Sometimes I forget that we do things and inform our active clients (via a private facebook group or email list), but don't share that information publicly all the time so that past clients and the general public are aware of what we are doing and why. So if you're in that group, this isn't news to you.
We shared a survey with our current/recently active clients in our closed Facebook group, asking them what we could do to better serve them, and what the pain points were in their interactions with us. Three suggestions came through very clearly:
More clarity around next steps for each clients in terms of what classes or services they should complete after the foundation work.
More "real world" sessions where we work with clients out in real life situations so that we can give them feedback and guidance "in the moment", and also so they can enjoy activities with other like minded dog owners that they worked so hard to be able to do, responsibly.
Accommodation for clients with limited or fluctuating income to be able to continue attending classes regularly.
Expanded Curriculum & Training Road Maps
To address item #1, we've outlined a four class obedience curriculum progression that takes clients from zero all the way through AKC/UKC Open level trained skills. We are not a "competition" dog training company. But adhering to a set of defined standards and a specific skill set allows us to continue offering a "guarantee" for these group classes with structured curriculum. We'll also be providing personalized training roadmaps for every client upon completion of the Foundation Obedience program, whether through group class or private lessons.
Increased Practice Opportunities “In the Wild”
To address item #2, we've committed to hosting at least three of our "real world" practice sessions each month: one off leash hike (in a place where it is safe and LEGAL to do so), one "pub dog" outing to a restaurant/bar/brewery, and one "street cred" outing where we do a pack walk through a city neighborhood to help people work on issues they encounter on walks in real time.
Making Continued Training More Accessible
To address item #3, in September we will begin switching to a "value for value" (also known as "pay what you want") model for our drop in classes beginning with our obedience practice sessions. Clients will be able to pay any price they wish from $25 down to $0 for each session, in $5 increments. These are people who have already demonstrated that they value what we are trying to do here, and by completing the Foundation training, shown that they are committed to putting in the hard work. So this was kind of a no-brainer.
Growing and Giving Back
As we continue to grow, and as a company that has chosen to be a predominantly referral based business that does no advertising, we are aware of how important our clients are to our success. We are always looking for ways to better serve you all and are open to suggestions. It’s not always easy to make balance wanting to be profitable and wanting to be principled. But I think have done a decent job so far. As always, if you have ideas, questions, comments, or concerns you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. To those who think because we do “obedience” that we aren’t fixing problems… you’re wrong. More appropriately, we aren’t “dwelling” on them. In the process of teaching “do this” we also have to teach “and don’t do that”. Beyond that, we have to help dogs reference things differently in their mind (that thing’s not scary, that dog isn’t going to try to kill you, that person isn’t a monster, food isn’t something to fight over, etc.) But people trying to resolve complex problems without the requisite skills to do so, fail. They might not like to admit to it, but they don’t actually fix the problem… often settling on a combination of management, avoidance, and excuses instead. Once you’ve had a dog that is ACTUALLY TRAINED, you’ll never settle for anything less again.