This post is mainly directed towards aspiring dog trainers. Here are some great tips:
1. Have a niche.
Tis better to be a master in a few particular areas than a jack of all trades. Forming a niche will drive the right type of business your way. Let’s say a shop sells only sub sandwiches. They might lose business as people who want burgers or pizza go elsewhere. But rather than trying to be everything to everyone, they create a thriving business by making the best damn sub sandwiches around. Know your strengths and hone your skills, and be the best damn ____________ (companion, protection, service, detection, AKC ob, etc.) dog trainer you can be.
2. Expand your horizons.
As Michaleangelo said at age 80: “I am still learning.” Dog training requires education and understanding of theory and principals, but it’s primarily practical and hands-on. Nothing can substitute for tons of practice on your own. Don’t allow yourself to train in a bubble. Attend seminars, shadow other trainers, watch videos, read books, network, and see what’s out there– dog training is a big world. You may learn towards certain methods, but if the idea of something takes you out of your comfort zone, it’s worth exploring. Focus on learning from those who are getting a high level of results, but you can learn something from everyone… even if it’s “what not to do.”
5. Choose your clients wisely.
You are not obligated to train anyones dog. Screen your clients, because oftentimes, it’s not the dog, it’s the person who is the problem. If someones dog has bitten 5 people before they decided to “seek help” by calling and demanding you wave your magic wand and fix it, that may not be something you want your name on. The dogs owners must be willing to be part of the solution! Sometimes you just have to say “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Never waste time on those who are not willing to learn… there are too many out there who would value your knowledge!
3. Don’t trash your competition.
When a customer asks about another local trainer, stay diplomatic. Maintain your integrity and showcase the benefits you offer. Encourage your customers to go visit other trainers and clubs and let them find out for themselves how you stack up. If you are truly confident in what you have to offer, you won’t need to cut anyone else down.
4. Stick with your areas of skill, and refer out cases beyond your scope.
Never take on a case you are not comfortable working with. Everyone has their own areas of expertise. Let’s say someone contacts you to learn herding. You may have been to a herding class a handful of times, but you are far from proficient. The professional thing to do would be explain this to the client and refer-out to a skilled herding trainer. This also goes for medical issues. We don’t like when veterinarians step on our toes by giving training advice, so don’t cross boundaries when it comes to medical advice. It is often best for professionals to work together in collaboration.
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Next time you’re picking up poop, rememeber to keep your ego in check. And it’s really not that complicated. You’re training dogs, not curing cancer. You’re out in fresh air and sunlight, while those 9-5’ers in the rat race are stuck in a cubicle under floresent lights. Be greateful that you have a career and skills many would love to have. Have fun. If training is anything, it’s fun!