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December 19, 2016

The winter holiday season is an interesting time for most dog trainers. Starting in mid-November and lasting until January, dog trainers generally experience a business lull. Many owners get so busy during the holiday season that they don’t have time to train their dogs. They also use their discretionary income on holiday gifts as opposed to dog training sessions. It’s not that dog trainers are idle during the holiday season, they’re just less busy than usual.

Following the start of each new year, dog trainer business really picks up thanks to numerous puppies as gifts who are starting to drive their new owners to distraction. What was cute behavior in December can become annoying in January.

Many of your customers might adopt, buy or receive a new dog during the holidays, and those that do could need guidance and information. The more you can do to help customers, the more they will look to your store for advice and products. This, in turn, could result in more referrals and repeat business.

Although the majority of independent pet retailers already offer puppy and new owner starter kits, consider what is included in them. And if you are not already offering starter kits, I recommend you consider doing so.

Does your starter kit include odor neutralizer, proper durable chew toys, good quality kibble, a leash and flat or rolled collar, food and water bowls, an exercise pen or carrier? To take advantage of all the new puppies and dogs, consider including a problem-solving tips sheet with every puppy or new owner starter kit you sell. The sheet should include a list of local dog trainers you work with and/or recommend. The tips should include information on how to use the kit’s products properly. Doing so will help reduce product returns and increase customer satisfaction, two things you want.

If your store hosts dog training classes, you could also include information on upcoming obedience courses, such as puppy kindergarten, or behavior clinics. If the trainers with whom you work don’t offer a puppy kindergarten class, especially during January through March, ask them to do so. The winter holidays are an outstanding time for you to acquaint dog owners with your store’s training products and services.

Another way to take advantage of holiday puppies and dogs is to reach out to veterinarians, especially if your store hosts mobile shot clinics. While vaccination clinics are a real convenience to dog owners, they can reduce the number of people who have relationships with a full-service veterinary facility. Develop a rapport with a few local veterinarians by asking them to leave brochures or business cards at your store and invite them to speak before or after a dog training class. In return, the veterinarians could refer their clients to your store. This is a simple yet effective way to create potentially rewarding and valuable networking relationships.

This same advice can be applied to dog groomers, doggie daycare facilities, boarding kennels or any other pet industry service that you don’t offer.These companies might offer a discount to your customers which could stimulate business for them while making you look good. In return, you can supply them with information about your starter kits and/or a discount on selected products and/or services. Reciprocal referral arrangements of this type can be very rewarding.

Feedback to these organizations, even if just a phone call or email every few months to thank them for their support, often helps solidify these new relationships. Just be careful to research anyone you refer or whom you allow to speak with your hard-earned clientele. Many retailers get so busy and distracted by the holidays that they might miss out on opportunities to enhance customer satisfaction and build rapport with other pet professionals. Opportunities abound if you know where they are and how to capitalize on them.

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