March 31, 2015

One frequent objection I hear from store owners who are considering whether or not to offer dog training classes is their lack of floor space. Many smaller stores don’t have the room to conduct obedience classes and outside locations don’t work due to space and/or seasonal considerations. Although these challenges are understandable, it doesn’t mean you can’t offer some type of dog training service.

Instead of actual obedience classes, you could offer problem-solving lectures. These are single sessions held in the store without dogs present. As long as you have room for 5 to 12 people to sit or stand, you have the space for one of these. Why offer problem-solving lectures? The benefits are numerous.

Increasing Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is determined not just by prices but by positive experiences and great service. This is gold to retailers and problem-solving lectures are one way to help generate it. By offering your customers simple positive solutions to existing problems, you’ll not only help them strengthen their relationship with their pets, you’ll most likely gain long-term, loyal clients.

Some of the most common problems owners face are excessive barking, chewing, digging, separation anxiety, inappropriate elimination, begging food, chasing, jumping up on people, biting (i.e., puppy nipping) and aggression, according to Jenna Stregowski, RVT, in her article for Dogs.About.Com titled “Top 10 Dog Behavior Problems.” Of these behaviors, seven (excessive barking, chasing, chewing, digging, inappropriate elimination, begging food and puppy nipping) can be realistically discussed basic problem lectures.

Boosting the Bottom Line

Many of the solutions presented during a problem-solving lecture involve the use of products. For example, correcting inappropriate elimination often involves the use of a crate or exercise pen along with stain-and-odor removers and puppy pads. Chewing solutions can be resolved with multiple chews and interactive toys, as well as anti-chewing products such as Bitter Apple. Other frequently suggested products can include premium dog food, leashes and collars, vehicle safety harnesses and more.

From 1994-2004, Animal Behavior & Training Associates taught dog obedience classes for a major pet chain. During this period, the company estimated that more than 100,000 people took one of its obedience classes. Surveys conducted every year consistently showed that the average student in an obedience class would spend anywhere from $62 to $73 for various products recommended in class. This does not count repeat business.

The bottom line is that offering lectures can stimulate product sales.

Although some stores offer problem lectures at no cost to customers, others charge a nominal fee. Asking $10 to $15 for each lecture is quite reasonable. You could also consider giving a discount if customers elect to purchase more than one lecture at a time. In 2013, the average U.S. household spent $47.75 on pet services, according to Sundale’s report “2013 State of the Industry: Pet Stores in the U.S.” That means most customers are willing to pay for these lectures.

Finding Qualified Trainers

Once you’ve decided to offer problem-solving lectures, you’ll need to seek out qualified dog trainers. The best way to find one is to attend a trainer’s class in your area. Afterwards, you can interview him or her before you make your hiring decision. Does he or she offer training information in an understandable fashion? Does the trainer come across as personable? You can ask the trainer for client recommendations, as well.

Most dog trainers will expect payment for each lecture they teach. You are better off avoiding a per hour fee.
Once you’ve found a trainer, make sure he or she is familiar with the products you carry in your store and will be comfortable suggesting them. You can also ask the trainer for a list of products he or she will likely recommend during his or her upcoming lecture and have them available for viewing. This makes the trainer’s job easier and increases the likelihood that your customers will see—and purchase—the products the trainer is talking about.

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