Going virtual with dog training and behavior consults
By Cathy Madson
As telemedicine and telehealth continue to advance in the veterinary profession, online dog training and behavior services are not far behind. For the veterinary profession, this means that your options for referring clients to training and behavior professionals are much broader.
Veterinary staff are asked questions about training and behavior daily. Being able to refer your clients to a certified training professional not only saves staff time, but also endears clients to your clinic as being the main source of trustworthy information and resources. It also has the potential of generating additional revenue for veterinary practices.
The pandemic gave professional dog trainers and behavior consultants the opportunity to shift their expertise online. Now, virtual dog training offers a solution for dog owners all over the world who may not have access to these services in their local area and at an affordable price.
Benefits of virtual dog training and behavior consultations
Online dog training can address every dog training need, from obedience skills to topics often not covered at in-person classes, and even behavioral challenges like aggression, anxiety, or reactivity.
- Convenient and personalized options: With video sharing and learning management platforms, dog owners have many options to choose from, based on what works best for their preferences, schedule, and budget. There are a variety of choices: one-on-one sessions, virtual small group classes, self-paced courses, seminars, and hybrid options.
Benefits of virtual dog training and behavior consultations Online dog training can address every dog training need, from obedience skills to topics often not covered at in-person classes, and even behavioral challenges like aggression, anxiety, or reactivity.
Convenient and personalized options: With video sharing and learning management platforms, dog owners have many options to choose from, based on what works best for their preferences, schedule, and budget. There are a variety of choices: one-on-one sessions, virtual small group classes, self-paced courses, seminars, and hybrid options.
Family participation: All family members can attend online training, unlike many in-person classes. Many trainers also record the online session for reference and future demonstration.
Shorter wait times: Virtual clients have shorter wait times for connecting with a trainer or behavior consultant, as online sessions often have easier scheduling and flexibility. This is especially important for dogs with urgent behavior needs like aggression. It’s also beneficial for puppies who are still waiting to complete their vaccinations to get started on training and safe socialization experiences as soon as possible. A virtual coach helps get these clients started off on the right paw.
Budget-friendly: Many professionals may price their virtual option lower than their in-person services, as they do not have the additional travel time and other related expenses.
Ideal for nervous or reactive dogs: In-person training can be difficult for dogs who are fearful, anxious, or stressed in class environments or around new people. Online training allows these dogs to learn in a calmer and more conducive environment, which also lowers stress for the dog owner and encourages a stronger bond between them and their dog.
For separation anxiety cases in particular, virtual consults are preferred. The process of obtaining a baseline for a dog’s anxiety symptoms is much easier done through a virtual call, where the consultant watches on screen while the owner leaves their dog alone for a short time. There is no additional variable of having the consultant enter the home which can increase stress and anxiety for the dog, affecting their baseline evaluation.
Training deserts: Availability of training and behavior services varies depending on location. Some areas have many options for in-person training, while others have next to none. And in many places, the only dog training available is through uncertified and unethical training programs. You don’t want your clients to have bad experiences and you don’t want the dogs in your care to suffer from outdated training methods simply because that’s all that’s available. Virtual training means they don’t have to!
Finding qualified and experienced local professionals can be especially challenging when it comes to complex behavior issues, such as separation anxiety or aggression. Dog owners can connect remotely with experts who specialize in their type of case to get the help they need.
With geography no longer being a limiting factor in who you can refer your clients to for their training needs, you can expand your referral list and explore partnerships with trainers and consultants that are mutually beneficial.
- Do trainers you currently refer to offer virtual training options for your clients? Are they willing to provide a discount for your clients for these services?
- Does a trainer offer an affiliate or referral program for their online services? Signing up as an affiliate means you receive a percentage of each sale made through one of your shared referral links. In some cases, affiliates also receive a special coupon code to share with their clients that gives them a discount on training services.
- Do you have a staff member who is certified in training or behavior? Consider allotting some of their hours towards providing virtual consultations with clients who need it. Sometimes a 20-minute session is all someone needs and turning to your clinic as a resource strengthens your brand and builds trust.
- Host a virtual seminar for your clients with a certified professional. Use social media, email list, and in-clinic signage to promote the event and charge a fee for attending.
Recommending a certified training professional makes your practice a trustworthy source of information and resources
Establish your go-to referrals ahead of time
What training and behavior topics does your staff get the most questions about? Find one or several trainers or consultants who specialize in that niche.
Ask your local trainers what their qualifications are and if they offer virtual services. Ask them if they offer referral or affiliate commissions, so that the work you put into promoting them, and any resources you produce in-clinic are rewarded.
Because the dog training industry is unregulated, it’s crucial to properly vet who you are referring clients to for dog training. Learn more here about how to work with trainers and vet potential training partners.
Some examples of virtual dog training services:
- Dog training: Preventive Vet, an MWI Distinct Advantage Partner, created Pupstanding Academy, which offers self-paced online workshops geared towards many training issues, such as Potty Training, Crate Training, and more. Workshops includes a live small-group virtual session, so your clients get to ask a certified dog trainer the specific questions they have about their dog. Pupstanding Academy offers an affiliate program for veterinary clinics.
- Cooperative care: This type of training is ideal to help dogs feel better about being examined at the veterinary clinic and increase staff safety. The CCC Team offers a certification course in cooperative care for both trainers and pet owners.
- Separation anxiety: The Mission Possible Course through the CSAT website is an affordable self-paced course for dog owners that provides certified moderators for support.
- Aggression: Dogs may struggle with many types of aggression. Did you know behavior problems are the leading cause of pet relinquishment to shelters? Connecting your clients with training professionals for early socialization help and to address problem behaviors helps reduce pet relinquishment and subsequent behavioral euthanasia.
Many certified behavior consultants specialize in a niche and offer virtual one-on-one training or courses. Pupstanding Academy offers a resource guarding course online, and one-on-one virtual sessions for other aggression cases. It’s best to look for a behavior consultant who has expanded their knowledge base through programs like the Aggression in Dogs Master Course by Michael Shikashio to ensure safety and effective training plans for your clients.
- Dog sports: Fenzi Dog Sports Academy offers online courses for dog owners looking to get started in dog sports. These classes are offered at different levels so clients can choose how much instructor feedback they’d like and adjust for their budget.
Technology continues to improve the lives of pet owners. Virtual training now provides all hospitals with the option of extending support to their clients, regardless of whether they have access to trainers in their area. By providing referrals you are helping your clients find qualified professionals for an essential aspect of animal care, with the potential for a supplemental revenue stream for your clinic.