Get All Access for $5/mo

Start a Dog Training Service If you've got a knack for training dogs, obey your passion by starting a training business.

By Eileen Figure Sandlin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article was excerpted from Pet Businesses, a startup guide available from SmallBizBooks.com .

Part instruction, part psychology, the field of dog training requires great people skills as well as a love of canines. Dog trainers will tell you that you're not just training the pooches--you're also training the folks who live with them. So you have to be able to talk to them kindly, deal with them patiently and reinforce their behavior--then do the same with their furry friends. While a background in psychology can be helpful, a true love of both people and pets and a desire to help them goes a long way to ensure success in this career.

People have been training dogs professionally for decades, although the training wasn't always done so humanely. Prior to World War I, trainers used patience and rewards to school dogs. But with the war came the need for a lot of four-footed "soldiers" who could work in the trenches alongside human handlers. The military often used harsh techniques to train the animals they needed quickly--techniques that included choke chains, punishment and fear.

But in the '70s, a trainer who would become a legend began to teach people who to use kinder and gentler techniques to train animals. Barbara Woodhouse, an Irish dog trainer, believed there were no bad dogs, only inexperienced owners, and espoused the use of rewards and treats to train pets. Her 1982 book, No Bad Dogs: The Woodhouse Way, became a classic.

By the late '80s, there was a resurgence of a type of training that had been invented 30 years before. Largely due to the efforts of animal behaviorists Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes, clicker training made a comeback. It uses a small mechanical device that serves as both a conditioned reinforcer and a signal that a reward is coming later. Although clicker training was initially ridiculed by trainers, "click and treat" training is now the standard in modern dog training, or as Wilkes says, "the first major improvement in dog training in about 15,000 years."

While there are no statistics on the number of dog trainers in the country because the profession isn't licensed, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers has about 5,000 members. And with an estimated 74 million dogs in America, there's lots of room for good trainers to enter the field.

Types of Services
A trainer's bag of teaching tricks will run the gamut from basic on-leash obedience training (sit, stay, come, heel and so on) to behavior modification. Trainers often specialize in certain types of services--usually the ones they like doing best. Among the most common services are:

  • On- and off-leash obedience
  • Puppy obedience
  • Competition obedience (handling techniques for obedience trials at competition)
  • Full owner participation training (teaching the owner how to handle the pet)
  • Pre-pet awareness (helping owners decide which breed would fit their lifestyle best)
  • Hand signal and voice command training

For more information on starting your own pet training service, plus four other pet businesses, check out our guide on SmallBizBooks.com .

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.

Leadership

This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.

Leadership

Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.