A Dog’s Life!

The Dog Trainer School

Many dream about leaving the rat race and turning their passion into a new career, or even scaling up an existing side- hustle to a full-time job. For many, working with animals, running their own business and helping others ticks all the boxes – but where to start? This is where The Dog Trainer School comes in: in effect, it’s the trainer’s trainer! We spoke to Lee and Helen who run this innovative new business – helping people to perfect their dog training businesses – to find out more...

The Dog Trainer SchoolA Dog Trainer’s dog trainer isn’t something I think I’ve ever heard of before! How did the idea for the business come about?
Lee: I started first-class dog training in Market Deeping around 13 years ago, almost 14 years ago. We offer puppy training classes, one-on-one sessions, as well as various dog training classes, home visits and general dog training. We mainly focus on pet dog training and behaviour, and while we don’t specialise in serious dog sports, we do offer basic puppy training classes and similar services. Additionally, I’ve worked as an instructor and assessor for another dog training company, teaching other dog trainers, and for the past ten years I’ve also been teaching dog trainers in a different organisation, alongside my other roles. Along the way, I’ve gained qualifications and experience in instructing and presenting courses related to dog training. All this led to Helen and I starting the Dog Trainer School, offering fast and efficient resources and support to professional dog trainers, and that was about ten months ago. The Dog Trainer School is an online membership for professional dog trainers.

Helen: I was a dog trainer about ten years ago and had my own business. I used to live in London, but I later moved away and stopped doing it. The thing was, when I was a dog trainer, I always wanted resources like The Dog Trainer School and online materials for class plans and client handouts. I didn’t have enough time as I also had a full-time job alongside the puppy training and was very busy. I tried Googling before my classes to find ideas and teaching materials, but I could never find anything suitable. Even after ten years, there still wasn’t anything available. For the past two years, we’ve been mentoring other dog trainers who also struggle to find resources and asked for help, and this led us to create our own resources. Now, after ten months we have 235 members!

L: We’ve created a bit of a monster!

H: We’ve got members in New Zealand, South Africa. America, the UK, Italy and Ireland.

How do people access the training materials?
H: Anyone can join to become a member for £12 a month, and there’s no minimum sign-up so you could join for just one month and then leave. We also have professional standards in place, which includes an online form that is free for members to complete. It is a simple tick-box process to confirm that you adhere to positive reinforcement training methods. Once completed, you are then able to display a logo indicating your commitment to these principles. We do ask that members are honest in this process, and we will review people’s social media accounts to ensure consistency with their claims. We believe in being transparent and do not support training methods that are not force-free.

The Dog Trainer SchoolCan you explain what you mean by ‘force free’, and what would be the alternative?
L: Sure – force-free is positive reinforcement only, so rewarding with treats and praise for example. The opposite of this is called ‘balanced training’ using force and positive reinforcement, which is why they call it ‘balanced’. To us, personally, that doesn’t make sense and is not how we work – think of it like: if the ‘balance’ is smacking a child’s hand if they go grab a sweet, and then giving them a sweet afterward as a reward, and saying ‘Well done for not getting a sweet’. It’s… bizarre.

Can people learn from scratch with you?
H: Yes, if you want to become a dog trainer, you can learn from scratch with us as well. We have many past and current mentees who were dog walkers and wanted to become dog trainers. We can coach people on how to set up the dog training side of their business, how to start classes and what to teach, and guide them through that process, too. With the membership, we add new resources every month and it’s very much member-led, so if people ask for specific content we will listen and try to add it.

What other things do you have in the mix, aside from lesson plans?
L: We have been building up material in the members area and turning it into a podcast, and eventually the podcast will be made fully available to the public, and that’s Helen and me discussing dog training and whatever other topics we choose. We will also have guest speakers, who will be professionals within the industry – part of the podcast that will be exclusive to our members. Additionally, we just launched an online social media course for dog training businesses as well as a Canine First Aid Course, and of course you can follow us on Facebook at ‘The Dog Trainer School’ to see what we’re up to.

The Dog Trainer SchoolIt’s amazing you have any time left for dog training!
L: I still believe that it is really important for me to continue training – this way, our members can rest assured that I am still actively engaged in dog training. That connection with the field is vital, as it is where many of our innovative ideas for the membership originate. When I am out in the field, working one-on-one with clients, I am constantly thinking of ways to simplify the training process, and I can share these insights with our members so that they can easily apply them in real-life situations when training both the humans and dogs.

The resources on The Dog Trainer School cover many topics, including: six-week Puppy Classes (dedicated indoor and outdoor material), six-week stepped programmes for dogs (Levels 1 to 4), Exercise, and Lead work. You can make use of printable client resources, watch demonstration videos, take short courses to brush up your own skills, and plan your lessons around the upcoming courses list.

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