How to Start a Dog Training Business – A Complete Guide [2023]

How to Start a Dog Training Business
How to Start a Dog Training Business - A Complete Guide [2023]

People love their dogs, but aside from basic potty training, many dog owners either do not know how to train their dogs or do not have time to work at it.

This is good news for the dog training industry since trainers offer expertise and a safe, convenient, and effective place to get their dogs trained.

If you are thinking about opening your own dog training business, you might be wondering how to get started. In this article, we will discuss how to open a dog training business.

Is the dog training industry right for you?

While this is a highly lucrative industry, it is not always easy to break into. You have to have a high level of knowledge about dog behavior and how to navigate the hurdles of both the dogs and the business side of things.

While you may love training the dogs, ask yourself if you are equipped to run the business, including doing taxes and payroll, providing benefits to your employees, and other behind-the-scenes business aspects.

It is also important to keep in mind that you are not just training the dogs; you are also going to have to train their humans to change their lifestyles to fit all of the dog’s training into their routine.

Trainers can also find themselves getting burned out if they overload themselves too much, which is easy to do at the beginning of a new business. If you are ready for all the things that owning a dog training business comes with, read on to learn more about how to make that dream happen.

Guide to Starting Your dog Training business

Find Your Niche

When you decide to open a dog training business, you need to determine what niche of training you want to focus on. Once you figure that out, you can work on getting the right certifications for that type of training.

Businesses often do better when they have a niche to focus on because it helps display their expertise.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of dog training you can focus on:

1. Puppy Training

This is where a lot of newer trainers get started since it is the foundation of a puppy’s life, and it is where a dog’s training should start before you focus on other things.

2. General Dog Obedience

This is one of the most common issues that dog owners will encounter. Either their dog does not quite mind as they should, or they need to learn manners. Trainers here will focus on teaching both the dogs and their human’s new skills so the dogs can learn obedience and manners.

3. Reactive Dog Training

A reactive dog is a dog who overreacts to certain triggers. This may be seeing another dog on a leash while on a walk, hearing another dog bark in the neighborhood, or something else. This has become a really common specialization to focus on because reactive dogs are common, especially when leashed.

4. Service Dog Training

The service dog industry also includes therapy dogs. If you are an experienced trainer, you can pursue this avenue for your dog training business. A service or therapy dog needs to learn a lot of cues to help their human, and they need rigorous training so they can be prepared for any situation they are in.

5. Training Dogs with Phobias

If you are a highly skilled dog trainer, you may choose to focus on working with dogs who have phobias or fear issues. These dogs may have been abused or neglected, leading to their fear behaviors.

This niche for dog training businesses requires a lot of compassion and patience, but it can be rewarding to watch that timid dog strut around with confidence.

6. Training Dogs with Separation Anxiety

This is another niche for dog training that will require a lot of patience and compassion. It does somewhat tie into the dogs who suffer from phobias since it is a panic reaction.

Separation anxiety is a common disorder for a lot of dogs, and it is something that can be worked through with enough training. It is rewarding, but it takes a lot of work with dogs who have this panic disorder.

7. Adventure and Off-Leash Dog Training

This is for dogs who go out with their humans a lot. This may mean the dog comes with them when they run around on errands, or they love going camping or hiking with their dog.

These dogs need a little bit more than basic obedience training so they can behave in public without causing incidents. This type of dog training typically includes off-leash training, which is very popular these days.

8. Sport Dog Training

Trainers who love to teach complex behaviors may enjoy sports dog training. Typically, if you choose to focus on sports training, get specific with it and focus on one or two of the main dog sports. With something like this, it is best to have some titles from competitions your dogs have competed in before you start teaching other dogs.

Some of the sports you can focus on for your training business include:

  • Agility
  • Herding
  • Obedience
  • Protection Sports

9. Training Aggressive Dogs

Training aggressive dogs, especially if they have a history of biting, is the most difficult type of training to focus on. You might not be able to even touch the dogs in the beginning — if ever.

If you work with dogs who have already bitten people, you might also have to be prepared to testify in court cases about the dogs, and you must be prepared for a dog you are working with to be euthanized.

This is the most emotionally difficult type of dog training, and you may burn out quickly if you are not truly prepared for it.

Structuring Your Classes

Your niche may help you determine this. You need to know how you will be organizing your dog training classes. You can have group or private training classes. If you offer anything other than private classes, you will need to have a facility to run your classes in.

The two main types of training class structures are group classes and private classes. If you are working with service dogs or dogs with behavioral issues, you should not conduct group classes. Group classes are good for training puppies, sports, off-leash training, and in some cases, even reactive dogs.

You need to know what your niche will be before you decide how to structure your classes. If you do private lessons, typically, you will meet the dog and its owner at their home or a local public place; you do not necessarily need a building for that.

There are a few other styles of dog training classes that we will take a look at:

  • Day training: Combines doggy daycare and training. The dogs are dropped off in the morning, and you run them through daily training sessions. This is great for puppies, basic obedience and manners, and adventure training. You will need a staff to make this type of training work most efficiently.
  • Board and Train: The dog stay at your facility for several weeks while you train them. This can be done in your home with a few dogs at a time or in a kennel-type facility with more dogs.
  • Online Dog Training: Training a dog online is not easy at all. In this case, you are more training the human in how to train their dog. This is becoming popular, but it is not recommended as it is harder to get good results if you are not working with the dog in person.

How to Become a Professional Dog Trainer

Once you know what your training niche is going to be, you need to get some experience under your belt to become a pro. There are a few ways you can go about that:

Get a Mentor

The most traditional way to become a dog trainer is to find another trainer who is willing to mentor you.

Enroll in a Dog Training School

There are a lot of dog training schools out there these days, both in-person and online. You will get a thorough education, and this is a great opportunity for networking.

Get a Job Working as a Trainer Elsewhere

This one is good if you need more training experience and can find a place in your area that is hiring. The best thing about this method is you get a paycheck while you learn.

Do I need to become certified to open a training business?

Technically, no, you do not need a certification to open a dog training business. That being said, you should become certified anyway.

Having certifications helps create trust between you and the dog owners who are coming to you for help. It also ensures that you have the right tools for the task of training these dogs.

Some of the certifications you can look into include:

  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
  • Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
  • Association for Professional Dog Trainers
  • Karen Pryor Dog Training Course
  • Pet Professional Guild
  • Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer
  • Fear-Free Certified Trainers
  • Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
  • Certified Canine Fitness Trainer
  • Dog Sport Judge
  • Certified Nose Work Instructor

Find the Perfect Location

Depending on the niche and class structure you want to offer will depend on the location you decide to use. If you offer private sessions only, you can probably get away with working out of your home or meeting your clients at their homes.

If you are offering group classes or one of the other types of classes we mentioned above, you will need a facility. You can rent out space that will suit your needs, or you can buy a building.

Another option is to have a custom steel building made for your dog training business. This will allow you to get your dream facility right away, and you can easily expand the building later on as your business grows.

Research Your Competitors

As the new trainer in town, you will need to price your classes competitively while still making a profit. You can do this by researching all of your competitors and finding out how much they charge for their services.

Focus mostly on those in a similar niche to yours; you do not need to worry about how much a puppy class charges if you are focusing on reactive dogs.

Write a Business Plan

Your business plan can help you organize all of your thoughts and determine your needs. If you need to get a loan from a bank for your dog training business, you will need a business plan before they lend you money.

Your business plan should include:

  • Executive summary
  • Services summary
  • Market analysis
  • Competition research
  • Sales forecast
  • Education and work experience
  • Financial plan

Name Your Business

You need a catchy-themed name that indicates what your niche is. Before you completely settle on a name, make sure it is not already taken. You should also check to make sure that name is available as a domain name for your website as well as on social media networks.

Select Your Business Structure

There are several legal forms that you can choose from for your dog training business. You will most likely be starting out as a sole proprietorship, as many dog trainers start out. You will not need to file paperwork with the state, but you will be personally liable for your business.

If you have a business partner, you may choose to become a joint partnership. A partnership can technically have more than two people in it. You will also not need to file paperwork with your state, but you and your partners will be jointly liable for your business and its debts.

If you do not want to be personally liable for everything, you can choose to form a limited liability company (LLC). LLCs are owned by their members, so you and any partners you may have can choose this route. You will have to file paperwork with your state, but this will free you up from personal liability.

Get Any Permits and Licenses

You will need to get a business license from your local government, and you might need others too. You will need to look into the specific permits and licenses you will need in your state.

Get Insurance

You need to have insurance for your dog training business. You are working with people’s beloved dogs and having business insurance is necessary if something goes wrong.

No matter how cautious you are, there is always a chance that a dog can get hurt or even escape if you have a boarding or daycare-like structure. This will protect you, so the expenses are truly worth the benefits.

Market Your Dog Training Business

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of opening any new business. It is how you get the word out that you exist.

It is recommended to work with a digital marketing agency on this since they are experts who can help ensure that your message is right for your audience. This is another thing that may be a little expensive, but it is worth it to have an expert at your back.

Some of the things to do for marketing your business include:

  • Building a website.
  • Optimizing your website.
  • Join social media
  • Create business cards
  • Create flyers, both physical and digital
  • Get signage that attracts attention
  • Network with other businesses to try to get referrals. This can include dog walkers, pet sitters, vets, and dog boutique stores.
  • Join professional groups.
  • Offer promotions.
  • Run advertisements online, on your local radio, and even in your newspaper.

Final Thoughts

Opening and running a dog training business can be a lucrative and enjoyable venture. Take the time to get the training and certifications you need to build trust with the pet parents in your area, as they will help you in the long run. You need patience and compassion for the dogs and their humans for a venture like this.

About the Author:
Auz Burger is a freelance writer and an expert in steel buildings. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade.

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