Category Archives: E-collar training

Dog owners beware: Anyone can buy a dog training franchise

Lately, more than ever, I am getting inquiries from clients who have already done dog training with “so and so,” or other companies, and were unsatisfied for one reason or another. These people have spent a lot of money in some cases, but didn’t get the results they were looking for. You may imagine this is sometimes the customers fault– and it is… sometimes. But as a pro myself, I can get a pretty good idea what sort of professionally-trained foundation a dog has, or has not had. I hear complaints about other trainers all the time, and I usually take it with a grain of salt, preferring that they focus on what we’re doing now and going forward. Most of these trainers I have never heard of anyway, but clients are more frequently telling me about dog training companies with multiple locations, or in many cases, franchises. These are not the big-box stores like PetSmart and PetCo that are known for their sub-standard version of “training” and wasting peoples time once a week for 150 bucks, these are companies charging a lot of money and promising big results.

To further investigate this concept, I began with a quick Google search, typing in “dog training franchise.” A flurry of results came up. Some of the names: Bark Busters, Fetch Pet Care, Zoom Room, Off Leash K9 Training, Sit Means Sit, Dog Wizard Academy, and many more. It’s not the route I chose to go in my career seven and a half years ago when I started my own business (after years of apprenticing and working for other companies), but apparently this is a popular thing. I have no particular issue with a well-researched individual purchasing into a dog business franchise to run out of their home, but it’s worth a deeper look behind the marketing.

One of the benefits to a franchise is immediate marketing power, and these companies don’t hesitate to tell you that people are willing to pay good money for dog training, and know the brand names. Each brand has something to boast– amazing fast results, guaranteed programs, a special (ultimately meaningless) certification, “featured on tv,” and soforth. But marketing can be misleading. Let’s say the trainers at the headquarters of your franchise had part in a tv episode on “Animal Planet.” Regardless of the fact that they’re not even in the same state, are staffed with completely different trainers, and did the tv spot years before you even joined the company, you can now advertise on your own website: “As Seen on Animal Planet.” That’s positive marketing power. Unfortunately, it can also work in the opposite way. In the past 2 years alone, three Sit Means Sit trainers were charged with animal abuse. Because it’s a franchise, they are independently responsible, but this is caveat emptor to you dog owners: Regardless of the company’s name, know who is training your dog.

What I am also concerned about is the amount of training these freshly minted dog trainers receive.

To see if my concerns were valid, I viewed the websites of four different dog training franchises. They all advertise solving behavior issues, off-leash training, and more. One called “Bark Busters” did not provide any information on length of franchisee training, they ask you to contact them. I have zero respect for Bark Busters as a training company, and I have nothing more to say about them at this time, other than– if you use their services, best of luck to your dog. The other three franchised companies provided more info on their offerings. A company called “Dog Wizard Academy” had a very bright, informative website and offers 12 weeks of hands-on training for new franchisees. However, the topics covered are broad, naturally, and include “aggression,” which in my professional opinion takes much longer than 3 months to even touch upon, let alone become proficient in. In the other 2 cases, companies called “Off Leash K-9 Training” and “Sit Means Sit,” offer 3 weeks of initial hands-on training to the new franchisee. Yes, that’s right– apparently, 3 weeks is all it takes to learn how to be a dog trainer, work with complex behavior issues, and operate a business… Well, that and anywhere from $15,000-$96,400.

A lot of people nowadays want to start their own business and have a career change in life, and that’s great. But dog training is not just something you jump into by hanging a shingle. You will quickly be out-classed. The following is an example of what I found online (I added the bold):

Are you interested in starting  dog training franchise?  Have you always wanted to be a dog trainer? Turn your passion into a dog training business!

As an Off Leash K9 Training trainer, you will spend 21 days at our facility in Northern Virginia, observing and taking part in over 240+ hours of dog training! … At the end of your 21 day training, you will have all the tools, knowledge, and know-how to deal with basic obedience, advanced obedience, and behavioral modification. You will be able to make dogs look like the dogs in our 500+ before/after videos! You will also have a website and everything else you need to get you started in the dog training world!

Let me get this straight. You will have “all the knowledge” and “a website and everything else” in 3 weeks. In my opinion, that’s simply not possible, particularly not the “everything else.” There is no way to master these sort of skills in 240 hours… You’d be about 9,760 hours short of the “10,000 hour rule” of mastery. But even if you do gain an array of positive training and business skills, what about basic math skills? 21 days to become a dog trainer is advertised as “240+ hours of dog training.” I have never heard of such an intensive program that you go 21 days straight for ELEVEN+ hours each day. It doesn’t seem possible, and lends me a degree of skepticism (something I already have a healthy level of).

To be fair, some of these companies do offer continuing education, yearly seminars, and phone support– but what about the dogs these franchisees will be training fresh out of the gate? Do you want your dog to be a guinea pig for a brand new trainer with only a few months of experience under their belt? If you do, that’s fine, but I personally would not pay that kind of money for my dog to be a newer trainers learning experiment.

So how long does it really take to become a dog trainer? I understand everyone wants to jump in and make money, but the reality is, when I have an apprentice trainer who is learning how to train dogs, they are not even allowed to do a private obedience lesson with a customer with less than SIX MONTHS of training under their belt, and more in some cases. The average time to produce a dog trainer is ONE YEAR, for a basic-level trainer, who works with obedience but not more complex behavior issues or aggression. There is no “quick way to rake in the cash,” and you need more than a fancy website, you need more than a well-trained personal dog– you need to provide quality training from a foundation of knowledge and hands-on experience in a variety of venues.

If you want to become a successful dog trainer, buying into a corporate franchise is certainly one of your options, and it does work out well for some people. But it’s certainly not the only option. To be clear, I am not saying all the franchise-owning trainers are bad or sub-standard trainers– absolutely not– it fully depends on the individual person. If they are a driven self-learner, I’m sure they could find a way to compensate for any lack of experience, and work to become a well-versed, competent trainer. In some cases, a franchise trainer may be an already working and adept dog trainer who decided to make a smart business decision and team up with a company. But as a dog owner myself, I don’t want to simply know what “brand” is training my dog, I want to know who is training my dog. What have they accomplished, what’s the scope of their experience, and will they deliver up to the expectations of a big-name company? To know this, you will have to look past the smoke and mirrors of marketing, and learn how to choose a dog trainer.

Trainer’s top 5 favorite dog products, and 5 TERRIBLE products to avoid

As professional dog trainers, as well as dog owners ourselves, we get to try out many products. Some make life much easier and we want to share that with you. Others are garbage, buyer beware. Here’s our top picks!

Our favorite products…

  1. E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator mini
    E-collars are the cutting edge of technology in modern dog training. Remote collars allow you to communicate with your dog effectively and at a distance. The Mini Educator is an entry-level e-collar with an affordable price and no lack of features. It has 100 easily-adjustable levels, with blunt-stimulation technology, so you can find “just the right level” when training. It features a 1/2 mile range, vibrate (pager) feature, it’s waterproof, and features a built-in light on the collar. Made in the USA, and has a full 2-year warranty. Retail price: $199 www.ecollar.com
  2. Bionic Toys bionic1
    We specifically like the “Bionic Urban Stick.” It’s a great fetch toy. The open ends can also be stuffed with treats. These toys are flexible rubber and won’t harm a dogs teeth. No toy is truly “indestructible,” but these fun orange toys hold up to even tough chewers. Belgian Malinois tested and approved. www.bionicplay.com
  3. Ruff Tough Kennels
    Wire crates are the worst! They are flimsy, cheap and they can easily be bent, escaped from, or become rusty over time. Plastic airline-style crates are safer for car travel as well. If you ever get into a car accident or are rear-ended, these crates are much safer for your dog.  www.rufftoughkennels.com
  4. Zoom Groom. If you have a short-haired zoomdog, you know how they shed little short hairs that stick in everything. A Zoom Groom is a rubber curry brush that feels good to the dog and loosens the dead hair. It’s also a must-have for bathing dogs and getting a good scrubbing. Available on Amazon.com
  5. Gun Dog Supply collars with brass nameplate. If you are like me, you cannot stand the sound of a bunch of jingling tags! These collars are great because they are super affordable (even for leather), and come in many varieties– with no extra charge for the custom 4-line nameplate! In the event your dog ever gets lost, tags can become worn out and illegible, or fall off. A nameplate will not fall off. Keep your dogs information updated wnameplateith current numbers and address. This USA company owned by Steve Snell has a huge assortment of great dog items at great prices. www.gundogsupply.com/collars.html

 

Products to AVOID…

  1. Harnesses
    Unless you have a very delicate dog under 5lbs, or you have a Husky pulling a sled, there is no reason to use a harness to walk your dog. Harnesses encourage pulling, and give almost no control. Dogs have been wearing collars for hundreds of years for a reason– the higher on the neck the collar is, the better control you have when teaching the dog direction and placement. Front-clip harnesses are no better. They put pressure on the front shoulder area and can impede a dogs natural gait and movement. Veterinarian and sports medicine expert Dr. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR has this to say about harnesses: “I do not believe that there is a harness on the market that is nonrestrictive and that also helps the dog not to pull… In my opinion the real way to get a dog to stop pulling is to train it.”
  2. Bungee leashes. Cannot. Stand. Stretchy. Leashes. bungeeThey make it almost impossible to control the walk. If your dog is trained to walk politely on-lead, he will not need a stretchy cord to avoid dislocating your shoulder.
  3. Rawhides
    They are made from the layer just under the top hide, which is separated utilizing chemical processes. You do not know how the cow hides were preserved, or what variety of chemicals they have been treated with along the way. As a dog chews the processed hide, it becomes chewy and gummy, and can break off in large pieces and be swallowed. Rawhides are known by veterinarians to be an intestinal obstruction hazard. Even if they do not harm your dog, they provide no nutritional benefit. Try Himalayan dog chews, deer antlers, or digestible bully sticks. And always buy products made in the USA. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/rawhide-good-or-bad-for-your-dog
  4. Ball toys, especially ones that are too small destroyed-ball
    Every year, dogs die from choking due to a ball becoming lodged in their throat. When a rubber ball goes down a dogs throat, it is an emergency situation. Tennis balls can be not only a choking hazard, pieces of them can break apart, be consumed, and cause intestinal obstruction. Do not allow your dog to play with tennis balls unattended, and make sure all ball toys are solid and jumbo-sized so there’s no risk they could become lodged in your dogs throat. http://www.bernvillevet.com/blog/2012/04/27/ask-the-vet-is-it-safe-for-dogs-to-chew-tennis-balls-2/
  5. Name-Brand (but low-quality) dog food
    There are many big name brands, owned by a few large corporations, that have put tons of money into advertising their products to the point they have a household name. Pedigree, Eukanuba, Purina, Science Diet, and soforth. A big name does not mean a quality product. They are often full of cheap byproducts and cereals and starches. The #1 ingredient in Pedigree adult dog food is corn! Do your research and check out how your dog food rates. www.dogfoodanalysis.com