There is a common misconception that dog trainers “do it for love.” While we love what we do, we also have to earn a living. Getting competent at our craft involves a big chunk of time, money, emotional bandwidth, and effort.
What Happens Behind the Scenes?
During the 60-90 minutes that a trainer sees you for a consultation, you are paying for their time and information. However, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, before and after you meet in person.
Certification and Education: Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer but modern dog training prides itself on qualifications, certification, and continuing education. Once certified, your trainer is hopefully continuing their education by attending workshops and seminars. While the cost of these can vary, they are certainly not cheap! Ask your trainer what they are doing to stay up to date on best practices.
Maintaining a Small Business: Many dog trainers, including myself, run a small business and act as the sole employee. Some one-time and monthly fees that I personally take on include: purchasing an LLC, business insurance, website and domain fees, scheduling capabilities, business cards, and promotions. Don’t forget gas and car maintenance!
Case Review and Prep: Before your session, you will likely be asked to fill out a questionnaire summarizing your dog’s history and the challenges you are facing. This information helps your trainer make the most of your time together. Your trainer will review this in detail, and start a rough draft of additional questions to ask as well as the beginnings of a plan to get you and your dog on the right track.
Write up and Training Plan: Ideally, you will receive an email that summarizes everything that was covered in your session. This includes punchy graphics and handouts that will help solidify everything for you. But the real time-consuming effort goes into building a training plan for your dog.
Food Purchase and Prep: Hooray, you’ve hired a qualified trainer who utilizes rewards, so you will be using food! Sometimes dry treats will cut it, but to really motivate your dog, your trainer is going to pull out the big guns. This is typically meat or cheese, chopped into tiny pieces, or a squeeze tube stuffed with wet dog food. A lot of time and effort and messy hands goes into this part!
And keep this in mind:
There’s a lot that goes into your session with a dog trainer! Refuse to settle for anything less than competence and transparency.
Disclaimer: When I reference “dog trainers” in this blog, I am referring to dog trainers who have received certifications and formal education in evidence-based training that utilizes rewards. For more information on how to choose a dog trainer, read here.