62 Proven Ways To Get More Dog Training Clients

If there’s one question I get asked all the time from other dog trainers, it’s, “how do I get more clients?”

Well, here are 62 answers.

If you’re serious about getting more clients and growing your business, work your way through this list of proven client getting techniques:

  1. Create a website and check off Google’s SEO checklist to have your site found for top search terms such as, “dog training [location]” (Set up your website on the free Google Analytics to get insights and tips from Google)
  2. Run facebook ads with a video showing off the results you can get for client’s dogs
  3. Have flyers created and display them at local businesses – not just pet related but anywhere someone who owns a dog might go. Chat to the staff when you go in – people love to talk about their dogs
  4. Mailbox drop your flyers. You can pay someone to do this cheaply or if in a busy area, you could wear your training shirt and even take your dog and use it as an opportunity to talk to people you meet and show off your skills
  5. Train your dog and show off tricks in public areas wearing your training shirt and have your business cards ready to go. You could also put up a sign to say, “ask me about training your dog!” with your business details on it
  6. Create a referral program where existing clients are rewarded for referring their friends. You could reward them with products, services or cash
  7. Take chocolates/baked goods and a card to pet related businesses who have kindly agreed to display your cards and flyers
  8. Contact local community magazines and offer to write for them. Attach an example article about dog training of behaviour and propose you write for them regularly to provide them with interesting content
  9. Print a newsletter or short article and distribute it to vets, pet stores, produce stores, groomers and anywhere else with staff who may be interesting in learning about training. Offer to give them extra copies that they can give to their clients
  10. Display your flyer on community notice boards
  11. Call in to the radio whenever they let people call in and they are discussing something dog related. Offer your advice
  12. Contact the local newspaper and media outlets and let them know that you are available should they have any dog related news stories. Be prepared and suggest a story or article topic that they could cover that you are happy to provide input on. Seasonal related topics eg keeping dogs and kids safe at Christmas are popular ideas. Dog safety always comes up in news stories when there is an incident in the news.
  13. Speak to pet related businesses and your local Council and offer to run a free workshop on a dog training related topic. For example, treating and preventing dogs barking – a popular one that helps the community. Choose any topic but make it specific for each workshop you hold. Have flyers and information material available to give to guests
  14. Create a helpful PDF info sheet or video and give it away in exchange for email addresses. Send your email list a regular newsletter with a short helpful tip and a reminder that you can help with their dog
  15. Film before and after videos and publish them on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
  16. Publish any client testimonials on social media and your website with permission
  17. Call every single one of your past clients (not email, not PM) and have a CONVERSATION about how their dog is going.
  18. Ask your previous clients for a review in said conversation
  19. Ask your previous clients, in a verbal conversation, if they know anyone who might be interested in dog training services.
  20. Join a local group like Toast Masters and practice speaking about dog training and behaviour
  21. Join a local business mastermind or business group and attend each meeting and get to know other business owners in the area
  22. Wear your business shirt with name and logo or have a promotional shirt that says, “I’m a dog trainer, ask me about your dog”
  23. When you get promotional materials printed, go to a printery and speak to people rather than ordering online and not talking to anyone. Tell them what you do and ask if they have a dog. Then ask about their dog. If they don’t have a dog ask if they know one.
  24. Attend local markets with a stall and do dog trick displays with your dog. Run Q&A sessions at set times during the time you are at the stall. Have informative articles on various topics people can take home – of course it has your contact details and website on it
  25. Whenever you talk to people, slip it into conversation that you’re a dog trainer and be happy to chat with them – you don’t need to run a free consult and answer their all questions but let them know how you can help people with dogs. If they seem to have a lot of questions, offer to book a lesson and explain how cool it will be
  26. Look up if there are any dog walking groups in your area and attend with your dog wearing your shirt
  27. If you need more social media followers because your page is new, invite your friends list to like and share your page. Post on your personal page that you would love referrals
  28. Offer a bring a friend for free promotion valid for one lesson only, then sell both people more lessons
  29. Use local hashtags on instagram in posts and stories and show off a dog you have trained or can do tricks with
  30. Take your dog for vet checkups wearing your training shirt and practice some quiet training in the waiting area while other clients are present. People watch.
  31. Ask your vet what their clients need the most help with then offer to run a free workshop on that topic for their clients at their clinic. Provide handouts
  32. Have your website listed on all promotional materials. When you are getting website traffic, run retargeting ads on Google and Facebook to target warm traffic and show them an offer
  33. Speak to a personal trainer and offer to collaborate on a “fitness with Fido” class where both dog and owner get a workout and some training
  34. Run a free info session in the park and if you notice someone struggling with their dog, speak to them privately and offer them a lesson
  35. Write an informative blog post and send it to anyone you think could find it interesting and publish it anywhere you can
  36. Print said article and hand it to anyone who could benefit – your hairdresser, the gym, the local cafe etc.
  37. Ask previous clients, friends and family (not in text) if you could run a free learning session at their workplace, perhaps over lunch
  38. Attend as many local networking events as possible so word spreads on who you are
  39. Post an ad for free on Gumtree, Craigslist or similar
  40. Post a free or paid ad on the trading post
  41. Post a free ad on Facebook Marketplace. Mix it up and repost regularly.
  42. Post helpful information in Facebook classified and forum groups for your local area. Both in pet and non pet related groups
  43. Post to local Facebook group stories with interesting short clips
  44. Make sure when you’re posting that your business is listed on your personal profile as your place of work and links to your facebook page
  45. Put your website and logo on your car. Magnets or stickers will do to start with – it doesn’t have to be full sign writing
  46. Run a transform your dog’s behaviour competition
  47. Run a referral competition for all past clients
  48. Ask your local schools if you can give a free talk for parents
  49. Ask your local schools if you can run a dog safety talk and send helpful information home with the kids
  50. Stand outside busy places and hand out flyers. Having a cute dog with you that they can meet helps. Put a sign on your friendly dog that pats are welcome
  51. Get a sign made to display where you run classes or teach people so passers-by see what you are doing and who you are
  52. Give your past and current clients tangible items to keep that will advertise your business for you – dog water bottles, car stickers, magnets, collars, leads, dog vests
  53. Display a professionally designed ad on a billboard
  54. Ask your clients how you could improve your services, then DO IT.
  55. Contact some people who you would love to train but they can’t afford your fees, offer to train them in exchange for referrals and testimonials
  56. Attend events such as school fetes, fairs and markets and instead of just standing there behind a table of flyers, speak to and connect with people and take their email addresses to enter a competition. Use a real dog as an ice breaker
  57. Offer a training starter pack to local shelters to include with every dog that gets adopted
  58. Offer to run a free workshop at your local shelter
  59. Offer one free introductory class per month to those with newly adopted dogs
  60. Offer a discount on training for those who have adopted a dog in the last 3 months
  61. Set up your LinkedIn profile and connect with local business owners on LinkedIn. Have a conversation with them and offer to run a workshop at their business
  62. Ask to leave informative articles with your contact details at Doctor’s offices, Dentists or anywhere else with a waiting area

There you go my friend, you have 62 things to add to your to do list and act on before you can ever say again that you have trouble getting clients.

Are you feeling hesitant on acting on them? Do you find yourself making excuses in your mind as to why you can’t do them? This is the nature of business, putting ourselves out there. And the sad fact is? Most trainers reading this will let fears stop them from action, and then they will continue to complain that they don’t have enough clients.

Don’t just do these things once either. Marketing takes consistency and repeated tries to work. And then momentum builds.

Now, let’s say you get one client from doing HALF of the things on this list. That’s 30 new clients. Now, what if I told you that you could then make $1000-$2000 per client?

That’s a lot of extra moo-lah!

AND what if I told you that while making more money, you got better results for these clients, they were good to work with, and they then rave about you to their friends and word of mouth spreads and more people hire you??!

What if you knew exactly what to say to lock in the sale when someone enquires?

What if you never had to feel worried when someone says, “no,” to the booking anyway?

Now that you have clients coming in, do you know what to charge them? The income of a dog trainer varies widely but you don’t have to scrape by and you don’t have to guess.

Grab my free guide on how to set your rates so you can earn what you deserve while doing what you love and avoid burnout.

You Attract What You Put Out

Check out my latest Facebook live session, “You Attract What You Put Out”, to give you an inspiration and insights for your dog training business.

 

The Secret to Creating Your Dream Schedule as a Dog Trainer – Is After Hours Work Compulsory?

When I started my business, every trainer I knew worked a lot of hours on weekends and nights to make sure they could see everyone. My mentors said it’s just the way it is, that it is going to be when you get the most work.

The thing about a service industry where you’re making appointments with clients, is that your availability needs to match your client’s. They need income to pay you, often meaning that you’ll need to make appointments outside of standard working hours.  

Dog training classes are traditionally held on weeknights or weekends so that more people can attend. If you’re running group classes, it makes sense to hold one during these times.

Does that mean that all dog trainers need to slave away after hours and on weekends?

Like many dog trainer business myths, this is one that just comes with the territory. But one thing that I’ve learned is that if you have your own business, you can shape it to run the way you enjoy it. If you don’t like something about it, you can change it. Including how much work you do out of hours and which clients you accept.

If you want to accommodate every client, you’ll need to work some after hours and/or weekends. The real question is – do you really need to run your business to suit everyone and anyone that enquires?

Most dog trainers will do it this way. They’ll try to say yes to everyone that calls and book in anything they can get. Inevitably resulting in burn out – working all hours for minimal pay. This is due to fear. Fear that if they don’t take every client, they won’t be able to cover the costs as their business strategy continually needs more and more money, time and effort. As well as fear that if they raised their standards and said no to anyone, their business would start to crumble. It is a costly mistake because they’ve set up a business model that traps them in a continual cycle of grasping for new clients.

If you work like every other dog trainer, you’ll get the sames results as every other dog trainer – including the results in your personal life and your work-life balance, or lack thereof.

You may already know, I only run private lessons and online coaching. This is due to realising that the reason I want to work for myself is to shape the lifestyle that I desire. If my work still dictated my lifestyle and free time, I may as well have continued working for someone else.

While the online part of my job now affords me more time flexibility, it hasn’t always been that way. Before I started online training, I made a full time income on only private dog training lessons – three days per week, weekdays only. I limit how many days per week I will work after hours (7pm finishes at the latest) and I make only the occasional and very rare exception for a Saturday appointment for those who travel long distances to come for a consultation.

Because I set the standard of what my available hours are, most people are happy to work in with it.

Think about it – have you ever had to change YOUR schedule to see a professional that you needed to hire? It happens all the time – dentists, doctors, tradespeople, the vet clinic, specialists, after school activities for the kids – you just make it work. And as you’re also a professional that the client needs, they can make it work too – probably more often than you think.



Group Dog Training Classes – The Benefits and The Beliefs

Before I switched to private lessons only, I ran Saturday morning group classes for a few years. I admit I only started group classes in the first place because I was convinced by other trainers that it was a compulsory part of the business.

I enjoyed the group classes a lot. We had such an awesome group of clients. I say, if you enjoy group classes, run them whenever you would like to! At first, you may have more people wanting a weeknight or weekend session. Regardless, run the sessions the way you want, because it’s what YOU want. If you’re happy working weekends, that’s cool too.

If you’re not, you can run a middle of the day, week day group class if it’s what you prefer. Could everyone attend? Nope. Do you want everyone to attend? Nope. You want ideal clients. This means clients that can only attend on weekends no longer fit into the category of the ideal client for your classes. And that’s ok!

Many trainers make most of their income from group classes (they are certainly popular). When I started out, I was told that is where the money is because group classes are what the public wants. Why do they want it? Is it because of the long standing image of training a dog being in a group dog obedience class? It might be what they think they want, but is it what they really need? Some clients may be better off with private lessons or a board and train program.

If you love offering group classes, you will be the best dog training class in your town – no matter the time slot. However, if you’re showing up resenting the fact that it’s a cold Sunday morning and you’d rather be in bed, you won’t be at your best nor do your best work.

In short – offer group classes if you enjoy it. If not, don’t feel that you have to offer them. If you want to run group classes but don’t want to work every weekend, become inventive! You might be happier running a block of weekend classes, then having a few weekends off before the next block. Maybe you could offer a day time class with a twist – like a dog training group for stay at home mums, where you team up with a baby sitter to help with the kids while the mums have fun at dog school.

I did enjoy my group classes, but I no longer wanted to commit every Saturday morning to work. So I stopped the classes and focused on offering the best private lessons. That is what I’m known for and attract more of. Essentially, putting the majority of your focus into one main service can only make that service better.



The Ideal Client

Do you know who your ideal client is? If you’re booking anyone with a dog, the answer is no.

You should know the type of client you want to attract and work with. Most trainers try to book everyone, then wonder why the human end of the leash is so frustrating and difficult to work with. By attracting your ideal clients, you’ll find people that are more cooperative, enjoyable to be around and fit to your schedule.

For example, my ideal client can make a booking in the day time and has a flexible work schedule to be able to do so. I know in my mind the age range, the location, the type of dog problem and the personality type I like to work with and aim to attract.

If you haven’t heard of the concept of attracting your ideal client, you should attend my free workshop, where you can learn how to attract the type of client you love to work with and increase your income. Register here.



Do It Your Way

If you work more hours, you can fit in more clients – that is simple maths. However, more isn’t necessarily better. I prefer the quality over quantity approach.

Just because most trainers operate a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to structure your business to follow suit. No particular type of training service or operating hours is essential for a successful business. If you’re slaving away all hours, still not feeling like you’re making enough money and always feeling exhausted, this is a sign that something needs to change. If you are fine with some after hours work that is great. But if you’re hating it and wishing you could have more weekends off, it’s up to you to change the way you operate.

It’s all part of structuring your business to provide you with your ideal work-life balance. At the end of the day, if you don’t love your business and the lifestyle it provides you, what are you gaining from being your own boss?

Let me know in the comments – do you design your training business to work for you?

Want to create the dog training business of your dreams, increase your income and get better clients? Make sure you catch the free online training – register here.

“My Town Is Different” – Why You Should Think Again If You Believe People Won’t Pay More For Dog Training In Your Area

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “my area is different,” or some version of that, well, I’d have a lot of extra dollars!

Unfortunately, this phrase comes out of the mouths and minds of dog trainers all over the world. No matter where they live, every trainer thinks that their area really is different. In fact, this way of thinking isn’t unique to dog trainers, it’s one of the most common objections of many small business owners.

I hear it a lot in my town too, from all sorts of business owners or people that are thinking of starting a business, but putting it off because, “people here won’t pay for that. You know what it’s like in this town!”

I find this really sad because these people believe this to be true to the point they don’t bother trying. Why try building a business if you know in your mind that no one around you will pay for your services?

A belief that for whatever reason, “it probably won’t work out,” is the biggest roadblock that stops people from doing and getting what they truly want in life. They often think that they aren’t good enough, or why should they be the one to do it, someone else is already doing it, or it just won’t work because of what people are like in their area.

I think when it comes down to it, all of this comes from a place of fear of failure and fear of what others will think of us if we do fail. It’s something I have experienced and still do with certain things. It’s a very normal human trait that draws the line between those who are successful and those who aren’t.

Successful people still feel fear, but they push through it and do it anyway. Unsuccessful people let fear stop them from taking the leap. Either the leap to start in the first place, or the leap to take things to greater heights.

If you’ve read any of my other posts or attended my online workshop, you know that I too believed that people wouldn’t pay much for dog training in my area. There’s a strong belief in people throughout my town that locals are stingy, always looking for the cheapest deal and don’t like to spend money on anything. The biggest mistake I initially made was believing it too.

Sure, people don’t like to spend more money than they have to. People in general look for cheaper deals when shopping for a product or service. And there’ll always be those who simply aren’t willing to fork out any significant amount of money on their dogs. This isn’t an area issue. This is just what humans are like everywhere. Everywhere you go you will find people that don’t believe there is any value in spending money on dog training.

And in every location there is also the opposite: people that would do anything to make sure their dogs are happy, healthy and safe. People that recognise the value to hiring a dog trainer and see how much better it can make their life.

It’s not about finding who has more money that they can afford to spend and who has less. It’s not about finding the wealthier areas. In fact, you may find, like I have, that rich people hesitate the most before spending money. That’s likely one reason why they’re rich, they don’t spend willy-nilly!

No, it’s not about how much money people have or if they live in a wealthy area. It’s all about the value they perceive in the service.

If someone truly realises how much value there is in having their dog trained by you, the price is near irrelevant.

It’s all about the changes you can make to their lives through training their dogs and solving their dog problems. If you focus on that transformation in your marketing messages, prospects will be sold on your services before the price is ever revealed.

The problem is, negativity is contagious. Instead of focusing on the great things they can achieve with their business, dog trainers are looking at what other dog trainers are doing and thinking they have to do it the same way. And when they do it the same way they get the same result – low rates, competing on price, struggling to get enough clients and ultimately burnout.

The side effects are clients that don’t listen or do their homework, and a constant struggle to get results. Just like those other dog trainers have. 

This is how it becomes the norm and dog trainers truly believe throughout the industry that they just can’t be in it for money. Dog training is just a low paying job working with difficult people that just don’t listen, right?

All these flow on effects that ultimately come from the trainer not truly valuing what they can provide and not having enough self belief! Like many things in business, it all comes down to MINDSET.

Do you think the other dog trainers in your area are all better trainers than you? I doubt it. I certainly hope not!

Surely you have the confidence to know you’ve got a lot of really good stuff to offer. You can be the best trainer in your area. And if you’re the best? Why wouldn’t you be the most expensive?

For customers to appreciate that the service you offer is high quality (because it IS), it should come with a high quality price tag. And as you know, “you get what you pay for,” is a mantra ingrained into many people’s beliefs. Why would they value your services if you’re charging peanuts?

But What About Tiny Towns?

Really, really tiny towns might have less customers to go around, sure. But all you need to do is think outside the box and be willing to put in the work. Start with your town – forget the notion that people there are any different to anywhere else in the world as to what they will or won’t pay for, or how much. Establish yourself as the go to dog expert and build that stellar reputation.

Unless you live on another planet with an alien race, the psychology of what makes people buy or not buy is the same everywhere.

So your main issue could be literally running out of people with dogs. Even then, how long will that take?

The next thing I would do is either/or

  1. Do visits to the next nearest town
  2. Add a secondary service
  3. Train over the phone or internet to the next closest town

 

Whatever you do, don’t give up before you try.

“But Tenille, the competition is so cheap!”

Well, sucks to be them! You’re not a Kmart, don’t compete on price. Compete on quality.

Do you know what my main competition was for the first few years I ran my business? A FREE dog trainer. She was completely free, even for one on one lessons. At first, I admit, I was worried. My stomach actually sank when I found out she existed. It held me back from charging what I really wanted to charge. I stalled every time and thought of her every time I was going to raise my rates. On top of that, the paid group dog training classes in the area were half the cost or less compared to mine.

But you know what? They all actually helped me gain business. Even when I raised my rates. Why? Because I didn’t worry about competing on price. I only worried about the quality of the service I provided. The free trainer saw many of my clients before they came to me instead. She unknowingly sent me work. People were getting what they paid for whether they paid $0 to her or $200 to me. Put it this way, the quality was comparative to the price.

Another example – Mel is one of the members in my Dog Matters Pro Masterclass where I teach everything about how I run my training business. She had run her business in her small town area for 7 years and the entire time, she had found it a struggle. And the trainers she was competing against? They were charging peanuts. She felt she couldn’t compete with that but she also couldn’t afford to drop her rates any further, she had to make a living!

I remember her emailing me full of doubt before she took the course – she really didn’t think it was going to work for her, because of the area she lived in and the fact she had already struggled for 7 years. She told me she’d rather close up shop than drop her rates any lower to a point she couldn’t survive. Joining the course was her last attempt to make her business work.

Within 11 days Mel had made the changes to her business and made thousands of dollars. Within a couple of months I got an email from her telling her she couldn’t believe she almost didn’t join and make these changes, and that in the past month, she’d made $8000 from private training clients! All this in an area with several cheap dog trainers and a belief that people won’t pay more, “in this area.”

So my friend, if you are willing to have some more belief in yourself, I can help you do the rest. I suggest you start by attending this free training so I can explain in more detail how I grew my dog training business into a lucrative career (and how we can work together even further if you want to take the next step into the Dog Matters Pro Masterclass, like Mel did), even in a small area where people apparently, “won’t pay.”

When People Just Don’t Want To Pay What Your Dog Training Service Is Worth

I hear it all the time that people don’t exactly get into dog training for the money. I certainly didn’t. I remember starting out thinking I’d be happy if I could just get one client per week for $50. I was aiming way too low. Truth be told, I was going into it seeing it as a little side hobby business. Everyone around me spoke about it and viewed it in the same way. Clearly this was just the way it was going to be. After all, I knew no one in my area, a regional town, was going to pay someone else much if anything to train their dog for them.

My mindset was totally wrong.

 

Eventually I reasoned that I have to aim at least a little higher. I figured if I just make a few hundred per week, I can cover my bills. The bare minimum. I’d have to rely on my husband’s job forever and we would never have more than the basics. At the time, this seemed preferable (and honestly still would be) to the full time job I was miserable in. At least if I were dog training, I’d be doing something I enjoyed – money isn’t everything. Right? Well money may not be everything, but it is important. It’s also important to charge what the results are worth, which for most trainers, is much more than what they’re currently charging. Why should dog trainers just accept scraping by while working their butts off all hours? It doesn’t have to be that way! It took me a while to figure this out and I wish I had sooner, but people will pay higher prices – because it is worth it. And you DO deserve it.

Realise The True Value

Think about it. You’re working closely with someone to improve something they’re struggling with that impacts their daily life. You can literally change their life for the better. You’re problem solving, thinking on your feet, adapting to circumstances. It’s no easy job! You’re spending your time not just with them and their dog but time researching and improving your skills, attending seminars, buying books, doing business paperwork and travelling in your vehicle. You’ve spent thousands on your education, on furthering it and on travelling. Not to mention the cost of the vehicle itself.  You put your heart and soul into it. You use all your energy and brain power to find the best solution. You and the results you can achieve are invaluable! Maybe you already believe this, but even though you know your services are worth a lot more, you’re scared to raise your prices. I get it because I’ve been there too. Sometimes you have to feel the fear and do it anyway and those are the times that usually lead to great things once you get to the other side.

Happy Side Effects of Charging More

When you charge more, you get clients that are truly invested and so they’re more likely to really put in the work. When you charge more, you may get less bookings. But you may be pleasantly surprised that you actually get busier. When people see higher prices, they see that this is a service with real value. And if you do get less people making bookings to start with, you’ll find you’re still being paid as much, but now you have more free time to grow your business, or to spend however you want.   And the people that do say no, the ones that don’t want to pay? They aren’t your clients. Let them go and focus on the ones that value you and what you can provide.

 

It didn’t take long for me to realise that I was seriously undercharging. I raised my rates gradually – this made sense as my experience grew with time. It also made it less scary than one big rate leap. But truthfully, it was because I still didn’t realise the full value of what I was offering and I still didn’t believe that people would really pay more. Enough to make a really good living. No more scraping by.  And if wanting to make more money sounds greedy to you, you might want to check out this post

 

I guess for some people they need to go through a gradual process. But I wish more dog trainers knew what was possible and that all they have to do is believe it. I know that sounds corny as but sometimes corny stuff is true. In fact, while we’re at it, I can take the corniness even further – I wish everyone knew that they could do and achieve so much more. That they could quit their jobs and run a business that looks exactly how they want it. First it takes that belief, then the work and the action to make it happen. But when it comes to putting in the work to make more money, there’s smarter ways to do it than slogging it out all hours seeing as many clients as you can for peanuts. I much prefer quality over quantity. I don’t like burnout and would rather not go there. I’d rather stay on top of my game for every client because I’m not exhausted and burnt out. And I’d rather get the more of the type of client that does their homework as best they can and really listens to my advice. Charging higher rates gets more of that and less frustrating clients – you know the ones I mean 😉  

 

If you want to learn more about how I changed my dog training business and raised my rates, even though I was scared to at first, and how it worked out better than I could have imagined, you should check out my free online training where I explain in more detail – register here

 

 

How To Start And Grow A Successful Dog Training Business

How To Start And Grow A Successful Dog Training Business

There’s a lot more to running a successful dog training business than just taking the leash. You love dogs and want to work with them so you decided to become a dog trainer! But can running it as a business be easy? That’s where I come in! In this guide, I’m going to run through how to start and grow a successful dog training business. If you’re just getting started or you have a business but you want to grow, this guide is for you.

Becoming A Dog Trainer

Dog training business

Becoming a dog trainer is an appealing concept to anyone who loves dogs. And running a dog training business for yourself is a bonus as you get to be your own boss and live the dream! But if you’ve started your training business you’ll already know, it’s not that simple or easy. You need to work hard to make sure you can pay the bills AND Profit!



How much do dog trainers make? You might be astounded how much a dog training income varies. Some trainers are making as low as $7 per hour while others make $150 per hour or more. Why such a variance? Dog training income varies depending on how much experience the trainer has, what area they live in and whether they work for someone else or run their own business. Many trainers are charging by the hour with clients without ensuring that they are being paid for their admin and marketing time, reducing the hourly rate even further.

If you’ve thought about working for someone else, you may have been told that the dog trainer job outlook is bleak, with jobs being hard to find and low in pay. But if you’d rather skip the hassle of running a business and work for a company, don’t despair.

There ARE jobs around that pay a good salary – it really depends on location, experience and often who you know. I am a believer that if you want something bad enough you can work for it. It may take you a couple of years of determination and a willingness to relocate for work but if you have that, you could eventually lock down a salaried job in areas such as service dog training, detector dog training or guide dog training. Then there’s also the military and police force, offering a dog trainer job description like no other!

However, my speciality and what I will focus on in this guide is running a dog training business. More importantly, a successful and profitable one!

Learning To Be A Dog Trainer – Dog Behaviour Courses

Dog trainning business courses

If you’re still in the early stages, or you know how to train dogs but want a formal qualification, you might be wondering where to find a suitable dog behaviour course.

Dog training is, unfortunately, an unregulated industry. This means that anyone can start a dog training business or work as a dog trainer without any formal qualifications.

I believe the best qualification is experience when it comes to training, but a formal qualification provides a solid foundation to build on as well as valuable experience and connections in the dog training world.

So where should you study? There’s a myriad of options when it comes to dog behaviour courses so it’s really impossible for me to tell you exactly which one is best.

Some of the dog behaviour courses provide a government recognised certification and others provide an unrecognised certificate, or one that is respected in the dog training niche but not formally recognised by government authorities.

The other thing you’ll be taking into account is how you want to train. You’ll already know that there’s many dog training philosophies and methods out there and most courses are biased one way or another, depending on the founder.

My approach to dog training and behaviour courses has been to learn with an open mind, take in everything each teacher has to say without bias, and then make a decision on what I feel is the best approach for my situation and the dog in front of me. Even if you see something you never want to use yourself, I think the most empowerment comes from knowledge so it’s good to fully know both sides of the subject. That’s what works for me and my peers and I highly recommend it.

You can take dog behaviour courses online or through distance learning. While hands on learning is crucial, many of these are a good starting point or even better, a great way to further your knowledge after you’re formally qualified. Learning never really ends when it comes to dog training! Check out the Dog Matters Academy if you’re looking for online learning relating to pet dog training.

Starting [And Running] A Dog Training Business From Home

Ok! Now that’s out of the way, from here on in I’m going to assume you know how to train a dog and you want more info on running the business!

While you may admire the flashy training facilities, kennels and often times impressive properties and centres of other dog trainers, don’t let overwhelm stop you from getting started. Starting and running a dog training business from home is how most trainers start out and takes little start up cost. You don’t need to have anything fancy or huge to just get started. Remember that even the most successful dog trainers started at the beginning too, and have been right where you are now.

Dog Training Business Name Ideas

When it comes to naming your dog training business, you might want to think up a clever dog training business name. Perhaps a pun or play on words? I love clever business names like that. But don’t get caught up on it. Often, simple and to the point works best.

I have a friend that was considering naming her business, Megan’s Perfect Pups. But she decided to go with a nice and simple, “Megan’s Pet Services.” That way, she said, it’s 100% clear from the start that she is offering pet services, not stripping….

The other consideration here is how people will find you. Google is the number one source of web traffic and it’s based on the terms people key in to search for what they need. If your business name contains the term, “dog training,” that will help people find you. Even better if it also contains your suburb name. Of course, you can still use something more imaginative as your business name and include these terms underneath on your site.

The main thing is that when people see your brand, they know what you do.

Dog Training Clients

dog training business clientsHopefully you know by now, being a pet dog trainer is mostly about helping the people. For many trainers, this comes with some frustration and let’s be honest, you got into this work to work with the dogs!

Nevertheless, it is a people service industry and as a business you’ll want to attract the right clients and provide the best service possible both with your actual dog training and your business procedures.

Let’s run through a few features you’ll need to have in place that I am commonly asked about.

Dog Training Intake Forms

When taking on a dog behaviour case, you’ll want as much information about the dog and the lifestyle as possible. Some of this you’ll want to know early on. I have my clients fill out a dog behaviour questionnaire online as well as signing a private dog training contract before the first lesson. I still chat with them a little more when I arrive before starting hands on with the dog, to build a rapport with the client and assess the dog’s behaviour before interfering. It also saves us time to have and dog training client forms and paperwork completed before the lesson commences.

You can download a template of my behaviour consult questionnaire here

Private Dog Training Contracts

You should always have a training agreement in place and in writing. Your insurance is your main protection but the contract sets in clear terms all the training expectations, risks and agreements to pay. It’s important to get any type of business agreement in writing so that clear expectations and terms are set and met between both parties. You can have these written by a legal professional to suit your individual circumstances or you can get started with a template using a service such as LawTrades.com

Dog Training Client Homework Handouts

One of the biggest complaints that dog trainers have with their clients is that they don’t do their homework. Help them achieve this with easy to understand handouts and homework sheets. I provide a simple workbook to help keep both myself and the client on track with our goals and where we are up to with the training.

Dog Training Business Apps

I often get asked if there are any apps specifically for dog trainers to help make running the business easier. There are, but I have never used any so I can’t vouch for them. While I think this is a great idea, you can use some standard business apps that do a great job of keeping you organised with your appointments and accounting.

I use iCal on my iphone for my appointments. It Syncs to my other Apple devices and is backed up. You can put in the address, then tap it to get directions on Google Maps immediately.

When it comes to accounting, there are many choices. I personally use Xero which has a mobile app as well. It’s a paid accounting software which makes things easier to keep track of and much easier come tax time. If you’d prefer a free or lower cost option, have a look around for reviews on some of the apps out there such as Manager.io or Wave

Dog Training Business Insurance

Do dog trainers need insurance? YES. Please do not run your business for any length of time without it. In most places, it’s the law that you must have insurance to run a dog training business.

Yes, it’s an expense but it’s one you can’t afford to go without. Types of business insurance for dog trainers should include public liability and professional indemnity insurance at a minimum. From there you might also want to look into income protection insurance so that you won’t lose your income if you need time off work due to illness or injury.  

Call around and get quotes as prices can vary significantly. Most business insurance companies should be able to help you but there are also arrangements and recommended insurance companies specifically for dog trainers through the larger dog training organisations so you might want to contact them and ask who they recommend.

Types Of Dog Training Services You Might Offer In Your Dog Training Business

There’s more than one way to reach the end result. While these are all common dog training services, you should know that you don’t have to offer all of them. In fact, focusing on one or two things and doing them really well is better than spreading yourself too thin. When I first started my training business I felt like I had to offer it all, including other services like dog washing and walking. But these turned out to be distractions from what I really wanted to do. I ended up focusing on private in home lessons and group classes. Later, I cut out group classes too and focused on providing private lessons only. So what I’m saying is, focus on building the type of business YOU want to build!

Group Dog Training Classes

dog training business - classes

Popular among the public as it’s often what people first think of when they think of getting training for their dog. Run a course with a set number of weeks or a run an ongoing membership – there are many different ways to structure group classes and only you will know what works best for you. It’s fine to test a few ways before you decide. It’s your business!

Private In Home Lessons

Going to the owner’s home has benefits as you can really see what’s going on. It’s intensive working one on one with a client though and you need to keep in mind you are really teaching them more than the dog. Having more ideal clients always helps (learn how to find them in the free online workshop)

Board and train

You don’t need a huge facility to get started with board and train. Many trainers do this in their homes if they have the right space and set up. A lot of trainers will tell you that this is where the money really is. And it IS lucrative. Plus you spend less time with the humans and more time training dogs. The downside for me has been the feeling of always working having client dogs in my home.

Day Training / Walk and Train

A popular option for those who can’t board dogs in their home is to offer a hybrid service where they go to the client’s home regularly, take the dog to train it while out and about on a walk and then return it to the home. The client doesn’t have to be there and clients often like this option as the dog is getting some attention as well as training while they’re at work.

Marketing For Dog Trainers – How To Promote Your Dog Training Business

Now we’re getting into the best bits! Marketing for dog trainers is fun for me. It should be fun for you too, not a chore! Keep in mind that marketing includes just about anything you do to represent your business. Even your client interactions you have today are marketing yourself for future clients they may recommend to you.

Let’s have a look at some marketing and advertising ideas that work well for dog trainers.

The Target Market For Dog Training

Firstly, you’ll need to know your target market. Who do you actually want to attract as your clients/ You don’t actually want to just take on anyone and everyone that hears of you – this is a common mistake.

Your target market will vary if you’re in a niche such as assistance dog training or detection dog training for the government. But if you’re training pet dogs, you’ll want to target pet dog owners. But more than this, you’ll want to target the type of pet dog owner that you love to work with. Even more specifically, it’s better to niche down and attract even the type of dog training behaviour you prefer to work with.

If you’re glossing over this, many trainers do, but it can make a crucial difference to the quality, income and enjoyment of your entire dog training business. I talk about this in more detail in my free online workshop. Register here.

Dog Training Marketing Ideas

Show Off

dog training businessThere’s some cool marketing ideas for dog trainers that other businesses can’t do so easily. For example you can take your dog to a public area and show off some training – both obedience and tricks are impressive to people passing by. They’ll think you’re the dog whisperer (I know, but they mean it as a compliment)! Target your audience by doing this at vet clinics, dog parks and pet stores – of course get permission where needed if you’re on someone else’s property.

Information Nights

You could team up with another pet business and offer a free info night on a topic you like to work with. Put up some flyers, send emails, post on social media and really give it your all to get the word out for a booked out free event. From there, a room full of people know who you are and will either hire you themselves, or recommend you to a friend.

Your Dog Training Website

Some people feel that they don’t need a website and yeah, you can get started without waiting for one. But you should get one. Remember, people are still searching on Google. It’s still bigger than Facebook. And no matter which social media platform is dominating at the time, you shouldn’t rely on someone else’s platform to hold your entire web presence.

Don’t build your house on someone else’s land. Have your own space on the net.

A website doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Clean, professional and inviting is key. Use keywords people would search for on Google and remember it does take time to build up your search engine optimisation and be found on page one.

I recommend using WordPress for websites.

Word Of Mouth

Google and word of mouth are my top two sources of clients and they’re both free. Word of mouth is powerful because someone will always trust a recommendation from someone that they know. So remember no matter who you’re dealing with, provide stellar service and build up your reputation. You don’t have to be the most highly skilled dog trainer in the world for good referrals either – build a good relationship with clients and referrers and get them good results and they will happily rave about you.

Facebook

Facebook has had it’s ups and downs and always will. But for now, it’s still near the top as an advertising platform. You should have a presence on social media. There’s so many options that you should choose the social media platforms that feel best for you, and then give them your all. A Facebook page is a good asset to have but remember, don’t build your brand on someone else’s land, as in, don’t rely on it as your only source of traffic.

Sadly, Facebook’s organic (free) reach has lowered to 2-4% of the total page likes. Posting regularly and posting content that the audience will want to comment on and share will help with this.

Facebook ads do cost money. But as far as paid advertising works, if you run them correctly, you should see good returns on what you spend. But do some learning and make sure every dollar you spend has a clear purpose, don’t just throw money on boosting posts for the sake of it.

Speaking of purpose, the goal of a business is to make money, not get likes. The number of likes you have is not something to stress over. Focus on content and engagement that can lead to customers first, the likes will come with that as a bonus.

Never buy fake likes, this only harms your page reach.

Flyers and Cards

Ensure you have stand out flyers and/or business cards at pet related businesses in your area. Chat to the people there and visit regularly so that when someone is looking for a friendly dog trainer, you are at the top of their mind. Gift baskets or chocolates for the staff as a thank you for referrals now and then also doesn’t go astray!

Mail Box Drops

This is something I have found to be less effective than other marketing strategies already mentioned. If you try it, target suburbs you want more work in.

Newspaper Advertising

Print advertising works best when it’s regular but the problem with it is that it’s a method where you’re casting a very wide net, hoping to catch what you can. I recently ran a full page editorial and ad in the local newspaper and got one call from it – a guy that wanted to know what breed of dog was in the photo as it looked like his.

Advice Columns

Better than paying for print advertising is providing a column to a local publication. For example, I write for a small free publication that goes out locally every three weeks. The advantage over a newspaper advertisement is that you’re in front of people regularly and you’re providing value so they know, like and trust you. Of course if you don’t want to spend a lot of time writing, this may not be for you.

Blogging and Video Content

Providing good content boosts any business. You don’t need to give away the farm but do be generous. People will still need to hire you. By providing free content, people can get to know you, like you and trust you before they ever contact you. By the time they reach out, they’re more ready to book.

How To Sell Dog Training Classes

Dog training classes are popular for clients as they are cheaper than one on one training and they want to socialise their dogs.

Most trainers sell blocks of classes with set start and end dates. So you need to promote well to book all spots.

The key here is a good promotion that creates excitement. This doesn’t need to cost a lot – as you have seen, a lot of marketing techniques are low to no financial cost. But you do need to put in some time and effort. Some paid advertising such as Facebook ads could give the extra push you need.

Another way to book out your classes is to offer a referral bonus so anyone who already booked can get an incentive if they refer someone else or bring a friend.

Growing a dog training business

Once you’re set up and running, it’s time to grow. As a business owner you should constantly be looking for ways to improve and grow bigger and more profitable, without burning out. When you get swamped with bookings, it’s time to look at whether you can raise your rates or hire help. As the business owner, remember to work to be able to work on your business, not just in it.

If you’re ready to grow your dog training business, get more ideal clients (who do their homework), and earn more as a dog trainer without burning out, I’d love to invite you to my free online workshop! Click here to register