Dog Blog

Summer Sports Training Classes – Part 1

Three Ways To Grow Your Business -- And Reconnect With Ex-Clients:
1) Agility, 2) Flyball, 3) Dock Diving Classes
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Pet Botanics wishes to thank Steven Appelbaum, president of Animal Behavior College, a vocational school for professional dog trainers, for contributing to this blog post. www.animalbehaviorcollege.com

With warmer weather finally here, many pet parents are looking for outdoor activities they can enjoy with their four-footed “best friend.” For some, this may simply mean tossing a Frisbee around in the park. But others may want to get involved in a more structured canine-human sport, such as Agility, Flyball or Dock Diving, if there’s an ocean, lake (or even a pool) nearby.

Professional dog trainers have a good opportunity to expand their business this time of year by offering beginning classes in agility and other canine sports. This can be a win-win for you and your customers. Not only will trainers benefit from having an added source of revenue, you’ll be helping pet parents and their dogs get started in a fun activity they can share for years to come.

Reconnect With Former Clients

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One of the advantages of offering canine sports classes is that it gives you a “new product” to sell to your database of former training clients. Think about it – a trainer who does a great job turning out a well-behaved pup rarely sees the client again, because there’s no longer any need for her services.

But you can generate repeat business from these satisfied customers by offering another, more specialized service, such as agility training. Apart from learning a fun new sport, your former customers – and their dogs – will most likely enjoy the opportunity to rekindle the relationships they established with each other in your basic training classes.

Choose A Sport(s) To Offer

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Here’s a look at 3 popular – and growing – canine sports to consider holding classes in: Agility, Flyball and Dock Diving. (Each of these sports will be discussed in greater depth in Part 2 of this article, which will appear in the next issue of the Pet Botanics Training FYI Newsletter.)

Agility

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In Agility competitions, dogs navigate an obstacle course consisting of jumps, tunnels and other hurdles, directed by their handler. The course is laid out differently each time, requiring the handler to guide the dog along the correct path using voice and body cues. The dogs are judged on both time and accuracy. Although Agility champion dogs have amazing athletic abilities, the sport can be enjoyed on many levels. Even pet parents who just set up a few jumps and other obstacles in their backyard and train their dog to negotiate them can enjoy great fun, healthy exercise and a bonding experience with their pup.

Flyball

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A true pack sport, Flyball is a relay race between two teams of four dogs each. Each dog runs 51’ over four jumps to a Flyball box, which releases a ball. The dog grabs the ball and returns back over the course to the second dog, who must wait until the first dog arrives before racing down the course to get the next ball, and so on. The team whose four dogs complete the Flyball course first is the winner.

Dock Diving

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A great activity for dogs who love to swim, Dock Diving is a water retrieving sport that typically takes place at a lake or ocean, but a swimming pool can be used as an alternative. Dogs run down a 40’ dock (or designated path) then jump into the water to retrieve a toy or object that has been thrown in. Dock Diving competitions may be judged in several ways – the height or distance of the jump, or the time it takes for the dog to swim to the object and bring it back.

Getting Fit For A Sport

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Regardless which sport you ultimately decide to hold classes in, your clients and their dogs should start out with some moderate exercise to get in shape physically. “Every year pet parents and their dogs suffer injuries, many of which could be prevented if they had taken some basic precautions before diving head first into high-energy activities with their pets,” said Steven Appelbaum, president of Animal Behavior College, Inc., a vocational school for professional dog trainers.

One of the best ways to build dogs’ (and humans’) fitness for a sport is through walking. Your clients and their dogs should be able to walk for 35-45 minutes at a stretch without getting stiff, sore, out of breath or panting, Appelbaum advises. If they aren’t able to do this, they should gradually build up to this point with shorter walks.

As a trainer, you might want to start off your sports classes with a session or two of fitness training. For example, you can take participants on a group walk with a game of fetch thrown in. Don’t forget to review basic obedience commands with your four-legged students during these sessions, because they’ll be essential when you ultimately train for the actual sport.

Note: Part 2 of this article, appearing in the next issue of the Pet Botanics Training FYI Newsletter, will discuss holding training classes in each of the 3 individual sports.