Summer and early fall are among the busiest times of year for professional dog trainers. Dog owners frequently visualize what they’d like to do with their dogs during this season: wonderful hikes in nature, strolls on the beach, safely traveling with the family in their car, being safe around the swimming pool, etc. Then the hard reality of attempting these activities with untrained dogs causes owners to search for solutions—it is here that the pet retailer can shine. The more information/assistance you share with your clientele, the greater the likelihood that these consumers will become or remain loyal customers for many years to come.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the more common things owners want to do with their dogs.
Safe Car Travel
A big part of car safety for dogs is proper equipment. All dogs should learn to wear a pet restraint or ride in a safe carrier. Inform owners about the differences in restraint systems; most are unaware that many pet restraints on the market are not designed to protect the dog in case of an accident. Explain the differences between restraint systems and be ready to discuss proper carriers like the kind made by Sleepypod.
Aside from a safe way to ride in the car, remind owners about other important products to purchase, including water and food bowls for long trips and a leash so that they can take the dog for breaks and walks. Once equipment has been purchased, be prepared to educate owners on how they can get their dogs used to traveling with it. Many owners make the mistake of simply trying to strap their dog in a pet restraint or place their dog in a carrier. Teach owners to put the dog in the carrier or wear the restraint system in the car for 10-15-minute increments during which the dog is fed special treats. After a week or so, most dogs will eagerly look forward to going in the car. Suggest owners get in the habit of putting energetic or escape-prone dogs on leash before they are taken off a restraint system or let out of their carriers. This makes it easier to stop dogs from escaping when the car door is opened.
Dogs that listen to their owners in public regardless of distractions are generally much easier to travel with. This is where obedience training comes in handy—retailers should be ready to encourage owners to attend obedience classes. Not only will obedience classes help dogs learn to listen, but they are also great for teaching dogs to be more comfortable around other people and dogs.
Additionally, all retailers with the space should consider offering obedience classes in partnership with a reputable dog trainer. These are a great way to build consumer loyalty, stimulate product sales and attract interest in your store. While obedience classes are a great option, retailers should be aware of other dog training options. These include private lessons and in-kennel training. Private lessons are exactly like they sound: a trainer works with owner and dog in a one-on-one capacity. The advantage to private lessons is the trainer can focus on the owner’s dog and not split their time in a group. The disadvantage is price, as private lessons are usually more expensive than group classes.
The third option commonly available is kennel training which is often called “board and train.” This kind of training program involves the owner boarding their dog at a trainer’s residence or professional boarding kennel. The trainer agrees to train the dog each day until the owner comes to pick the dog up. Board and train is typically the most expensive choice and not always the best selection for addressing behavioral challenges taking place at home. In recent years, board and train programs have become available through doggie day care facilities.
Most dogs know how to swim; the key is teaching them how to get out of the pool should they jump or fall in. The best way to do this is by getting some sort of visible marker that can be seen from in the pool. I like traffic cones, although over the years, I have seen owners use every imaginable item—it just has to be large enough for the dog to see and it needs to stand out.
Dogs that like to go in the pool should be encouraged to do so while the owner stands by the steps next to the visible marker encouraging the dog to come to them. When the dog comes and stands on the steps, the owner should reward the dog with a special treat. That sequence counts as one repetition. Have the owners do five to 10 repetitions a session a few times a week. After two weeks, leave the marker by the steps, encourage the dog into the pool and then sit down somewhere other than the steps. Don’t call the dog. When ready to get out of the pool, most dogs will swim right to the marker. If the dog doesn’t, go back to working the sessions for a few more weeks and then try again. Over time, dogs can learn to safely exit the pool.
Dogs that don’t like water but still need to learn where the steps are can be taught the same way. The only difference is one person will need to gently take the dog into the water while another stands by the visible marker coaxing the dog. The person in the pool might need to assist the dog by directing them to the marker and the sessions should be shorter—no more than two to three repetitions. Otherwise, the concept is taught the same way.
Retailers who can assist owners by directing them where to find obedience training, how to safely travel in the car and to properly teach their dogs how to find the steps in a swimming pool will be doing these consumers a great service.