What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Dog Trainer for Your Business
By Steven Appelbaum
Offering dog training services can create a real profit center for your boarding or daycare business. And board and train programs aren’t the only kind of training you can offer. If you have the room, why not offer group classes? Not only are classes a good business, they can also serve as an outstanding way for class participants not familiar with your facility and other services to learn about them.
If you are going to offer dog training, you must hire a good trainer. Sounds obvious, right? So how do you know if the dog trainer you want to work with is qualified?
Here are a few tips:
Match their experience to the types of programs you wish to promote.
If you are offering board and train programs, look for dog trainers with a minimum of 3–5 years’ experience teaching these types of courses.
As strange as it might seem, some dog trainers are actually better instructors than trainers. These folks are great at teaching owners in group classes but may not be nearly as effective in your business actually training the dogs boarded there.
Conversely, I’ve seen trainers who were fabulously gifted in teaching dogs that couldn’t communicate with people without confusing or irritating them. Since every dog in your facility belongs to someone, it is vital for the person who trained them to be able to effectively instruct the owners how to get a similar response. In short, you are looking for both a good dog trainer and instructor.
Check references and social media reputation.
Dog training is a service profession, and good trainers are also well–versed in keeping clients happy. While it is not reasonable to expect an established trainer to have zero complaints on social media, you can tell a lot by the types and frequency of the complaints.
Interview trainers and put them through a few basic tests.
The first test I like to give is what I call the “teach me” test. I usually break this into two parts. The first is a problem solution. Give all applicants a simple dog problem story and ask them for a solution. Something like this:
“Since many of the clients that board their dogs here are going to want tips to address pesky behavior challenges at home, imagine that I am a dog owner and have the following problem: My dog is super excited to see me whenever I come home and jumps all over me. I tell her ‘no’ but she keeps jumping. My kids are afraid she will knock them down. What can I do?”
Listen to the answer. Does it make sense? Is it laced with behavioral jargon and only semi understandable? Is it delivered in an open, friendly fashion that you believe will resonate with your hard-earned clients? Is the solution positive? While it is normal for trainers to be nervous if you put them on the spot like this, an experienced trainer should have little problem giving you an easy to understand answer with real tips for addressing what is a very common problem.
The second part of the “teach me” test involves having the trainer show you how to work with a dog. Use a friendly, well–socialized dog (with owner permission). Let the trainer work with the dog for a few minutes teaching or reviewing a simple cue. ‘Sit’ or ‘Sit/Stay’ are usually pretty good ones. Watch the trainer. Is she/he gentle? Patient? We are not looking for miracles. It’s actually less relevant how well a trainer can get a totally unfamiliar dog to respond than it is seeing how they go about it. Common sense should prevail. If they are obviously familiar with the motions of what they want to teach, it will show. If they are patient, gentle and focused, that will stand out as well.
After a few minutes, ask the trainer to walk you through the motions of what they are trying to teach. Can they easily articulate what they are doing and show you how to try the same thing? As mentioned earlier, some trainers are gifted at getting a response but can’t explain how they did it. Others can talk about it all day long but can’t actually do it. You are looking for both.
Dog trainer certifications are important.
As of this writing, there is no pet dog training certification that is recognized by any state or federal government. That doesn’t mean certification is meaningless! It means that certifications are simply proof that a trainer has fulfilled certain prerequisites and passed an examination proving their mastery of specific topics. Some certifications are awarded by dog training schools and others are given by trainer groups. Here are a few resources for certified trainers you might find helpful:
Good luck in your search!
Steven Appelbaum is a professional dog trainer and founder of Animal Behavior College (ABC), a vocational school specializing in animal career training programs. ABC offers pet grooming, dog training, cat training and veterinary assistance programs and will be launching an aquatics management and zookeeper assistant program in 2019. The school also offers a variety of continuing education programs on subjects including; pet nutrition, pet massage, dog walking, pet sitting and training shelter dogs. Aside from managing ABC, Appelbaum works as a freelance author, lecturer and pet business consultant. For more information about Animal Behavior College, please visit the website at www.animalbehaviorcollege.com