The Cohen-Miller Report: An Important Lesson I Learned From My Dog Trainer

An Important Lesson I Learned From My Dog Trainer

by Emily Cohen

Recently, I got a new puppy (a 6 month old rescue mutt named Kenya) and she needs quite a bit of “potty” training. Accordingly, I immediately hired a dog trainer to help me with that and many other issues. However, it was not until  a couple of weeks later before she was able to work with me. Consequently, I researched as much as I could in the meantime and did my best to train her. On the trainer’s first day, she asked me a million questions, including what I used to clean up after my dog after she went in the house. I said, rather proudly (thinking I was so smart) “ammonia!” Well, the trainer’s shocked face and negative response was quite unexpected and, in retrospect, well deserved. Apparently, I used the very chemical that was already inside my lovely puppy’s urine! I never made the connection. Yet, to my trainer it was an obvious and very stupid mistake. I can even see her telling this story to all her friends and telling them about what a stupid new client she has – cleaning urine with ammonia, what idiot would do that?

This is what I call in my consulting practice the “duh” moment. The “duh” moment is when I give advice that I can not believe people pay me for and which I think is quite obvious. For example, if you are not happy with an employee’s performance, perhaps you need to tell them instead of just being annoyed by it or waiting until their performance review at the end of the year.

Yes, I admit it, I sometimes think some of my clients (or at least their business behaviors) are dumb. But this experience with the trainer made me think more about this and I realized that what may be obvious to me, because of my expertise, is not always to my clients who do not have the same experience or industry insight as I may have. Or they simple are too stressed to see every result of all their actions.

I consider this a great lesson learned. And, Kenya? Well, she is still learning. Wish me luck.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creative teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at and

One thought on “The Cohen-Miller Report: An Important Lesson I Learned From My Dog Trainer

  1. Ashley

    A good thing to realize. It may make you more considerate in the future when tolerating such silly questions. 🙂
    I myself have had a few of those moments… although it is more frustrating when a fellow designer is asking the questions they should already know the answers too. For example: “My flash banner does not load because it is out to date… How do I fix this?”
    My response was simple in I told her the answer… on the inside I was yelling, “REALLY!? Did you just ask me that?”. (We both graduated from a 3-year program with an advanced diploma. Even without the schooling, the answer to that question is not rocket science for our generation).

    Also, I spotted a spelling mistake in the last paragraph, last sentence.

    “..Or they simple are too stressed to see every result of all their actions.”

    “Simple” should be “simply”.

    – Ashley 🙂