By Steve Appelbaum, ABC President & CEO
I am writing this from my home in Southern California, nearly three months after our governor announced a statewide stay-at-home order for all non-essential businesses. My first reaction was that living through history isn’t as much fun as reading about it years afterwards is.
My second reaction was to look up the language of the order to see which businesses and professions were considered essential. Dog trainers were not on the list, meaning those in the most populous state in the nation were no longer allowed to go to work. Many other states enforced the same or similar orders, and the situation will probably remain this way for months for many areas. And, even when these restrictions are lifted or relaxed, dog trainers are likely to face some real challenges.
First, group gatherings could be problematic for some time and even when they are no longer risky. It will take many people a while to feel safe enough to participate. Private lessons might also suffer, as the willingness of people to let strangers into their homes without fearing sickness could take some time. As a dog trainer, what can you do? Use current technology; literally, all you need is a smartphone—of course, a computer or tablet will work, too.
More than 65 percent of dog owners who contact trainers are typically looking for help with behavior challenges, such as inappropriate jumping, chewing or digging, house soiling, excessive barking, begging, etc. Every one of these behaviors can be addressed remotely. Of course, you will need a thorough history of the challenge from the owners. You will also need to watch them interacting with their dog.
Once equipped with the same basic knowledge you would get talking to clients in their living room, you can start formulating a treatment plan that provides behavior-modification steps. The only difference is that all of this can be accomplished via a smartphone (or computer or tablet) through something as simple as WhatsApp, Discord, FaceTime or Skype other live video apps. In short, you can offer private lessons for canine behavior-problem solving remotely. Note: Your clients will also need to have whatever app you opt to use.
Pet owners’ needs are the same whether or not there is worldwide health crisis. They still need to address behavior challenges that are emotionally and financially costly. Because most of the world has “gone digital” over the past 4 months, pet owners are likely even more willing to use—and pay for—remote training services.
In addition, this is not limited to just resolving behavior problems. Basic obedience and puppy training could also be done remotely. And, with the right streaming video platforms (e.g., Facebook Live, FaceTime, Discord, Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, etc.), you could also teach group classes. While, the ongoing health crisis presents several challenges, with ingenuity and a desire to help pets and their owners, you can overcome them.