Question : In home dog training?
I am a CVT with a special interest in behavior modification. I have spent several years rehabilitating aggressive bully breeds for area shelters and am now considering starting my own at-home training business. It would be geared towards people who have animals that may be too aggressive or reactionary to go to a traditional dog training place.
What do you think? Is there a need for people to train dogs in the dog’s own environment? Would you be more likely to call someone for your problem dog if you didn’t have to take them anywhere to train them?
Answers 1 :
Unless you get a lot of good advertising and promotions, it will be hard to convince people to use your services.
Cesar Milan, for example, is very well known, you many not be well known, or respected as a dog trainer in your area, I dont know. Before you try such a business venture, it will be good to establish yourself as a dog trainer at a regular venue, or at least to work with a dog club in your area that will be willing to suggest people with more difficult dogs to take them to you for such training. Your work with the shelter needs to be promoted so people know you by name and associate with what you can do.
Do your homework for your area, is there a demand? In some areas there will be a large enough population base to support this, but in a smaller area there will not be such a demand. When doing surveys of potential customers you might ask “Would you use this kind of service?” but be aware most people who say “yes” are just doing it to be nice, and very few will actually use the service.
I actually find, in addition, to “bully breeds” its the little terriers, chihuahuas, and cockers, that tend to have a lot of socialization problems so you need to make it clear that you are willing to help all problem dogs. I also find that very smart dogs, such as border collies, when not giving enough stimulation become problem dogs. Again this opens more avenues for you.
Make it clear to people the advantage of in-home training, especially if you are charging more than they would pay for a group lesson in which they could just muzzle their dog.
Get involved with your local SPCA so they will reccommend you to people who call them with problem dogs they are thinking of surrendering.
For me if I had a problem dog the fact that I dont have to drive to some dog training center on the other side of town would be an advantage, but is it worth paying extra for? I dont know?
You will need a business license, and so forth, so be sure you can get that also.
I think it sounds perfect! Then again, I’m not a pet owner. If you were able to advertise (by leaving flyers) at your local vet, it would be ideal – you need to be able to get word out to existing and new pet owners. You would also need to have a website. To convince people that they need to come to your place, advertise it right from the beginning as a “boot camp” (OK that may be a bit too strong) but basically, advertise it as a type of a class that you are running. Even if it’s one-on-one, if it’s advertised from the beginning as a ‘class’ or ‘Saturday day camp’ then people will automatically think of going there and won’t start wondering why you are not coming to them.
I also think it would help if you tried to target pregnant women who are dog owners. I am envisagin a flyer with large font: “Dog aggressive? Baby on the way? We do dog behavior modification classes and camps! Get your dog ready before baby arrives” Perhaps local OB-GYN’s would let you leave flyers if you pointed out your credentials and the fact that you are genuinely wanting to help families and babies stay safe with your business. Target pediatricians a similar way, although geared more to the approach of keeping the kiddos and visiting playmates safe. I would also suggest asking if you can advertise with any of the Homeowners Associations in the areas immediately near you (or just mail flyers around to individual homes in those neighborhoods) and also make it obvious how near your location is to them. Either include a small map or put “our classes are just a walk away at …….”
I think your idea is great! Then again, I freely admit to knowing nothing about dogs or about starting a business. However, if I had a problem dog I would like to know there was a program or class in my area. This is why the website is so important because people will be wanting to search “dog training [name of town]” and other similar searches e.g. “train aggressive dog [name of town]“. One thing you can do is to actually perform these searches and see what you get in your area. That gives you an idea if the market is over-saturated or not, and also gives you an idea of what your competition is up to. If they don’t have a full website and you do, then you have the upper hand… people who are doing online searches will want to see phone numbers, credentials, pics (of you, the surroundings, dogs), etc and will feel more comfortable doing business with you than just calling a number they’ve pulled up in the online Yellow Pages.
Answer 3 :
I think it is a wonderful idea, Ashen Venus. For animals with very serious aggression issues, to temporarily remove them from their home environment is beneficial for everyone involved, but most of all the dog. Habitual behaviors can be changed much easier if the animal is not feeling secure and dominant in their home setting. After some progress has been made, the training could continue at the dog’s home with the owner’s participation.
If I were the owner of a dog with serious aggression issues that I could not handle, I would be relieved to have a break from the animal while someone else is working with him/her. Obviously, you could leave the decision up to the owners, (depending on the severity of the case). It is true that animals often behave very differently when removed from their home environment and that can be in your favor. Fear based aggression would be handled differently, even so, working with the animal at your home with no distractions and a different environment could reduce ingrained behaviors that have been developed with their owners while the dog is being rehabilitated. Providing this service might actually save the lives of aggressive animals when the owners feel they have no other option than to have the animal euthanized. Good luck. I do wish you well in your endeavors.
Answer 4 :
I definitely think this is worth a try. I’m sure it will take time to develop a clientele, but why not give it a go? I have provided basic obedience training (not problem dogs) and it was common for people to want private lessons (which I didn’t do because of the added travel time). I also ran into people with dogs engaging in bad behavior specific to their home (such as behaving aggressively at the door). People are also frequently embarrassed by their lack of control of their dog and want private lessons for that reason.
I would recommend also providing a group class. This allows for more publicity and offers an opportunity for at-home trained dogs to graduate up to a more challenging environment while still having the consistency of the same trainer.
Partnering with a shelter is a great idea. In the past I have given lessons at a shelter and donated part of the fee to the shelter (and did this also while giving lessons elsewhere). The shelter will often help you with publicity/press releases if this is the case.
I hope your new business does well! There are tons of people out there who need help with their dogs.