Being a dog pro is about more than understanding dogs and building the skills needed to work with them effectively and safely. Our professional knowledge and skill set are critical, but of equal importance is the ability to provide services in a professional, sustainable way. And that means holding your ground as both business owner and expert. Too often dog pros let clients take the reigns on services, policies, and scheduling. While doing so may seem like good customer service, in reality it’s bad business and rarely good for dogs.
Protecting Your Services
Be clear with yourself and your clients about your services: What exactly do you do, and how? If you’re a dog walker, decide what that looks like: How long will the walks be? When and where will they take place? What equipment will you use? Dog trainers: What training packages will you offer? How will they work and how many sessions will they include? Will they be pre-set packages designed for specific issues, or will you require clients to agree to a customized package designed to help meet their training goals?
Compromising on service decisions under client pressure hurts your business and the dogs you care for. No one benefits when a dog receives less training than necessary to repair the bond between dog and owner. You’ll risk personal burnout leaving a dog who clearly needs exercise and companionship after only a daily 15-minute potty break. You’re the expert. Stand your ground on your services for yourself and for the dogs.
Protecting Your Policies
Dog walkers and daycares, what are your policies for weekly minimums, payment, and cancellations? Pet sitters and boarding facilities, what are your payment and cancellation policies? Trainers, how will you handle cancellations to promote the consistency so critical to training success? Make these decisions clearly and communicate them clearly, then implement and enforce them consistently. Not doing so leads to decisions on the fly, ethical dilemmas, and a business that runs you instead of the other way around.
Protecting Your Schedule
Asking dog training clients, “When would be good for you?” leads to an inefficient schedule ripe for burnout. Asking dog walking clients when they’d like their dogs walked requires a cloning or time machine, as most will answer, “Noon.” Successful business people maintain control over their own schedules. Trainers, give clients a choice of pre-set appointment times. Walkers, let clients know their dog’s walk time will depend on their location and, if walking groups, group compatibility. Daycares and boarding facilities, offer set drop-off and pick-up times to reduce staffing pressure, minimize disruptions to the dogs in your care, and keep daily operations comfortably manageable.
Holding Your Ground
It’s tempting when pressured by a client or trying to make a sale to make compromises—lower a price here, bend a rule there, accommodate a client with a half day of daycare when your service model is full day, or pet sit a dog 20 minutes outside your service area when you promised yourself you wouldn’t. But letting fear dictate business decisions will leave you with a number of problems that will require fixing down the road. The way to build the business you want is to behave as though you already have it. Confidently playing the role of dog pro means you’ll be serving dogs for many years to come.