of safety to express and explore new ideas
  • Avoid Discrimination – everyone should feel valued, heard, and included in the conversation.
  • Avoid Shaming – Recognizing that everyone is at a different part of their learning journey is essential to having open communication and creating an inclusive community. We were all beginners at one point and we all have gaps in our own knowledge. Giving others grace while they learn and grow will nurture a healthy community.
  • Open Communication – Creating a safe environment means people should feel like they can approach difficult topics or express their emotions without being attacked.
  • Trust  – Trust that each person is doing their best without jumping to conclusions.
  • Reliability – In dog training communities, often we will refer clients to other trainers if they are better suited to meet their needs. We need to feel that those recommendations will be met with reliable care and attention.

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