becoming a dog trainer

Becoming a Dog Trainer Isn’t As Easy As You Might Think

If you love dogs and are thinking of becoming a dog trainer, keep in mind that, like any other business, training dogs professionally comes with a certain amount of responsibility. Ethically and legally speaking, there are a lot of angles you might not have yet considered as you’re imagining what it would be like becoming a dog trainer.

I’m Liz London, a certified dog trainer and a certified business coach! I’ve worked as a dog trainer in veterinary clinics, a world-renowned training kennel, and privately as a self-employed dog trainer for my own company. Now I work with other dog trainers around the country, helping them get started as a business, how to find more clients, and how to ensure their business is working smoothly and growing all the time.

A lot of us dog enthusiasts learn a bit about dog behavior and training as we’re raising our own pets. Perhaps you’ve discovered you have a real knack for it! Are neighbors and friends asking if you’re considering becoming a dog trainer? Congrats! It’s a fantastic job, whether you’re thinking of becoming a dog trainer part-time or full-time as your only income.

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But hold on just a second before you run out and print off flyers right away! Running a pet business isn’t just about picking a cute logo and getting to play with people’s pups.
Take a minute to run through this dog trainer start-up checklist to help you know where you stand on your path to becoming a dog trainer:

Becoming A Dog Trainer Starts With A Checklist

Here’s a start-up checklist to see If you’re ready to face the challenge of becoming a dog trainer.

1. Have you done any market research in your area to see how much competition there will be from other dog trainers? Are a lot of people looking for dog training in your neighborhood or city? I recommend joining the NextDoor and Thumbtack apps for your areas to search how often inquiries are made from neighbors about hiring a dog trainer.

2. Are you confident with your training skills? Can you answer common questions from potential customers, such as:
– What style of dog trainer are you? Do you use a clicker? Slip leads? Pinch collars or choke chains? Electric remote training? Dominance training? Positive reinforcement? A combination?
– How long will it take to potty train my puppy?
– Can you help me teach my dog to behave off-leash at the dog park or go for walks off-leash?
– Can you train my dog for me? Do I have to be present at classes, or can you come to my house and do it for me?
If these questions are confusing or overwhelming, start with some dog training foundations classes or books.*

3. Do you know whether you need a business license to become a dog trainer in your city, county, and state?

4. Would you like to use your personal name as your business name, or have you picked out a business name?

5. Have you researched liability insurance policies that cover dog training, your clients, and their pets? Do you know what you would do if your dog and a client’s dog got into a fight? If your client’s dog injures you, or vice versa?

6. Becoming a dog trainer isn’t without financial costs. In addition to licenses and insurance, there will be costs associated with advertising your services, as well as supplies you’ll need to have ready to work with clients. How much do you estimate it will cost to start dog training professionally?

7. How will you spread the word about your services? Look into the cost of setting up a website or learning to do it yourself. (At the minimum, a DIY website will cost about $100/year to set up and maintain.)

8. Are you prepared to hire a bookkeeper or do your bookkeeping yourself? You’ll need to track all your expenses and income associated with becoming a dog trainer! It could be as simple as using a notepad in your car, an excel spreadsheet, or using a software that helps you keep up with your cash flow.

9. Will you use your personal phone for clients to contact you? If so, be sure your voicemail message is professional and lets potential clients know they’ve reached the right number.

10. Will you train in people’s homes, in your home, or in a public space? Have you considered the safety concerns associated with going into the homes of strangers or having them in yours? If you use a public training space, be sure to do some practice work to make sure they are distraction-free, safe, fully contained, and enough space for people and their dogs. Ask some friends of family to meet you there a few times to practice your training.

11. How will you get paid for your services? How much will you charge?

Not sure about all of the answers to these start-up questions?
Don’t worry, everything can be learned and practiced with the right resources and guidance! Becoming a dog trainer is a fun process – just remember, if you don’t take your business seriously, no one else will, either!

Let us know – what are you most excited about in becoming a dog trainer? What areas are you not so sure about? We’re happy to help – leave us a comment or shoot us your questions for the author at hello@wagglydogs.com. We’ll be sure to have Liz back to answer more of your pet business and animal behavior questions soon!

*Subscribe to WagglyDogs.com so that you don’t miss Liz’s soon-to-be-published list of favorite dog training books for pros and amateurs alike!

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Liz London, CPDT-KA is an animal trainer, serial entrepreneur, author, and certified business coach. She’s worked in zoos, kennels, pet stores, doggie daycare, state-of-the-art dog training facilities, & veterinarian clinics. Having trained monkeys, aardvarks, sloths, pets, gundogs and search & rescue dogs, she has turned her attention to training pet business owners in the art of running a great pet business. Her book, The Business Bible for the Unconventional Entrepreneur, can be found on Amazon, and her articles on dog training and business ownership can be found all over the web and in print, including Waggly Dogs, Pippa Mattinson’s The Happy Puppy Site & Totally Dog Training, as well as Ducks Unlimited’s Puddler Magazine. Liz can be found working in her business, *SPARK* Your Work, providing tools & coaching for pet business owners at www.SparkYourWork.com/PetBusiness as well as providing community for female business owners at www.TheLadybossNation.com

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