Best Practices For Veterinary Referrals

Best Practices For Veterinary Referrals

One of the best referrals for a dog trainer is a veterinarian. They are the first ones to see the puppy at 8 weeks, sooner if a breeder brings a litter into the office for a health exam.  The veterinarian will discuss the importance of socialization and starting young with training but sometimes the conversation stops there. The client is left to search all the listings for a dog trainer in their area. So what do you do to get those referrals? Drop off some business cards and brochures and hope the referrals start coming?

Puppy Referrals

Image via Bessey’s Positive Paws

I am in a unique position as I am a dog trainer and I work in a veterinary office. Removing myself from the training position, here’s what I have seen for successfully establishing a relationship with veterinarians and their staff.

Go to the office in person! If the vet clinics are within driving distance, take the time and deliver the material (cards, brochures, packets, etc.) in person. Block off a day dedicated to making these deliveries and call ahead to try and schedule a meet and greet. Not that this speaks for all clinics but when packets were received from trainers, boarding kennels, groomers, etc. they were read and then placed aside and often forgot about. The business cards might get placed on the bulletin board but there was no relationship established with the staff  to make it personal. The referrals might be given but without enthusiasm and often a list is provided, once again, leaving it to the client to sort through and decide which one is best.

When you go to the clinic in person, you are being interviewed. Discuss with anyone who is available your training techniques, method, and position on training. If they work at a vet clinic chances are they have a pet or two of their own. Offer some tips to help them with any issues they might mention their pet has. This shows them you are easy to talk to and that you have valuable information to help them. Be open to any and all questions that they have. At the end of your meet and greet you then leave them with the material you would have otherwise mailed to them for them to review and have available to their clients.

Now that the clinic has had a positive experience with you as a trainer, your brochures and business cards aren’t just pieces of paper anymore, they are a visible reminder and representation of you, the person they met.

If you are unable to go in person, call ahead and ask if you can mail along some material for them to display. If you have brochures send along a brochure stand; don’t assume they will have one empty and available to fill. Get the name of the person you spoke to when you called to inquire about sending along information and put a friendly note inside and use the persons name, “I spoke with Jane the other day on the phone…” – anything to make it more personal. Ask them to follow up if they have any questions, or better yet, let them know you will follow up in a few days to see if they received it and have any questions.

If you use an intake sheets for clients have a space available for them to let you know how they found you. Did someone refer them? The vet? If so who and/or which vet clinic? Then encourage them to tell the vet if they are happy with your services. Word of mouth is power! If clients start to rave about you it will speak volumes to the veterinarians and other staff members.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank the veterinary clinic for any referrals. You can do this once a year, twice a year or quarterly. How often may depend on how many referrals are being pushed your way. Bring by a thank you card and maybe something tasty, since we know food can be a powerful motivator. Again, delivering in person is always best because you become a familiar, friendly face, and you continue to establish and build the relationship with the staff.

How have you established a relationship with local veterinarians?




5 Training Games for Puppy Classes

5 Training Games for Puppy Classes

Everyone loves good puppy classes. Cute, fluffy, little bundles of fur with their stinky breath and corn chip smelling feet. Most students come to class already having begun the basic behaviors. While those are important and key to any dog training class here are a few training games to incorporate into class to strengthen those basic behaviors while having fun.


Image via Bessey's Positive Paws recall games

Image via Bessey’s Positive Paws

5 Fun Games to Play During Puppy Classes

Crazy to Calm

When the bait bag and clicker come out those puppies line right up in front of their owners and pay close attention to what is being asked. They stay calm and attentive and excel at learning behaviors. What’s happening though, is that the pups aren’t learning how to still do those behaviors when they are amped up. Crazy to calm does just that. Play with the puppy for a set amount of time, jazzing them up to a level where they are rowdy but not completely out of control. After the time is up, stop playing and wait for the pup to calm down and ideally offer a sit. It is okay when your puppy is new to this game to cue them to sit the first few times but ultimately we want them to be able to offer it on their own. If we cue too much our dogs begin to rely on us to tell them what to do in any given situation, whereas when we allow them to offer the behavior it becomes more reliable.

Once your puppy is calm and sitting you will continue to reward your pup for staying put. Then you will release him with “Free.”  Always remember to release your puppy when done. Crazy to calm will help teach impulse control, stay, and how to quickly calm themselves in excitable situations.

Puppy Ping Pong

Majority of owners will prioritize the behaviors they want their puppy to learn with coming when called being first, if not second to walking on leash. Puppy ping pong is a great game to play to build a knee jerk reaction to hearing their name and running towards their owner. The game can include 2 or more people. Each person will have a handful of delicious meaty high value treats. One at a time someone will call the puppy, be very exciting and happy to encourage the puppy to run fast towards them. Once the puppy reaches the person calling they will touch the dog’s collar and then reward with the meaty treat. Encourage clients to give 1 to 3 treats, one at a time to avoid having a puppy dine and dash (knowing they will only receive one treat, grab it and run off to the next person). Stress the importance of being able to touch the dog’s collar because it can save the dogs life. A recall is no good if you can’t actually get a hold of the dog if you are alongside a busy road.

Have another person call the puppy and reward the same way. The puppy will run back and forth between the people playing learning that coming when called results in fun and that he gets delicious stinky treats.

Catch Me If You Can

Another game to strengthen the recall and to help with leash walking. When a puppy has something he shouldn’t or doesn’t come when we call, we move towards him to get him. With a puppy this often prompts a fun game of chase. How extremely annoying for the owner. Catch Me If You Can turns the table on the puppy and teaches him it is more fun to catch up to us than to be pursued. In a safe space or with your puppy on leash move away from him encouraging him to follow you. When he moves in your direction you stop, let him catch you, mark it and reward with high value treats. While the puppy is eating the treat move away again in another direction, encourage him to move after you. Mark and treat. The point of stopping before the puppy actually catches up is to prevent having a puppy bite at pant legs or jump at the person running.

Pass the Puppy

Who doesn’t love to cuddle a puppy. Have the trainer take one puppy away from their owner. Have the person who is without a puppy move and take the puppy to their right and so on until everyone has someone else’s puppy. Pass the puppy is great for socializing the puppy and have them get used to other people handling them in a positive environment. People handling can ask for a simple behavior, give treats and just play.

Hide and Seek

If you have equipment in the training room or places where the owner can go out of sight, hide and seek is a good game to play to help with recalls. This game teaches dogs that they need to listen to their handlers as much as look for them. It encourages owners to stay upbeat and pushes their dogs to find them because recalls aren’t always as easy as saying “Come” and then quietly standing by for the dog to find them.

I like to remind clients that everything we teach our puppy is a trick but to us we take some more serious than others. Playing these games will help take those serious behaviors and keep them fun for us and our pups and make them strong, reliable behaviors.

Do you have other games you play in puppy classes?

Dog Training Business Tips

Receive valuable dog training business tips and resources right in your inbox! Subscribe to The Modern Dog Trainer now by submitting your name and email below. Don’t forget to let us know what you want to learn more about!


New Year’s Resolutions For Dog Trainers

New Year’s Resolutions For Dog Trainers

Welcome 2016! Traditionally people begin thinking of their New Year’s Resolutions shortly after the start of the new year, maybe a week or two before. While there are the common, personal  New Year’s Resolutions – eat healthy, exercise more – what about your resolutions as a dog trainer? What have you resolved to do? How are you going to better yourself and your business this year? We are already half way through January and if you haven’t come up with any resolutions we’ve got you covered.

Image via Erin Bessey - Bessey's Positive Paws

Image via Erin Bessey – Bessey’s Positive Paws

10 New Year’s Resolutions

Increase Clientele

Review your clientele numbers for the last year or two. Then figure out how much you would like to grow this year and set a goal to increase those numbers for 2016.

Network More

Maybe you are just starting out in your business, perhaps you are well established, whichever you are make a point to reach out to others. We can fall into patterns easily and get comfortable there. You won’t be able to grow if you don’t push those comfort levels. Reach out to other trainers, veterinarians, groomers, boarding and daycare facilities. Those are the traditional places to network. What about thinking outside the box? Look to speaking with schools or children’s daycare. While this may seem odd, these places have great, continuous interactions with families. Families who like to share stories about their kids and the family pet. Maybe the daycare is run in a home and has a dog that is present. Putting your name out there and talking to some office people is all it would take. Your name could spread like wildfire because who else would think to make themselves known at a non dog-related business?

Earn Certifications

This is the year to get certified or get more memberships! Sign up for the test (if required) to commit yourself to becoming certified and then start studying. There’s no better way to set yourself apart from others than to have obtained a few certifications. Certification of Professional Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, International Association of Behavior Consultants are just a few to look into.

Raise The Rates

If it has been a number of years and you are still maintaining the initial starting rate it might be time to increase. The business is growing and it is important to stay competitive with the surrounding areas while being paid your worth.

Train Your Own Dog

As a trainer we get very fixated on our work. Why wouldn’t we? We love what we do, but because we are busy helping others train their dogs our personal pets often fall to the way side. Make one of your new year’s resolutions to teach your dog a new trick or activity.

Teach A New Class

If you haven’t given your classes a face lift in a while make it happen this year. Have you just updated the current class curriculum? Why not look into offering a new class.

Learn A New Skill

The dog training world is exploding with all kinds of training. If you are used to teaching basic behavior classes take the time, reach outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. If you have never done agility, find a class and try it out with your own dog or better yet, build your own equipment. Interested in doing a trick class? Teach your dog the trick first before offering it to others. You would accomplish two resolutions on your list doing it this way! Try any one of the following: Treiball, heel work, Rally-o, agility, dog sports, trick training, nose work, and the list goes on!

Read More Books

In order to learn a new skill it may require you to read a new book to accomplish that. Challenge yourself and read a book that you don’t necessarily agree with as far as training techniques. Exercise your mind and form opinions and arguments and be sure to be able to back up your position. How many dog training books did you read last year? Can you do better?

Set A Schedule

It can be tough setting a schedule and sticking to it. Dog trainers want to help owners and their dogs as much as they can and go to great lengths to do this. Making time when we wouldn’t otherwise be scheduling due to fear of losing a potential client isn’t always best. Being too flexible could indicate to clients business is slow. Avoid answering e-mails and phone calls at all hours. Instead have a shut off time where you are done work for the day. Set a schedule if you don’t have one and stick to it.

Make Time To Play

Make time for yourself! To avoid burn out you need to be sure to leave time for yourself to play. This is where setting a schedule as one of the new year’s resolutions will be helpful. Play might be considered learning a new skill or working with your own dog but be sure to leave time to do something for you. It’s okay to do that!

What new year’s resolutions have you made? Comment below and let us know.

Sign up below to stay up to date with modern dog training business practices and dog training methods!

Dog Training Business Tips

Receive valuable dog training business tips and resources right in your inbox! Subscribe to The Modern Dog Trainer now by submitting your name and email below. Don’t forget to let us know what you want to learn more about!


5 Behaviors To Teach A Dog With PICA

5 Behaviors To Teach A Dog With PICA

I live with a dog that has PICA. I am here to tell you that when a client says their dog eats rocks, sticks, just about everything, address it like it is PICA instead of it’s a puppy who will outgrow it. I never had experienced this disease until I got my second household dog, Henry, and he will eat anything! This disease can be life threatening and the added challenge for me was Henry had a secondary cleft palate so depending on what he ate it had the chance of going up into his nasal cavity. Here are 5 behaviors that I have found helpful in dealing with a dog with PICA.

Image via Erin Bessey - Bessey's Positive Paws

Image via Erin Bessey – Bessey’s Positive Paws

Name Response & Attention/Interrupter Noise

This behavior is important so that your dog responds to you when you call his name. It also works to gain your dog’s attention so that you can then cue him for another behavior. Using an actual interrupter noise or attention noise like a kissy sound will work to get your dog to focus on you. This is sometimes a better choice than name response because it is easy to abuse their name by over using it. Both the name response and the attention noise should be charged using a very high value, delicious treat.

Leave it

Once your dog is focused on you, you can then cue him to leave the item he is thinking about eating. This will be one of the most crucial behaviors to train. It does require you to be present with the dog who wants to eat everything but it is possible that the use of leave it over time will help decrease the intensity of the behavior. While Henry still eats things or tries to eat things he shouldn’t, it has improved over the past 3 years.

Drop It

There will be times when the dog is able to pick up something it shouldn’t and it is crucial to have a fast drop it to prevent him from eating it further.

Coming When Called

If you trust the dog off leash because you have worked hard on teaching the leave it cue, a reliable recall is another essential behavior. Even inside the house recall can work in your favor. If the dog is considering eating something leave it works to stop the behavior and then calling your dog back to you moves him further away from the object.

Accepting a Muzzle 

In the end this is one of the most important behaviors to teach. Teach the dog with PICA to accept wearing a basket muzzle. This allows the dog to have freedom with you outside without being restricted to a leash and allows the dog to be a dog. I would not advise using a muzzle in a heavily dog populated area when your dog is off leash as it does restrict your dog’s natural way of defending himself. This is also important to use when you have a reliable recall.

It is difficult and frustrating to be an owner of a dog with PICA. Management is crucial in preventing unwanted chewing and eating of objects. Having food dispensing toys, nyla bones, raw meat bones, etc. available to your dog will help satisfy some of the chewing desires. You never know what a dog with PICA is going to chew next so keeping a house cleaned of small items like socks and small kids toys will help. Crating the dog when you are unable to supervise will help prevent the undesired behaviors and keep your dog safe. Be certain to keep the crate free of blankets and only provide toys that have been proven to stand up to the chewing demands of your dog.


Get Dog Training Business Tips!

Receive valuable dog training business tips and resources every week! Subscribe to The Modern Dog Trainer now by submitting your name and email below.


5 Approaches To Teaching “Come”

5 Approaches To Teaching “Come”

Image by Erin Bessey - Bessey's Positive Paws

Image by Erin Bessey – Bessey’s Positive Paws

It’s a life saving behavior and one that needs to be taught like any other behavior. It is one of the most difficult behaviors to get reliably but it shouldn’t have to be. With practice, patience, and consistency anyone can achieve a reliable recall. There are many different ways to teach “Come” and below we’ll examine 5 of them.

“How to Train a Whistle Recall” by Pamela Dennison

Pamela starts with the first steps of teaching the whistle recall. It begins with charging the whistle. With every blow of the whistle she delivers high value treats. She puts a lot of emphasis on the use of the high value treat versus commercial treats. She gives a timeline of how long your should work on charging the whistle and the importance of not rushing the first steps of any recall. This video does not cover it but with the following videos you will see how to gradually add distraction to begin proofing the recall.

“How to train “Come!”” by Emily Larlham – Kikopup

Emily teaches the first steps of “Come”  with the dog on leash. She begins by just simply backing up, clicking & treating when the dog moves with her. Once this becomes reliable she adds the recall cue. Once the dog is reliably coming, Emily then works on adding distractions while the dog is on leash. The art of teaching come on leash first is to set the dog up for success so that it never learns that not responding to the cue has any value.

“How To Train Your Dog to Come” by Training Positive

In this video, the fundamentals are brought into training the recall. The focus is on rewarding your dog for checking in while in a distracting environment and utilizing a “watch me” cue. These behaviors are a precursor to letting your dog off leash so that your dog remembers that you exist while in a stimulating situation and increases the likelihood that they will continue to check in with you. The other aspect of teaching come that Training Positive uses is once you have your dog come to you engaging them with other behaviors or tricks.

“Come When Called” by Zak George

Zak George begins teaching the recall by making it a fun game for you and the dog. Making it fun will get a faster recall.  In his video, Zak uses a footage from training a puppy recall for the first time which is useful because you are able to see when real life issues arise and how to troubleshoot them when they happen.

“Come Here and Sit” by Ian Dunbar

In Ian’s short video, he starts with luring the dog backwards to follow him, then into a sit and as he delivers the treat he is touching the dog’s collar. Ian explains the importance of touching the collar as part of the recall because if you need your dog to come to you it will do you no good if you can’t actually catch your dog. As in other videos he keeps the distance short and the distraction low while practicing the sequence of events.

While all these videos are similar, they offer different perspectives on teaching the recall. The one thing that is consistent within these videos is that you can’t rush this behavior. If you want to get a reliable recall you have to practice and build the behavior by starting with low distractions and always proofing.

What ways have you found most effective to teach a dog to come?

Get Dog Training Business Tips!

Receive valuable dog training business tips and resources every week! Subscribe to The Modern Dog Trainer now by submitting your name and email below.


3 Ways to Train An Impressive Heel

3 Ways to Train An Impressive Heel

3 Ways to Train An Impressive Heel

Teaching a dog to walk on leash seems to be one of the most difficult behavior for owners to accomplish with their dogs and it shouldn’t have to be. When it comes to walking the dog, the emphasis is on rewarding the dog for walking on a loose leash. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for where the reinforcement should be. Is it when the dog is in front, behind, or next to you? Perhaps it’s when the dog is crossing behind or in front of you? If we teach the owner how to train a heel we are conditioning them to look for a specific position which can help them be better with their timing and reinforcement.

3 Options To Teach Your Dog How To Heel

Utilize Your Surroundings To Limit The Dog’s Choices

Training Positive utilizes a wall and a chair to help position the dog into a heel. The heel in this instance is on the right but ultimately the heel is more of the dog’s position in relation to you, so it can be on the right or the left. You can teach your dog to heel for the left side and label the right side something different so that you have a dog that can walk on either side of you. Training Positive shows the small steps and the patience it takes to use the lure, to just the hand signal, and fading out the hand signal to just a verbal cue.

Start With A No-Motion Heel Position

K9-1 starts out by beginning with a stationary work luring the dog back into position while giving the heel command. Once the dog is reliably targeting the general location just behind your left leg K9-1 trainer starts adding only 1 step to the process, keep it short and sweet. Gradually she begins to increase her movement and as that improves also starts to reward in intervals. K9-1 discusses how to troubleshoot if your dog falls out of the heel, how to get them back into it, and then also the importance of having a release cue to allow your dog to exit the heel position which is very important.

Teaching Heel With Platforms

With the use of 4 square mats with the handler standing in the middle of them, this trainer, Stonnie Dennis, utilizing targeting of mats to teach his dogs what position he wants them in. He uses positive reinforcement and emphasizes the importance of if the dog does his part then we need to be certain to do ours and reward the dog using food or toys. Stonnie also puts emphasis on repetition and putting in the work to achieve the proper heel position. For the handler that wanders too much when teaching the heel, you utilize the mat for them, to ground them to one spot, and have the dog rotate around them.

Have you used other tricks to teach your dog to heel?

Get Dog Training Business Tips!

Receive valuable dog training business tips and resources every week! Subscribe to The Modern Dog Trainer now by submitting your name and email below.


Other articles you might find useful when teaching a dog to walk on leash.

Pin It on Pinterest