Dogs, not dogma

Recently, while out running some errands, my pack of three pups and I stopped to check out a dog park that we had never explored before. Normally I avoid dog parks, since when they're busy they generally serve as a good place for dogs to find injury and illness. I reasoned that since it was mid-morning on a Monday the park should be pretty quiet, which it was.
While the pups ran and sniffed and played I started talking to an older man who had had the same idea when he brought his seven year old lab to the park. As usual, it didn't take long before I told him what I do for a living, at which point he explained what he's been working on with his dog.
Whereas most dogs learn the "heel" command to walk right next to their owners, this man had been working on training his pup to walk about 5 or 6 feet ahead of him due to a leg injury that makes having his dog walk beside to him painful and difficult. This deviation from the normal standard served to reinforce something I'm always trying to keep in mind, that while we trainers may feel like there are certain performative standards that all dogs should meet, those standards are not necessarily always needed or even welcome from our clients.
There are many different kinds of dog trainers out there, with vast differences in method and focus. There are those who eschew certain types of equipment as being too harsh, those who look down on the use of treats as being too soft, and those who can't look past whatever ideology they've adopted to find what works best for the clients and dogs in their care.
I started my business with the intention of being an intermediary between people who don't know what to do and a dog being given up to a shelter. Today served as a good reminder that my job is to listen first to the needs of my clients, then to draw from whatever method works to find the best way to ensure the health, safety, and happiness of the dogs I train and the people who love them.