There’s no shortage of work for dog trainers, according to those in the industry. The increase in demand stems from the surge of pet adoptions during the pandemic. In fact, about 12.6 million households took in pets between March and December, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
“With the start of the pandemic, a lot of people adopted puppies and adult dogs, and they also spent a lot more time than before around the dogs they have at home and noticed how many of their behaviors annoyed them,” Steffi Scott, owner of SpiritDog Training in Cedar Crest, N.M., told Forbes.
Franki Santi, co-owner of Eola Pets in Orlando, Fla., told Pet Product News (PPN) that many of their new clients are first time dog owners or pet owners experiencing dog separation anxiety as they transition back into the office.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in demand for dog training services and a huge influx of puppies in our dog walking programs,” Santi said.
Some dog trainers are so busy that it’s becoming overwhelming, according to an article in The New York Times (NYT).
“I am getting so many requests for training that I can barely keep up,” Ann Becnel, a dog trainer in New Orleans, told NYT.
April Chillari, the owner of Core Canine in Alexandria, Va., shared similar sentiments to the newspaper.
“Prior to the pandemic, I would book up three to five weeks in advance,” Chillari said. “Now I have a 10-week waiting list.”
It’s not just the demand that has noticeably changed, it’s also the way in which business is conducted. Scott had done in-person dog training classes for years before the pandemic struck, but once shelter-in-place orders hit, that suddenly disappeared, she told Forbes. Like many, Scott soon embraced the virtual concept.
“I think I filmed 20 entire new courses or so [on Facebook],” Scott said. “The good thing is you can film all of this training essentially without leaving the house or yard.”
Since then, Scott has hired people part-time for online ad help, search engine optimization and a new web design to support a subscription business model, according to Forbes. Scott has been averaging $20,000 a month in revenue, quite an increase from the $60,000 total she made in 2019, Forbes further noted.
“My business has changed drastically,” Kim Roche, a dog trainer and behavioral consultant in Austin, Texas, told the NYT. “I used to do a lot of group classes, and now I’ve discontinued those completely.”
Mark Forrest Patrick, a dog trainer in Rochester, N.Y., and the board chair for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, has also taken on virtual training.
“It’s amazing that I now have clients in California, Florida and Kansas City, who just found me online,” Patrick told the NYT.
As shelter-in-place orders have lifted, many dog trainers have resumed in-person sessions but have modified their routines, according to the NYT. Some offer no-contact training, where they give the dog owners instructions while wearing masks and staying six feet apart, the NYT noted.
“Our dog training is offered as a private service,” Santi told PPN. “Our trainer safely picks up the dog and works with him or her and returns the dog back to the owner once they complete their session. Once things ease up, we plan to offer small group classes, as our training philosophy includes a lot of socialization for city dogs. We do also plan to continue offering virtual training solutions as the reach is much wider and we’re able to serve more people that way.”
If anything, the pandemic has taught the need for flexibility.
“This pandemic has shown us that you always need to be ready to pivot your business,” Santi said. “Having a strong connection with your community is important—they support businesses they love and trust. Ask them what they need from you and offer help in any way you can. What value can you offer them in these times?”
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