Dog Training Program: Train Your Business

Guest Blog by: Britt Alwerud

Owning a dog training, or pet sitting business, is a dream career for most people – especially when you first start out. The thought of spending hours with dogs and devising a customized dog training program, sounds like heaven, but unfortunately there’s a high degree of burnout in this industry. And it’s definitely not because of the dogs. You might have set out to be a dog trainer, but then quickly realize that you’re a business owner too and with that comes a lot of responsibility and admin work. As a small business owner, you have to wear many hats and doing it all can weigh you down really quickly. Instead of working a typical 9 to 5 job, you may find yourself working on your dog training program for 8 hours, but then having to do another 3 hours of work having to deal with client scheduling requests, cancellations, invoicing, collecting payments, new client intake and keeping track of all of your client’s information. It can all add up and lead to major burnout. But imagine if you loved your business as much as you love working with dogs and you could save more than ten hours per week running your business? You can do this by applying your dog training techniques to your business.

You have to train yourself to be a successful business owner by doing these five necessary steps for putting your business on auto-pilot:

1. Shape your business model
It’s important to visualize and write down exactly what you want your business and your personal life to look like. Just like in your dog training program, you can use the concept of shaping when thinking about your business. Shaping refers to the reinforcement of behaviors that approximate or come close to the desired new behavior. The steps involved are often called successive approximations because they successively approximate or get closer and closer to the desired behavior.1

Do you love working one-on-one with clients, do you enjoy group classes, do you prefer having a dog training program online using videos and Skype calls with clients, or would you like to supplement your training income by selling E-books? How much time will each of these service types take and how much do you value your time? Once you zero in on what’s important to you, write down a goal for how much you want to make per year. Then work backwards. If you’ve decided to focus on private dog training clients, how many dog training sessions do you need to sell in order to reach that number? Can you offer packages that get you to that number faster or can you offer a premium service like a Board and Train program or a Puppy Potty Training program that you can charge top dollar for. How many of these programs do you have to sell per month to hit your yearly goal? Focus in on your service offerings and make sure they align with your core values and that you are valuing yourself and your time. You are worth it and owe this to yourself. Taking these steps will shape your business to be in alignment with your goals and lifestyle.

2. Capture your systems: Dog Training Programs
Now that you’ve zeroed in on your business model. It’s time to put the systems in place to deliver your high quality service. You may be the best dog trainer in the world, but are you providing the best customer service as a business owner? Just like in clicker training, you need to identify your successful systems and mark them so that the desired outcome happens more frequently – i.e your clients keep booking you and referring you. Identify what is working and what needs improvement. For your clients, you might put together instructions that help your clients form habits that change their dogs’ behavior. Consider putting together your own instructions for how your business should be run on a daily basis. That way you can create consistency for yourself and thereby create consistency for how you interact with your clients as well. An employee handbook is a great way to achieve this and it unlocks the information of how to run your business from your head, so that someone else can step in and help you run the business. This is the first step in automating your business.

3. Chain your processes using modern mobile business software
Dogs thrive off of consistency and so do humans. If you do everything the same way every time, it takes out the guesswork and creates happier customers, staff and business owners. Technology is a perfect way to automate systems so that everyone is on the same page. By using a scheduling, payments, and rating system like Handlr to run your business, your daily operations will be automated. You’ll have peace of mind that all of your appointments were handled and automatically charged to your client’s card, and that your client was satisfied with the service. You will never have to invoice again, shift through tons of physical paperwork, worry that you didn’t get a service agreement signed, or accidentally miss an appointment. It will all be handled in one easy to use business dashboard and your clients will be able to book you directly from their customer app. As you bring on more staff, they can easily be added to your business dashboard so that your clients can conveniently book with them. You can GPS track them, see what time they checked in and checked out of the service, and check your client’s ratings and feedback about your team member. Along with Handlr there are countless other business apps that can help you more easily run your business. Hurdlr is a mileage tracker that can help you keep track of miles for your expenses. Hireology is a great platform for hiring and managing your HR. Gusto is a great platform for payroll and employee onboarding and Google for Work is a must have for running a small business. All of these tools can help you automate your daily tasks so that you can focus on your clients and not on the tedious business admin work.

4. Positively reinforce yourself
Once you’ve set up your business to run on auto-pilot, you’ll feel more confident about bringing on more clients and more staff. This way, you will be able to take a vacation, take a break if you need to, not worry so much about getting injured, start another business, or just work less hours but make more revenue.

5. Reward your customers and staff
Showing your appreciation to your clients and staff not only strengthens the bond and relationship that you have with them, but will also improve your retention rates. Clients will also be encouraged to share your business with their friends and neighbors, and your staff will tell other good people to come work for you. Small gifts during the holidays, handwritten thank you cards, quarterly staff get-togethers, client appreciation picnics at the park or random acts of kindness make an impact in a big way.

One of the keys to  a successful dog training program is consistency and setting aside the time to break down the steps and follow through with repetition, reinforcement and rewards. Applying these techniques to your business will result in a balanced, successful business that you’re proud of.

Britt Alwerud has owned and operated one of San Diego’s largest dog walking companies, DogZenergy, since 2006 and is the Founder of Handlr. To learn more about Handlr and how it can help you automate your client intake, scheduling, payments, team dispatching and tracking – request a demo here or visit myhandlr.com.

For more information on this course, go to Training Your Business: How to put your business on auto-pilot so that you can focus on training your clients . While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

Online Dog Trainer Course: Getting Centered on Zen

“Zen” suggests many things. A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the value of meditation. A state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than conscious effort. A slangier definition might be a feeling of peace and relaxation, as in “having a zen moment”. Being “zen” might mean having awareness in the present moment, which will help release you from anxiety, frustration, stress and anger. A popular and useful dog training technique, which will be discussed in detail in my upcoming online dog trainer course.

A dog training technique?

“Dog Zen”, “Doggie Zen” and “Puppy Zen” are common names for this class of training techniques that have been hanging around for about 50 years now.  The basic concept involves identifying and isolating a tiny bit of your dog’s impulsive behavior, and then manipulating the environment over and over again until that impulse comes under cognitive control.

Huh?

Now for just a little bit of “dog psychology.” Impulses and emotions are produced in the mid-brain, the baby brain, the puppy brain. In order for any individual, human or canine, to attain impulse control, otherwise known as self-control, the part of the brain that thinks and makes decisions (the cortex) has to learn to exert control over the small, but very influential mid-brain. Once the cortex, the center of cognitive processing, gains control over the impulses, the individual is relieved of the stress and frustration that may be associated with the almost reflexive responses that occur when random stuff in the world triggers mostly unwanted behaviors.

Impulsivity is responsible for such problems as counter-surfing, dumpster-diving, jumping up for greetings, hyper-excitability, and door-dashing, among others. Now, we’re not claiming that Zen will cure all these problems, but it will give your dog the foundation and life skills on which specific training will certainly be more successful.

Zen works for all dogs, all breeds, all ages. The techniques are simple to teach and practice, and some form of Zen can be incorporated into many different types of interactions with your dog, including feeding, leash walking, and play. You can get Zen just by making a few small changes in the way you manage and interact with your dog. Zen is simple enough for even a small child to learn.

Ready to get started? In just 90 minutes, you can become a Dog Zen master, and attain the skills and knowledge you need to incorporate these important strategies into your life with your dog! Visit http://raisingcanine.com/course/zen/ and sign up for my online dog trainer course, Getting Centered on Zen.

Barbara Davis, CDBC has been a dog trainer and behavior consultant for over 35 years. Barbara is a founding member of IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), and has been Dog Division Chair since 2013. Committed to continuing education, she is faculty mentor for IAABC’s acclaimed Animal Behavior Consulting: Principles & Practice course, and in to her online dog trainer course, she offers many other workshops and seminars through her business in southern California.

Breaking Up Fights During Dog Socialization

One of the most often asked questions The Dog Gurus get is “What tools should a pet care center have at its disposal to break up a fight?” It seems there is an ever growing list of things you can use to stop a dogfight and safely protect yourself from getting bitten. So naturally, concerned pet care facility owners want to do proper dog socialization to keep the dogs and staff safe.

But I’ll be upfront about one thing…the more you are worried about the proper tools you need to break up a fight, the more I get worried that you are focused on the wrong issue. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think it’s vital to keep the staff and dogs safe in the event of a fight, and when working with dog socialization fights are always a real possibility. But fights should be so rare that just a handful of tools should suffice to keep folks safe.

The biggest two tools you should have in your toolbox to prevent dog fights during dog socialization in your pet care center are a formal dog evaluation process and an excellent staff training program. If you have those two things in place then you have the best tools available for minimizing and preventing fights. So start there.

Now, if you really want some other tools, here are the other ones I would include to help break up a fight:

  • Kennel lead– Each staff member should be trained to carry a kennel lead with them at all times. It should be a part of their uniform. That way, if they need to leash a dog quickly, they aren’t wasting valuable time looking for a leash.
  • Radio/Whistle– When a fight breaks out, it’s important to let others know so that they can assist in breaking up the fight. If you have a small center, the noise of the fight may be the only communication you need. However, if you have an outdoor area, or a very soundproof building, then you’re going to need some way of quickly communicating the fact that a fight is going on.
  • Object to startle and distract dog(s)– One of the main goals in stopping a fight is to startle the dogs so that they release their hold on one another. You can use this by making a loud noise (hitting metal bowls together or making a loud sound with a marine air horn), by dumping water on the dogs (if you have an accessible water hose or large bucket of water), or by disorienting the dog (by tossing a blanket or bedding over the dog). Decide the best way to distract them and have those tools handy.
  • Object to move between dogs– If you haven’t startled them, then it might be necessary to try to separate them by pushing something in between the dogs.
  • Good tools for this include a small piece of playground equipment that you can push toward the dog, or even a chair that you can push in between the dogs.
  • Spray Shield– If nothing else has worked, then try using this citronella based deterrent to get the dogs to separate.

 

With proper evaluations and staff training, these dog socialization tools should provide you with the back up you need to intervene in the rare instance that you do have a fight. To learn more check out Fights and Bites in Daycare webinar on February 6, 2019.

Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and has been using her expertise in “reading dogs” to teach families how to train their pets as well as helping others in the pet care industry keep dogs safe for over 20 years. Robin’s first book, All About Dog Daycare is the number one reference on opening a dog daycare. She is also Co-author of Off-Leash Dog Play… A Complete Guide to Safety and Fun, and an extensive staff training program called, Knowing Dogs, which are the leading staff training resources for dog daycare and boarding facilities. Robin is currently co-founder of The Dog Gurus, the nation’s premier resource for dog care professionals. Through The Dog Gurus she is now helping pet care professionals get their lives back by showing them how to create sustainable businesses with teams that truly know dogs.

For more information on this course, go to Fights & Bites in Dog Daycare. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the hundreds of great on-demand webinars Raising Canine offers – you can find them at this link:  https://www.raisingcanine.com/education/od-webinars/.

For Professional Dog Trainers: Instinct & Drive

Professional Dog Trainers food for thought: As I take my foster dog Lumen out the door for an afternoon walk, we suddenly come upon a rabbit nibbling clover on the lawn. I look down at this little 25 pound dog and it is as if something has taken her over. Her muscles are coordinating in a ballet as old as canids. Her legs are bent, her body tensed, her head lowered and ears forward, as she soundlessly stalks the unsuspecting prey.

Most people, including many professional dog trainers, when seeing this behavior think of how wild and wolf-like it is. They tend to think of untrained behaviors, especially those reminiscent of wild ancestors’ as innate, triggered by an instinctual drive inherited directly from the wolf. But when I see these behaviors I notice how different they are from the wolf. Yes Lumen, a little grey frazzled dog from the streets of Texas is displaying pieces of the ancestral hunting behavior, and there’s no need for training a rescue dog to display these behaviors! But beyond that her behavior is quite different. We call these pieces of behaviors motor patterns, they are snapshots of a behavior. The wolf hunting behavior is made of “orient,” when the wolf focuses its eyes, ears, and nose on its potential prey with its head up above its shoulder, ears forward and attention rapt. Next are “eye” and “stalk,” two motor patterns that happen at the same time. “Eye” refers to the position of the head, which is now at or below the level of the shoulders. The ears are either forward or out to the side and eyes and nose are still trained on the potential prey. “Stalk” refers to the position of the body which is tense, but the legs are bent and the wolf is either frozen still or creeping forward slowing. Next is “chase,” which is exactly what it sounds like, then “grab-bite,” which is the initial bite to the prey. For wolves hunting large prey, this is a bite to whatever is handy – often the flanks. And finally “kill-bite,” which in the wolf is a bleeding bite often to the jugular. In wolves hunting large prey, this behavior is also performed with other members of their family, all coordinating together to hunt the same prey.

While dog behaviors are all made up of motor patterns that exist in the wolf repertoire, they are shown in different sequences, different contexts and at different thresholds, resulting in entirely different behaviors. Furthermore, while the motor patterns themselves appear perfectly the first time they are displayed, the behaviors that they make up like Lumen’s stalking of the rabbit, have to be developed. And while genes are important in producing behaviors, there are no genes for behavior, instead there are complex interactions between genes and environment. During my upcoming “Instinct & Drive” webinar, I will be breaking down what we know about behaviors that are often thought of as intrinsic and explaining the current knowledge of how genes and environment play into their development.

Kathryn Lord received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied the evolution and development of dog and wolf behavior, with Dr. Raymond Coppinger.

Becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer tips: Dog gear!

Understanding dog training equipment

Professional Dog Trainer Tips for Choosing Gear

For those becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer, it is important to understand equipment when looking for a tool to address a particular training need. There was once a time not so long ago when the average home with a dog had one collar and one leash. A quick trip to most pet supply stores will quickly make it clear that this is no longer the case. Simply choosing color can be overwhelming, much less which style. You may have tried this collar only to find that it doesn’t work. A neighbor recommends another harness, so you tried that only to find that doesn’t work. Perhaps you read about yet another option, got one and found that it worked at first only to stop shortly thereafter. As a result, many pet lovers and professional dog trainers end up with a basket full of equipment, losing faith in all of them. So what are you to do?

As so often is the case in dog training, it depends! It depends on what you want to get done, your dog, your training skill, and many other factors. Those involved in professional dog training understand that, as with any profession, the right tools can make all the difference.

Tip #1: Choose the right tool
Think of choosing dog equipment like choosing shoes. If you’re going on a hike, ballet slippers are probably not a great choice. They may be the best out there, but they are not going to get the job done. The same holds true for dog equipment – different pieces are designed for various reasons. Some tools are best for dogs with larger lips, some are better for larger dogs, others for smaller dogs. Research and ask around. Talk to people with experience with issues like yours and dogs like yours. Don’t ask the owner of a confident Labrador what they use, when you have a fearful chihuahua. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #2: Choose the right size and fit.
For those becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer, learning how to fit equipment is crucial. If you are a size 8 shoe and you go on a hike in size 6 or size 12 boots, you will be in for a world of hurt either way. Size matters with dog gear too. Too tight can restrict breathing or movement, put pressure on sensitive areas, cause chafing, and discomfort. Too large can result in accidentally coming off and your dog escaping, instability in movement, sliding around, or hitting sensitive points. There are lots of online videos and resources to tell you how to choose the right size for your dog. They usually give a range of dimensions so, if you don’t already know, there are resources that demonstrate how to properly measure your pet.

Now let’s assume you got the right size boot, but you didn’t tie the laces. It’s not the boot’s fault if your foot falls out during the hike. Likewise, properly fitting the tool is critical to its function. Most tools that are not obviously easy to fit come with instructions – read them! If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #3: Introduce it slowly and carefully
For some, throwing on your first pair of 5” heels for the day is no biggie. For others, some time is needed to adjust. Dogs are no exception. Some equipment you can just put on a dog without issue. Typically, that is because the style is somewhat familiar or the dog is confident. However, in many cases, dogs aren’t so confident with new things or a particular style of equipment is so novel it’s terrifying. A great example is a head collar. Go slowly, and don’t force it. Allow the pet to get used to the idea, then slowly introduce the equipment. Start out with a loose fit, patiently teach the pet that moving around in this is a great thing that results in hot dogs! Gradually adjust the fit, encourage the pet to move more. Never force or scold, and always proceed slowly at the dog’s pace. If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.

Tip #4: If you’re struggling, contact a professional dog trainer.
If you’re a runner and you’re having pain, you might try different recommended brands. You might research to ensure you’ve fitted the shoe properly. You might even wear your shoes around the house to get used to them a bit more. But there comes a point when you’ve tried several things and the pain just isn’t going away. That’s when it’s time to talk to a running professional or a medical professional. Alternatively, if you’re not sure right off the bat, save yourself the time and hassle and go to skilled professional immediately. Of course, as I write this, I am restricted to the couch after ankle surgery resulting from bad advice from a doctor. Advice is only as good as the one giving it, so make sure your professional is skilled and qualified.

For becoming a positive reinforcement dog trainer and wanting additional information, check out my upcoming webinar through Raising Canine: Gearing Up: Selecting, Fitting, and Using Dog Equipment.

Guest post By Katenna Jones

Online Dog Training Courses: Bonding with Your Client

Webinar on bonding with clients

How to Make Your Dog Training Clients Love You

For those interested in Online Dog Training Courses, there’s a new webinar on Raising Canine: “How to Bond With Your Client”. Wendy (the presenter) is a great people person – unlike a lot of us dog trainers. Don’t miss this dog trainer course, online, if you’re looking for more rapport, longer relationships, and more client referrals, click below:

Bonding with your clients: Improving Client Relations for Better Outcomes

Dog Trainer Salary: Changing Bad Dog Habits

Dog trainer salary: changing bad dog habits. Leash chewing, paw licking, and poop eating are just a few examples of behaviors that may develop due to a very specific set of circumstance and then linger long after the underlying reason for the behavior is gone. What advice do you provide your dog training clients?

  • Resolve the underlying reason for the behavior. Puppies chewing on leashes can be teething. Paw licking can be related to allergies, and poop eating a nest-cleaning instinct gone awry. Whatever the underlying cause of the behavior, if you don’t remove it then it will return.
  • Train an alternate, incompatible behavior. A few examples include teaching a dog to hold their toy or tug in the mouth while walking for the leash chewer, and chewing a bully stick or bone for the paw licker.
  • In moments where training fails, be ready to disrupt, distract, and redirect. Whether through management or training, it is very important that the dog not be in a position to practice the undesirable behavior. So be ready with management when you’re not actively training an alternative behavior. Providing great chews and interactive toys is one option, increasing exercise and mental stimulation will generally also help.
  • Repeat for 2 to 4 weeks. Compare this to the amount of time you might expect a human to take to alter a specific undesirable habit like nail-biting.

The most difficult component of this is selling owners on a very high level of diligence for the 2-4 week period. Explain that by front-loading the owner’s efforts, they will resolve the problem behavior much more quickly. Allowing the dog to practice a particular undesirable behavior only lets the dog get cleverer about the behavior and makes it more difficult to extinguish later. Professional dog trainers frequently have to sell their clients on certain aspects of training. This is a very important skill to develop if you want to increase your dog trainer salary, because the long-term success and maintenance of the training is in the hands of the person who is spending time with the dog – and that is your client.

Dog Trainer Income: Specialization

How to increase your dog trainer salary through specialization

Increase Your Income by Specializing

Increase your dog trainer income by specializing in a particular area. Professional dog trainers should think long and hard before accepting behavior modification cases if it is not the focus of their business and they haven’t received specialized training. One of the most important concepts that you can learn as a pro is to set both yourself and your clients up for success from the outset. Pre-screening clients, then matching them with your appropriate service or referring them out to another trainer is one of the first steps in setting you and your client up for success.

Unsure whether behavioral work is for you? Check out Become a Professional Dog Trainer courses, and keep your knowledge base fresh with topic specific continuing education. By educating yourself you’re providing the best possible chance for your client’s success whether through your own services or a well thought out referral to another resource.

Separation anxiety is an area that might best be referred to a specialist – an opportunity to increase your dog trainer income by becoming that specialist! Read Linda Michael’s blog entry on “Separation Anxiety” for a few helpful tips. But also be aware that separation anxiety can be one of the more difficult behaviors to modify. So consider your skills and education, then decide if you’re the best fit for your clients’ success. By educating yourself, you can decide whether to make behavior modification one of the focal points of your professional dog training business or to knowledgeably direct your clients to the best available resource for this specialized training.

Aggression, of course, is another great area for increasing your income. Aggression is everywhere, and with the change in pet dogs’ lifestyles, they are clashing with owners, strangers, and other dogs on a much more frequent basis.

Dog Training Facility…Or Not: Products Offered Affect Your Location Options

One of the questions all professional dog trainers must answer is where will I provide my services? The answer may be defined by the products you’re offering your clients. Or you may find yourself limiting your services based upon available training locations. Here are a few items to consider:

1.  If you plan to teach group puppy classes, then you must be able to sterilize your environment. Outdoor classes are out. As are any other areas that cannot be sanitized. Two other examples are facilities where you cannot control access once fully sanitized or facilities with flooring that cannot be properly sanitized.

2. Private coaching can be offered in a client’s home, a training facility, or a public location.

3. Day training can be offered in the client’s home, the dog trainer’s home, a training facility, or public space. If your day training option includes day care or pick-up/delivery, then the last 3 options work nicely. Otherwise, the most practical solution will be training in or around the client’s home.

4. Specialty classes often have special location requirements. Nose Work class requires crating space or weather that cooperates with car crating. Reactive dog class means visual blocks will be needed, segregated safe areas and larger spaces. Agility requires a larger space and specialized flooring or footing.

Consider your product offerings. Consider your targeted dog training niche and what the classes filling this niche will require. Consider the location options available to you. Each of these factors will weigh against each other, so be ready to prioritize and be familiar with all of your options.

Dog Training Facility…Or Not: Non-Facility Options

A dog training facility just isn’t for you. Too much overhead, not enough flexibility, or one of a number of other considerations has convinced you that you’d rather pursue other options. What are those options?

1. Work as a dog training employee. Whether for a big box store, a local training facility, or a standalone trainer, consider working as an employee. This is a great way to get started in professional dog training. Frequently, as an employee you’ll work under your employer’s curriculum and direction.  You may even have an opportunity to apprentice.

2. Independent contractors are much more commonly found in dog training, which means that you’re likely responsible for your own insurance and paying your own taxes. You also have more flexibility, limited only by the employment contract you negotiate.

3. Be your own boss, but focus your efforts on in-home training and/or the use of public space. Sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or another business entity type – you choose.

Be aware that laws governing your status as an employee or independent contractor, as well as laws regulating different business entity types vary by jurisdiction. That means that you should be familiar enough with local laws to know when you need to seek professional help to guide you.