Dennis Owens has been training dogs since he was a teenager. Unable to find an experienced trainer to apprentice with, he learned by working at an animal hospital, then volunteering at the local American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) until they hired him.
"Early on, there weren't a lot of people willing to share information, but that's changed," Owens says. The behavior lecture circuit is a lively place these days, and even Owens, with his 14 years of experience, still attends seminars. "Be open to learning what animal behavior is all about," the Cross River, New York, entrepreneur advises would-be trainers.
Trainers' success depends on their people skills. A good trainer must be an effective teacher and counselor; marketing, too, requires a personal touch. Owens gets most of his business through networking with local groomers and vets, and through the American Dog Trainers Network.
A budding trainer can start part time, teaching group classes in basic obedience for adult dogs. Owens charges up to $125 per hour for private consultations. But don't be tempted by these lucrative jobs until you know you can handle the aggressive dogs you're likely to encounter.
Dennis Owens, 31
Owensdale Dog Training Inc.
Year Started: 1995
Start-Up Costs: $5,000
1997 Sales: $35,000