How to Start a Dog Training Business
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly 40% of all U.S. households own a dog. Dog training services are in high demand as pet owners continue to demonstrate a willingness to invest in the well-being of their animals. For those looking to become a part of the animal service industry, a dog training business can be a profitable option with low startup costs.
Successful dog trainers usually have extensive experience working with dogs in a variety of different capacities. This experience may include prior work as boarding kennel supervisors, groomers, doggie daycare operators, pet sitters, dog walkers, dog show handlers, or other related employment. Strong knowledge of canine behavior is critical to success in this line of work because dog trainers must be able to modify inappropriate behaviors and encourage the development of desired responses.
While formal training is not strictly necessary, completing an apprenticeship with an established dog trainer is one of the best ways to learn the business and gain hands-on experience. There are also quite a few formal training programs offered through professional schools. Additionally, aspiring trainers can also pursue certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) certification programs.
Launching Your Business
Most dog trainers are self-employed and operate their businesses as a sole proprietorship, although other options include operating as a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. Each type of business is different, so be sure you consult an attorney or tax advisor so you know what each operation entails.
It may be necessary to take out a business license, locally required permits, or a basic liability insurance policy to start a dog training business. Trainers should check with their local government to determine what measures will be necessary.
Many trainers do not rent a physical space for their businesses. Instead, they travel to client homes or boarding facilities to provide training exercises. This significantly cuts down on operating costs. Apart from general overhead, there are very few equipment costs other than a few leashes, clickers, treats, or other training aids the trainer prefers.
Marketing and Networking
Marketing is critical to a dog trainer’s success. Word of mouth will eventually provide many referral clients, but initially, a trainer needs to do some serious legwork to attract clients.
Begin by coming up with a catchy name or logo that potential customers will remember. The business logo and contact information should be displayed on your vehicle if you use one. Additional advertising options could include a website (with newsletters and coupons), ads in local print and electronic publications, business cards, and brochures that can be distributed to local businesses.
Another option is networking with dog walkers, pet sitters, pet boutiques, and veterinary clinics to alert potential dog-owning clients about your services. In return, you can offer to give reciprocal referrals when new clients ask for leads for other kinds of pet ownership services.
If you can contract with a boarding kennel or doggie daycare businesses to provide regular training services, this approach will result in a steady stream of clients. You'll also save on travel expenses by servicing a large number of dogs in one concentrated area.
Pricing Your Services
It's very important to research current dog training rates in your area before deciding what your fees will be. Prices should be comparable to existing businesses, or slightly lower at first, to encourage an influx of new clients. Private classes with a professional trainer range from $30 to $100 per hour.
Trainers usually offer an hourly or half-hourly rate for private training lessons. Group classes with multiple pairs of owners and pets are usually priced slightly lower than private options. Again, be sure your area supports your pricing structure.
According to the American Pet Product Association, the category of pet services (which includes dog training, grooming, and boarding) is expected to command $6.31 billion in revenue in 2019. The escalating pet ownership industry is not showing signs of slowing down. If you like animals and feel confident running your own company, a dog training business should be both enjoyable and profitable.
American Veterinary Medical Association. "U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics," Accessed on Oct. 31, 2019.
American Pet Products Association. "Americans Are Spending More on Pets Than Ever Before: $72 Billion," Accessed on Oct. 31, 2019.