Let’s get personal.

Recently I’ve been having some skin problems – dry skin, mostly. Since November. On my face – mostly my eye lids. What does this have to do with dog training? Well. A lot. Hang in there.

I’ve seen my doctor four times since November and each time we try something different. Moisturizing creams to start, then 0.5% hydrocortisone cream, then a prescription hydrocortisone cream, then a ban on makeup for two weeks, then *only* Clinique cleansing products (goodbye, bank account), then only hypoallergenic mineral makeup, then back to a makeup ban, finally, a dermatologist.

Throughout this whole process I’m frequenting the snazzy sections of department stores, talking to “experts” of all kinds. Clinique experts, Dior experts, estheticians, makeup artists, MAC experts, Elizabeth Arden experts. I didn’t even know half these brands existed! I’m surrounded by makeup and cleansers, toners, washes, foaming this and that, exfoliating yadda-yadda, wax-bases, anti-wax bases, you name it. I have no idea what they’re talking about and I’m sure I have that dim smile on my face as I nod with feigned interest.

By the end of it, I’ve bought almost $400 worth of products and so far, nothing is working. I’m at the end of my rope. I go to Sephora because three people have now told me that they’re *really* the experts. I walk in and a salesperson approaches me and we talk about my issues. She nods knowingly and leads me to a rack of products that look so soothing and lovely. She proceeds to smear product after product on my face with Q-tips, cotton pads, her hands. My face feels clean and fresh. I feel like a complete idiot.

I tell her what I’ve been using so far and she acts shocked. “That won’t moisturize your skin! You can’t use that product – you have to use something that doesn’t have water! Here, let me show you…” and she trails off on a tangent about this product that is “all-natural” (aren’t they all?) and made from grape seed oil and it will solve all the world’s problems. A tiny tube for $200.

I take the names down of each of the products and thank her for her time. I’ll get right on that. As soon as I win the lottery and can spend $200 a week on face cream. In the meantime I will suffer through this charming cracked eye lid and looking like a drawn, exhausted dog trainer with no makeup on.

I leave the mall, over-stimulated and a bit shaky. I call my fellow dog trainer friend and come pretty close to crying.

“Now I know exactly how clients feel. They go from trainer to trainer, expert to expert, salesperson to salesperson. They get conflicting information each and every time. By the end of it, they want what is best for their dog but they don’t want to spend $800 experimenting. They just want the truth. This is exhausting and I give up.”

Where I am with my dry skin is exactly where most people are with their dogs. At a critical point where they know something’s gotta give, but have no way of knowing who is telling the truth. How do you make a decision?

“Go with your gut.” – easy to say. Part of my gut tells me that putting any more creams and chemicals on my face is not the way to go, so I’m going to do a full detox and cleanse and see if I can change this from the inside out. I’ll work with a naturopathic doctor and a dietician and see if that helps. Another part of my gut says “screw this – slather on hydrocortisone and fix this once and for all and WHO CARES ABOUT THE 18 PAGES OF SIDE EFFECTS!!!”. Another part of my gut says “I’m hungry so where’s that chocolate bar?”. What does my gut know?

When it comes to dog-raising, it’s not easy. Our guts gets confused easily. Everything sounds accurate and it’s so easy to believe that a dog is behaving a certain way because of dominance, just like it’s easy to believe that the moisturizer my doctor recommended is supposed to hydrate my skin and fix this problem.

I wish I had some wise advice to close off this post, but I don’t. I’m an expert and I can teach you what I know, but who knows. Maybe I’m an Elizabeth Arden expert with only Elizabeth Arden training. All the more reason for me to continue studying and relying on *science* so that I can bring you the most accurate, unbiased information possible without causing you to go broke or give up.

I’m always telling my clients to question everything. No matter who the expert is – you have to use your common sense, do your research, learn what you can so that YOU become your own expert. Nobody knows you or your dog better than you do.

Go on, question away. I’ll be right there with you.


About Caryn Charlie Liles
Caryn is a Toronto-based “people-trainer for dogs” and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). She is the founder of Whatta Pup!, a pet dog training company established in 2008. Seeing a growing need for specialized training due to an increase in aggression in Toronto, Caryn co-founded The Toronto Centre for Canine Education, specializing in “the socially-challenged dog”.

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