COVID-19 has impacted everyone. It has impacted the way we work. It has impacted our daily routines at home. It has impacted our fur babies. People often ask me “What has been the most difficult issue to deal with in this evolving COVID-19 environment?” My answer – Dog trainers all over America and internationally, for that matter, have suddenly found themselves required to shift their in-person business model to a virtual model almost overnight. That shift has proven to be life or death for small dog training businesses. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the personal interaction I have with my clients and their dogs. That interaction has always brought me great joy. I am a member of both the Association of Professional Dogs Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. I am involved in on-going daily discussion groups with my fellow trainers all over the world. It is obvious that I am not alone in my day to day struggles to maneuver through the COVID-19 new world. The necessary shift has been a challenge for clients as well because virtual training has a different feel. Trainers have been required to quickly find efficient ways to structure their programs so that clients have the same personal experience and can get the same benefit from live chats, online discussion groups, training videos, etc.
On the other side of the coin, people also ask me “Have there been any positive outcomes from the COVID-19 experience?” Believe it or not, the answer to that question is yes, and my answer is essentially the same – COVID-19 has forced the regular dog trainers in local communities to step out of their comfort zone and find ways to shift their in-person business model to a live virtual model almost overnight. Yes, the shift was and continues to be scary and overwhelming. But, at the same time, this journey has given many small businesses the opportunity to pause and ponder the future of their business. Under normal circumstances pre-COVID-19, the opportunity to take a pause and ponder future business strategies was almost impossible for the dog training one man shows or for companies with only a few employees due to the added requirements to attend conferences, maintain certifications, participate in classes to expand knowledge and techniques, etc. Dog trainers choose this job to help humans and canines live a wonderful life together. Training can be a very rewarding career. All humans know that there are a few things that are certain in life – one of those things is change. This journey has provided an opportunity to explore new ways to offer our services and create new ways to help people and canines. Oddly, dog trainers all over America have realized there are some wonderful benefits to virtual training. It is requiring some of us to try things that we were not all that willing to try pre-COVID-19 due to fear. Personally, I am a bit overwhelmed. Making YouTube videos was something I knew I should do all along to compete, but I never really devoted time to it. Honesty, I was horrified. So, more than likely on purpose, it always fell out of the top ten things to do. Now, I am happy to announce that I have dived into the YouTube deep end. I’m not the greatest at it yet nor will I ever be, but to my dismay, I find it fun! It gives my daughter one more thing to joke with me about. Not only that, as it relates to videos, more and more of my clients are having fun with it too! They are sending in wonderful homework videos.
One thing I have learned through this experience is that the old saying to make lemonade when life deals you a bunch of lemons is one of the most important sayings out there to live by. It is possible, even in the worst of circumstances, to find something positive, to find a blessing or to bless someone. Staying positive is infectious. The more excited I am to offer new services, the more fun my clients have. The more fun my clients have, the more likely it is that my clients will build wonderful lifelong bonds with their fur babies. Will this shift in dog training last forever? No one can be certain about the future. My belief is that the virtual environment will become a very important component of a dog trainer’s world. I’m excited to learn new things and to share those things with my clients.