During the pandemic, animal shelters and rescue groups saw a significant increase in adoptions as people were looking for something to keep them or their kids busy and to have the love and companionship a dog. However, two years later, as life gradually returned to normal and people go back to work, some of these pandemic pups were facing behavioral issues, due to lack of training and separation anxiety, leading to an unfortunate rise in dogs being returned to shelters.
I’d like to share a story which leads to the dedication of this article.
I’ve been a dog mom to three wonderful dogs, and I know firsthand the challenges and rewards of dealing with behavioral issues. Our second dog was 8 years old when we adopted him.
Harley was an old soul and we recently celebrated his anniversary.
- tumors on his leg
- still had is dew claws
- all his back teeth were rotten which is why he wouldn’t eat
- and Harley was a free running dog — the leash was his enemy.
The vet said the condition Harley was in, he likely never ate dog food and never saw a vet which would have shown a diagnosis of Cushings disease.
The SPCA in Brantford, Ontario offered to take him back, but there was no way in hell we were sending Harley back regardless of the cost.
Harley needed some training, but at 8 years old, that saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”… well it’s true. The only thing we wanted was for him to stop fighting the leash. Harley was with us until he was 14.
One year after the anniversary of Harley’s passing, we adopted Mia from the same shelter. We call her Mia Moonpie when she’s good and Miss Barks-a-lot when she’s.. well you know.
Mia was 7 months old when she was found on the streets, fighting for her food. She was was very sick, food aggressive, terrified of men, especially those in uniform, afraid of wooden spoons, obsessed with green garbage bags and reactive to other dogs.
It was a long journey, and went through two trainers before finding the third. She was the one who was able to help Mia overcome most of her fears. I give special credit to Sam, who worked her magic before she went on maternity leave.
Mia turned 11 on Sept 14, 2023, and while she still has a lingering fear of men in uniform, she’s come a long way from the scared and aggressive puppy we first brought home.
This article is dedicated to Sam and all the dog trainers out there who understand that training is about more than just getting a dog to sit or shake a paw. It’s about treating the behaviour that leads to dogs ending up in shelters in the first place.
If you’re a solopreneur dog trainer, it’s my hope that this article can help you — help more dogs in your area and continue to do your incredible work.
Before getting into the tips, being a solopreneur dog trainer is a unique challenge. YOU are the heart and soul of your business, and there’s only so many hours in the day which is probably left for sleep.
Scaling your business is hard, especially when you’re already wearing so many hats. But remember, it’s not about having a ton of clients you can “half-ass” serve, it’s about quality and type of training services you can provide.
To avoid burnout and still grow your business, consider focusing on a specific area of expertise. Instead of offering general obedience training, why not specialize?
- perhaps you have a soft spot for senior dogs
- or a knack for dealing with specific behavioral issues
- maybe you’re passionate about helping dogs with physical disabilities
By niching down, you can provide a more meaningful service and truly master the skills needed in that area. Niching down not only allows you to become a specialist, but it also helps you stand out from all the other general dog trainers in your area.
You’re the go-to expert for senior dogs, or dogs with behavioral issues, or dogs with physical disabilities. This can make your services so darn attractive to that dog parent that’s at their wits end and help you build a strong, sustainable business without spreading yourself too thin. As a solopreneur, your greatest asset is you.
Now for the tips.
Blog is the place to share your knowledge, tips and stories to connect with dog parents. Blogging can be time consuming, so keep them as short form articles so it’s sustainable. Share training tips, success stories, and insights into your training philosophy. The goal of the blog is to build trust with your readers and to get into the Google search machine.
Engage on Social Media
Who doesn’t love pics and videos of Fido! Use content from your blog and re-purpose on Social media. Social media not a “post and ghost” platform. It’s a two-way street. Respond to comments, share useful content, show your personality and engage with other accounts in your niche, but aren’t direct competitors. Remember, it’s about building relationships, not hard selling.
Tip: your main efforts should be blogging first, then Social media second. You own your blog, you don’t own Social media and the platforms set the rules.
Utilize Video Content
Videos are powerful marketing tools. Share clips of training sessions, success stories, or even a day in your life as a dog trainer. Before and after videos of your worst 4 legged client who turned out to be a success story showcases you as an expert.
Encourage Word-of-Mouth Referrals
Happy clients are your best advocates. Give them your business cards if they know of anyone that needs help with their dog. When people see how well of a job you did with your client, they’ll naturally ask. And don’t forget to ask for feedback through an online review because you can use this as a testimonial for your website an on Social media.
Partner with Local Vets
Vets can be a great source of referrals. Build relationships with local vets and work out a way to benefit each other.
Tip: If you have some downtime, ask the vet if they know of anyone that could use your help, but can’t afford it. You could offer a couple of lessons pro-bono and build good will. Not because you expect anything in return, but because you’re genuinely interested in helping dog parents and their fur-baby.
Make Your Insurance Visible
Display your insurance policy on your website. It reassures clients that you take your responsibilities seriously. This can go in the footer of your website.
Volunteer at Local Shelters
Volunteering at local shelters not only helps dogs in need but also increases your visibility in the community. It’s a win-win!
Always have business cards handy (yes people still ask for them) and don’t be shy about introducing yourself and what you do. This will give you the chance to practice your elevator speech.
Tip: Participate in local adoption events and demonstrate your skills with previously adopted dogs, the biggest one to benefit is the next dog waiting to be adopted.
Wrapping it Up
Marketing for dog trainers doesn’t have to be terribly time-consuming or complicated. Wait, let me re-word that… it can be time-consuming when you are the face of your brand, but there are ways around that by specializing.
It’s my hope that with these marketing tips, you can effectively promote your business, even with a busy schedule. The key is consistency.
I’d like to ask you to pick just one tip and take action on it today. If you get any traction from that tip, let me know and I’ll write a case study about you and the dog you helped.
You’ve got this!
Until next time, stay inspired.