What makes you stand out from other dog trainers – and why do you need to?
Even if you love everything about dog training, you’d need to clone yourself five times over to support every single dog owner with every need they might have. With all the special areas of expertise in the incredibly broad dog training profession, why not offer services you love and in which you are – or can become – the expert? Let us walk you through the steps of choosing your very own dog training niche!
What is a niche market?
A niche is a segment of an industry (for example, the dog training market) that targets customers who have very specific needs. There are all types of niches in dog training. They can be based on specific aspects like dog age, breed, behavior issues, or any of the many activities dogs participate in with their owners.
Let’s look at some example niche areas for trainers. Keep in mind that new niches are constantly created by enterprising dog trainers, so these lists are far from comprehensive:
- Puppy training and socialization.
- Separation anxiety or resource guarding.
- Training classes targeted for high-energy breeds.
- Emotional support tasks like therapy dog work.
- Professional tasks, like police or military work, scent work, service dogs, etc.
- Activities like agility, dock-diving, disc dogs or other dog sports.
You don’t have to limit yourself to specific types of training. You could even create a niche based on what type of dog owner you’d like to work with. For example:
- Family-focused dog training.
- Dog training for first-time dog owners.
- Dog training for busy professionals.
- Dog training for new couples.
Trainers who concentrate in specific niches need to have a strong comprehensive education in dog training, but they will also need razor-sharp skills in their chosen specialty.
Three great reasons why you need a niche
1- To become known as the expert for the specific skills you teach best. Veterinarians, groomers, and other trainers will learn to recommend you to dog owners when they need your special expertise.
2- To reduce service overlap and head-to-head competition with fellow dog trainers. If you are known for your awesome puppy classes and another trainer has a knack for managing canine anxiety, you will both get to do what you really love while operating successful businesses in the same city.
3- To reduce burnout from trying to do it all, especially if you find you are providing training services that you don’t really enjoy. You can refer owners who need a service you prefer not to offer to a trainer who’s great in that area, and they can refer owners who fit your niche back to you!
5 steps to help you find a profitable and enjoyable niche
1- Identify the challenges dog owners face. Think about all those big issues that dog owners tend to identify with “dog training” (puppy manners, basic life skills, emergency recall, separation anxiety, resource guarding, etc.). But don’t stop there. Wrack your brain for those everyday issues that dog owners may not realize they can get help with (dogs who hate to poop in the snow, pups who are afraid of smooth floors, less-active adult dogs who are slowly gaining weight, etc.).
2- Think about the countless ways dogs and dog owners work, play and bond. Look beyond day-to-day home life with dogs. What other roles and activities are dogs and dog owners involved in? There are so many! Here are some broad categories you can look at more closely:
- Dogs in business. The comforting presence and acute senses of dogs are increasingly valued in the commercial space, from the simple welcoming presence of a shop mascot to a canine working partner who sniffs out bed bugs in the pest control industry. Pet-friendly companies may need help figuring how to accommodate their employees’ dogs in an office workspace. Non-trainer entrepreneurs hoping to start a doggy daycare or pet-sitting business will need basic canine handling and problem-solving skills that they could learn from you.
- Herding and livestock guardian dogs. Farm dogs have been human partners for hundreds of generations. In addition to traditional larger farms, rural and suburban micro-farms are now home to cows, goats, sheep, chickens and geese. Some 21st century novice farmers who add a herding or guardian dog to their “flock” may discover they are in over their heads and need help understanding and training these highly alert and intelligent canine partners.
- Search and rescue, service, and therapy. Dogs also rescue, assist or comfort people in need. All these dogs and their handlers require or benefit from specialized training.
- Dog conformation and dog sports for competition, fitness and fun. Decades ago, dog shows and field trials were primarily the territory of focused dog enthusiasts. Nowadays, a growing number of dog parents want to enjoy a fun and challenging activity that exercises their own dog’s individual breed or abilities, and are embracing these traditional events, plus agility, lure coursing, flyball, dock diving, etc.
3- Identify your dog training passion. Grab a sheet of paper or pull out your laptop and write down every subject that excites you about dog training – even if what fascinates you includes dog skills you feel your community might not be aware of, working with specific types of dog owners, or skills in which you aren’t yet an expert. Remember, you’re looking beyond today toward the future of your business and your personal professional development.
Have you had a flash of insight over something no other trainer or dog expert seems to have even thought of yet? If you have seen a special need that no one seems to be addressing, it’s possible to create a niche that’s all your own.
4- Get to know your local competition. What are other dog trainers in your community offering dog owners? Check out their webpages and social feed. Jot down what they are currently offering, so you can see where the market is especially saturated or where service gaps exist.
- What are their specific services?
- Are their classes online, in person, or both?
- Do they prefer group classes, individual work, or both?
- Where are they active on social media?
- Do they offer free online content, like blog articles and videos where dog owners can find a little instant help? If not, you may be able to grab their attention by filling this gap, leading those owners to contact you for hands-on assistance, too.
5- Expand your search and check out other trainers in the niche(s) you are interested in. Search online for trainers distant from you who are involved in the niches you like. Check out their webpages and social media feeds for inspiration. Consider sending them an email or DM asking if you can chat. Chances are they’d love to share their insight. And remember – if you are a Victoria Stilwell Academy student or graduate, you have fellow VSA graduates and faculty you can reach out to for advice. Don’t leave that VSA benefit untapped.
Take the next step: Test and learn
The next action you take to level up into your chosen niche will depend on where you are in your dog training journey.
If you have expertise in the niche you’ve chosen, you can create awareness of your new concentration by creating engaging, fun, shareable social media posts, newsletters, and informative blog posts on the topic. Reach out to your current clients and your professional network for referrals. Veterinarians, animal shelters and groomers are great locations to reach pet parents with a poster or discount coupon. If you are ready to fly, create a test course. Market it as a very special opportunity for a small number of lucky dog owners so you can give it your full attention and see how it goes!
If you are just starting out or are eager to learn more, we’d love to get you started on your niche-finding journey with a strong, respected, comprehensive education in dog training. The Victoria Stilwell Academy’s flagship Dog Trainer Course will give you the skills, knowledge and confidence to launch a successful dog training career, help you gain more expertise to gain traction in a future niche, and boost your understanding of how dogs think, feel and learn to an elite level.
What’s your special dog training superpower? If you need help finding it, just ask – the Victoria Stilwell Academy is here for you!