Increase the human-canine bond. Improve relationships. Keep dogs in their forever homes. Spread the R+ word. Help as many dogs as possible.
These are common goal refrains from the trainers we help to build thriving businesses. Many trainers share a common frustration, too, of not feeling they’re making a difference for as many dogs as they’d like. Whether you’re still working to fill all your training and class slots or your dance card is already bursting full, you probably wish you could do more. You can.
You have a tremendously valuable knowledge set. One way to affect more dogs’ lives (and those of their people) is to find creative ways to share that knowledge within your community.
What Do You Want Dog Lovers To Know?
The first step to your community education movement is to identify what you want to share. This may seem somewhat obvious, but spending some real thinking time on this step can greatly increase the impact of your efforts.
Start by asking yourself: What key handful of concepts or how-to’s would have the largest effect on your goal to improve interspecies relationships or the treatment of dogs in your community? Is it a few broader concepts about how dogs learn? General strategies for teaching dogs, such as reinforcing behavior you like and ignoring what you don’t? Maybe you feel the crux is to start at the beginning with puppy raising and socialization. Or speaking to common frustration points you see in your community such as barking or leash pulling. Perhaps there are specific cultural expectations of dogs in your area, such as a desire to have dogs off leash, requiring the building of powerful recalls and polite greetings, as well as an understanding of situational awareness and distraction.
We can’t possibly impart everything we know as dog trainers. The trick is to zero in on what you believe would have the highest likelihood of changing the way people see, feel about, and interact with dogs.
Find Ways To Share What You Know
Clearly, the favored way is to be paid for your dog training services. But if you share the desire to have as wide an effect as possible, it pays to find ways to reach as many people as possible.
Write. An article or a column for a local paper or other community publication such as church bulletins, neighborhood newsletters, school newsletters, etc. Distribute a fun, informative print newsletter, leaving it anywhere locals might appreciate a bit of reading material. Put educational tip sheets on your subjects in dog-related businesses and areas like vet clinics, pet supply stores, dog daycares, dog parks, walking trails, and the like. Create engaging educational posters to place in the same spots. Write a blog on your website or post your articles or tip sheets.
Teach. Give local talks on your key subjects. You can set talks up as a fundraiser for a local shelter or rescue group, or through your local library or a community group like a Rotary or Lion’s Club, a senior center, adult education program, or local rec center. Offer humane education talks or interactive learning sessions (or even summer camps) through local schools, libraries, or summer programs such as through the Y.
Share. Use opportunities ranging from local events to social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram to share tip sheets, articles, tid-bits, and how-to’s. These don’t all have to be of your own making—curate material from colleagues, journals, books, blogs, online networking groups, and the internet generally to provide a stream of education and inspiration. Put your print newsletter out in email form.
Inspire. Inspire others with your own actions. Wear logo clothing so your community can see a professional dog trainer at work using humane, science-based methods—and how well positive training works. Also post videos of yourself in action on your website, on YouTube, and on your social media channels.
Reap The Benefits
I don’t know any dog trainers who don’t love to share what they know with others, and see that knowledge transform understanding and action toward dogs. I’ve never met a dog trainer who felt she was making as much change as she wanted to see. Implementing projects that share knowledge, and seeing that knowledge slowly transform the dogs and people around you, is powerfully satisfying. The only thing better is getting to work directly with dogs and their people.
And here’s the kicker: These projects will lead to more of that, too. As people encounter, engage with, and benefit from your knowledge, they’ll seek you out when it’s time for professional assistance. Your community education projects double as your marketing projects, replacing tired old stand-bys like brochures and business cards and stressful activities like direct selling and cold networking.
So you make more money and help more dogs—not a bad combination, and everyone wins. Including us at dogbiz. Because our primary, immediate goal is to help R+ trainers make a good living doing what they love. But behind that goal is a desire we share with all of our clients—to change as many dogs’ lives for the better as possible.