When we did agility with our dog, we drove 2.5 hours one way to take lessons from a world-class trainer. I have a friend in Houston who starts a 2-hour drive across Houston in 5 o’clock traffic to get to the best training school she could find.
So when we surveyed 3500 dog owners and discovered that the majority selected their dog trainers based on location, imagine my surprise. And total disappointment.
Certification didn’t matter to many. Huge numbers of titles didn’t matter to many. Hands-on experience with tough dogs didn’t always matter. When mom works all day, comes home, fixes dinner, takes Bella to ballet and Jason to trumpet and then tries to fit in a dog training class, location wins.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. When choosing preschools and child care settings, a lot of parents make the choice based on location. If people are taking their babies down the street, they’re sure gonna take their puppy down the street.
What can trainers do to educate the public? Here are a few tips.
- Learn about marketing yourself. Make sure you have a great web page that explains the benefits of training with you. Describe some success stories with difficult dogs.
- If you are 30 miles out of town because that is where you could find affordable land for agility, consider making your class schedule flexible. Drop-in classes allow students to come when they are able. This way, if someone has to miss the first class, you don’t lose them for 8 or 12 weeks.
- Make yourself a part of the animal community so that your skills are spread by word-of-mouth. Get to know veterinarians and other animal professionals who will refer to you.
- Build a whiz-bang curriculum and course offering that makes everyone want to come to your classes…no matter where they are located.