By Steve Appelbaum, Founder and President of Animal Behavior College
At first glance, a dog trainer learning to train cats might seem unusual. However, adding additional training skills makes you better-rounded as a trainer and more marketable. So, let’s look at some reasons why dog trainers should consider becoming cat trainers.
Depending on which source you reference, there are 80-90 million cats in the United States and a little under 5 million in Canada. That equates to tremendous and, at this point, relatively untapped opportunities.
Over 45% of American households own a dog. That’s probably not a surprise since everyone knows how popular dogs are in North America. You might not know that 14% of those dog-owning households also have cats. For dog trainers, this means that not only will many of your clients have cats, but some will have questions and want training for them.
Help more animals find forever homes
Why did you want to become a dog trainer? This is a common question we have been asking prospective students for decades. The answers vary, but one of the most popular responses to this question is; “Because I want to help dogs have better lives with the people who love them and keep them in forever homes.” Why not help cats in the same way? Becoming a cat trainer means you can help even more animals.
Greater marketing opportunities for your business
Part 1. Online
In today’s business world, dog trainers will need, at a minimum, a website and some online presence. Whether your online footprint focuses on social media or more direct ways of driving traffic to your website like Pay Per Click (PPC), relevant content is king. The more you can stand out positively from the competition; the more effective your online efforts will be. There is a great deal of information about dog training on the internet. Can you create something that stands out from the crowd and is heard above the noise? Perhaps you can. There is far less information about cat training online. There are almost unlimited cat videos but not nearly as much material about effective positive behavior modification for cats. Animal trainers who can offer such information can reach more significant numbers of people and better stand out.
Part 2. In-person networking
Before the internet, small business owners looking to grow their businesses looked to network with as many people as possible to garner business. This tried and tested way of organically building a business is still practiced today and is quite effective. Any dog trainer who attempts to build rapport with and garner referrals from their local veterinary hospital, pet store, grooming salon, doggie daycare, boarding kennel, and pet sitter is utilizing this strategy. ABC devotes a portion of our dog trainer program (Stage 9) to these networking relationships. Here is a challenge that dog trainers experience when networking; you are not the first to approach local pet professionals. When you walk into a veterinary hospital hoping to generate business, you might be asked to stand on the end of a pretty long referral line. Half a dozen dog trainers could already have connections there and/or have dropped off brochures. How do you stand out? You could tout your new ABCDT certification, and make no mistake, certifications do help dog trainers stand out from the pack because they communicate to professionals and clients alike that the holder of the certification is serious and has mastered a course of study. That’s great, but you might not be the only certified dog trainer. Plus, even if you have a certification that another dog trainer doesn’t, if the non-certified trainer has decades of experience and a relationship with the hospital, you still might be standing at the end of that long referral line. How can you stand out? How can you move to the front or at least not be at the back of this line? What if, along with training dogs, you also trained cats? You might be the only trainer connected to that hospital that offers cat training. That could be a much shorter line—a line of one. Of course, you might initially only get cat referrals, but remember that many families with cats also have dogs. Plus, once the happy cat-owning clients you have helped report back to the hospital about the fantastic job you did, you can remind the veterinarian you also train dogs. It’s a process, but business will follow if you stand out and do a great job.