The benefits of day training are many and powerful. For you, easier marketing and sales, better income, better case outcomes, increased personal satisfaction, and you actually get to train dogs. For your clients, convenience, better and faster results, and more long-lasting results, too. For the dogs, better treatment and increased bonding with their people. After all, the fastest way to improve the relationship between a client and her dog is to change the dog’s behavior. Gaining client compliance for change on their end becomes much easier when you’ve provided results to protect.
As with any service, though, day training presents its own challenges. While the benefits far outweigh those challenges, why live with downsides if we don’t have to? Here are some solutions to the common challenges trainers encounter when beginning to day train:
TRAINING SESSION CHALLENGES
A central point of day training is getting more training done than the client could, and doing it better. Proofing is critical—no point training the dog solely in the client’s home, unless that’s the only place the client needs results.
Solution: Put on your walking shoes or grab the car keys
Clients will be in a much better position to take advantage of and protect the training you’ve done if it’s been proofed for at least moderately distracting situations. So practice your basic manners training around the dog’s neighborhood, at shopping centers, parks, etc. Take your b-mod on the road, too. Working with a leash reactive dog? Work desensitization, counter conditioning, and alternate behaviors in all the locations your client walks their dog so they’re more likely to benefit from your results.
Challenge: Clients watching training sessions
Clients may watch you train out of genuine interest or initially just to make sure they’re comfortable with your methods. Whatever the reason, it can slow down your training progress to stop for questions or narrate what you’re up to.
Solution: Give clients a task and save room at the end for questions
Begin the session by telling your client: “I’ve got a big, fun agenda for Fido today. Once I get training, I tend to focus and I want to get as much done for you as possible. So let me give you some paper and a pen so you can write down any questions that come up. I’ll save a few minutes at the end to chat about the session.” Set a timer to buzz 5 minutes before the end of your training hour, then turn your back to the client and focus on training. Fight any impulse to narrate what you’re doing; just pretend it’s you and the dog and train the way you would if you really were alone.
When your buzzer sounds, tell your client: “Okay! Great training session—Fido’s a clever one! We’ve got 5 minutes if you have any questions?” Answer simple ones. Anything more complicated should be met with: “Great question and good anticipation—that’s actually on our agenda for our transfer session later this week. The answer is a little long-winded for today, but we’ll get that covered in detail when we meet for our transfer session.” Or, if it’s off-topic to what you’ve been hired to work on, and complicated as well, say so: “That’s a great question, but it’s a little complicated and opens up a whole new topic for us to explore. Let’s table that while we finish our work on Fido’s leash reactivity. Then if we have time at the end of our package we can discuss it a bit and see if you’d like to do some additional training to address it. Does that sound okay to you?”
TRANSFER SESSION CHALLENGES
Challenge: Getting the dog to focus on the client instead of you
You’ve had several training sessions with the dog. You’ve built up quite a reward history and rapport. Now it’s time to transfer a behavior or two to your human client, but you can’t get the dog to turn her rapt attention from you to give her own people the time of day.
Solution: Proof on others first, then create a contrast effect
Before you transfer proofed behaviors to your client, transfer them to someone else if you can. This could be an assistant or, if safe and appropriate, a stranger on the street. Show the dog that her new tricks work with other people, too, not just you.
When it’s time to transfer to your client, load her up with terrific high value treats and ask her to stand in front of her dog and deliver as many treats as she can, fast, while you count off 20-30 seconds. Next, warm the dog up: Show off the first behavior to transfer, using dry cookies as a reward. Now ask the client to try, armed with her much better treats. If necessary, have the client start with another 10 seconds of rapid-fire delivery before giving the new cue. The contrast effect between your dry cookies and mom with her rapid-fire yummies should help do the trick.
Challenge: Getting clients to commit to transfer sessions
You’ve been making great progress with the dog, but what’s the point when your clients keep blowing off transfer sessions?
Solution: Set expectations and use a solid cancellation policy
From a marketing perspective, day training is a great sell because it lets clients off the training hook. But in reality they still have a very important role to play. They’ll continue living with their dog well after you’ve left the picture so it’s imperative they understand the critical role of attending transfer sessions. Enforcing a solid cancellation policy will help, too.
Once clients have signed on for a package, spend some time setting expectations:
“While I’ll be doing the heavy lifting for you, the training work I do will have very little impact if we don’t teach Fido to behave differently for you, too. And there are a few simple things for you to learn to keep the training I do strong for the long haul. So the transfer sessions at the end of each week are critical. Because I want to see you experience the best success possible from my training efforts I have a no cancellation policy for these sessions, so we’ll want to make sure we schedule them carefully.”
Challenge: The high cost of day training
You’re worried about trying to sell day training because it’s so much more expensive than coaching.
Solution: Get your sales pitch down and set up to take credit cards
When explained clearly to busy clients day training almost sells itself. One of the benefits our dog trainer clients talk most about is how much easier it can be to sell a $1,500 day training package (We’ll be done in three weeks and I’ll do most the training for you) than a $500 coaching package (It’ll take 5 weeks, you’ll have lots of homework, and you’ll only see results if you put in the work). Remember that the reason people hire professional service providers (lawyers and accountants, plumbers and electricians, etc.) is to have a service performed for them, not to learn how to do it themselves.
That said, you do have to pitch it well so that people understand what they’re being offered: “I offer a day training program for busy parents and professionals so you don’t have to find the time to do all the training work yourself. The cost of this program is $X. We’d be looking at X weeks [typically 3 weeks in most cases does the trick, 4 for more severe b-mod]. Each week I train your dog X times [3 is most common], and then we meet at the end of each week so I can transfer my results to you. The package also includes a couple of additional sessions together at the end to make sure everything is going smoothly before we wrap up. I highly recommend this program for clients whose schedules make daily training sessions challenging, to make sure you get the most from your training investment. Training is a big investment either way, and if it’s helpful, I’m happy to set up a payment plan.”
To offer payment plans, you’ll need to set yourself up to take credit cards. It’s easy to do these days with Square and other similar programs for smart phones and tablets. Payment plans by check are an administrative hassle and you run greater risk of not being paid in full. We recommend trainers take credit cards even if they don’t offer payment plans, as offering payment by credit makes it easier for potential clients to become actual clients.
Challenge: Performance fear
When results fall short of goals in a coaching package, it’s easy to lay blame on clients not putting in enough time. You worry with day training that any failure will sit on your shoulders.
Solution: Let it go
No matter what happens, you are going to make more progress than your clients can, and you will make it faster. You will do more proofing, which means clients will experience more success. Keep in mind also that in most cases your expectations for training outcomes will be higher than the client’s. So let your performance fear go.
Make Day Training Work For You, Your Clients, and The Dogs
Armed with these tips, get in there and train for your clients—it’s what they want and it’s good for their dogs as well as your business. As I said earlier, the fastest way to improve the relationship between a client and her dog is to change her dog’s behavior. You’ve studied long and hard to become a dog trainer—use your dog training skills to train dogs! You, your clients, and the dogs will all be the happier for it.