Obedience: Improving Client Compliance


Many service providers struggle with client compliance. Whether it be a car mechanic who wants clients to regularly service their vehicles, a doctor who requires a patient to improve their eating habits or a dog trainer who recommends regular exercise for a dog to improve their behaviour. It can be frustrating for us when a client does not comply and it is hard not to take it personally; we may feel that we have failed them, be angry at the client for not doing the work or sad for the dog who we may believe is being treated unfairly by the client not doing the work. Relationships are complex with a lot going on between yourself, the client and the dog that could be affecting the progress. If you have not already, I recommend you read my post They are not Dog Trainers. In this post, we are going to look at ways to gain a better understanding of challenges with client compliance and brainstorm ideas on how we can improve it!

Relationship Building
This is a critical part of the job for a dog trainer, as we know if we do not get through to the person, we are going to have limited success with the dog. We need to take the time to develop this relationship with the client so that they feel comfortable with us and trust us. Most dog trainers need to build on and develop their interpersonal and communication, as I feel so many ignore the value of this important skillset. I believe that is our responsibility to develop this relationship and make it work, regardless of how we may feel about the client. This is an in depth topic, and I highly recommend The Human Half of Dog Training by Rise VanFleet. This is a brilliant book and one that every dog trainer should read!

Help Them Set the Right Goals
One of the first things you should do with a client is ask them what their goals and/or expectations are from the training. Often clients only think about the end goal or have set unrealistic expectations for their dogs. By helping to set smaller, more attainable goals, you also help improve compliance. This is because they begin to see more immediate results, which in turn motivates them to do the training. If they feel like things are too much work or too difficult, most will begin to feel overwhelmed and discouraged with the training. On the other side of this, sometimes clients do not expect enough from their dogs or feel like they will be unable to attain a reachable goal. By helping them obtain and surpass these goals, you build their confidence, which also helps to motivate them to do the training.

Ensure they are in the correct training program/class. If it is not, it may cause a regression in the behaviour or put the client and dog under unnecessary stress. It is not a failure on our part if a dog is not a good fit for a program, but we are failing the dog and the client if we do not set them up with the correct option. An example of this would be a dog that enrolls in a regular obedience program and they find the class too over-stimulating or become fearful. We should consider a reactive or shy dog class for the dog, but we may be hesitant to recommend this and instead try to resolve this concern in the current program. By doing this, you will not see the same level of success and it is likely stressful and unenjoyable for both the dog and the client. At the same time, you could also be inhibiting the success of the other dogs in the class. This is unfair to everyone and will lessen the chances this client will remain with you for training with their dog. Help them by providing them the guidance to find the right fit; whether it be another class or private training option. The right program is a critical part of client compliance and success!

Create Mini Compliance Checks
I do these more to gather information and better understand the level of commitment from the client. However, keep in mind that some of these tools or resources are not ideal for the client, so it may just provide you additional information on what they require for their learning.

For private training, dogma sends out a history questionnaire with the request that it be returned before we meet. If a client does not do this, we just go through it during the initial consult, but we do tell them that more of our time will be spent on this at the session (we also include that information when we first send out the questionnaire). We must always have some history before we meet, so at the very least request a brief summary of the concerns. However, completed questionnaires are mandatory for aggression cases. Some clients provide great detail and some fill it out quickly and in short form. This helps us to understand how to format our summaries to them as well. There may be legitimate reasons for them not completing the questionnaire, but I do make note of it as a potential sign of limited compliance.

For group classes, we send out a summary email from the orientation and request confirmation that they have received it. We follow up with those that don’t confirm, which has resulted in better communication with us and more of them reading the resources. We have also hid questions or created opportunities to win prizes within our handouts. They really enjoy this and provides some positive reinforcement for reading the materials. Knowing their preferences helps me to better assist them, which may just mean I point them to key resources versus requiring them to read large amounts.

Get it in Writing
For private training services when we train the dog for the client, we cover our expectations within our agreement. We state and have them sign that the success of the training is dependent on their commitment to the work they do with the dog as per our program. We mandate a review session with them for every four sessions or at the end of the program, depending on the service. We provide this at a discounted rate to encourage them to take advantage of the extra training and support. We also track the dog’s progress, and if we feel the training at home is not being done, we put a hold on our training and work with client on what is required of them. We ensure this is always done through a collaborative decision as we know life can get busy, so never want to put the client under too much pressure. However, the success of the training reflects on us, so we want to ensure the client understands the expectations right up front.

Consider Levels Training Classes
When I did regular progression classes that ran once weekly, I began to observe that students were at varying levels throughout the classes, some took the classes seriously while others didn’t, and some just needed more time to learn the skills. It was hard to address everyone’s concerns and I just didn’t like the way the system worked. As a solution, I developed our urbanK9 program and it has tremendously helped increase compliance and our retention rates. The clients receive a checklist for each class and must obtain all of the skills to move to the next level. It is a drop in format so works within their lifestyle and allows them to progress at their own pace. It has been a win-win for all!

Don’t Take it Personally
This was a hard one for me to get through. You never know what your clients may be going through or what experiences they have had in the past and how these may impact their commitment to training their dog. It is not realistic to expect 100% success with every client, so do not dwell on the ones that are not compliant, or allow them to make you feel like a failure. They may have different expectations for their dogs at home and sometimes another trainer is just a better fit for them. Take the time to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions with fellow trainers, track your successes and focus on the positives!

Do you have other ideas for improving client compliance or tools that have worked well? Do you work in another industry but experience some of the same concerns and have some unique ideas we could apply? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Feel free to email me at megan@dogmatraining.com with any questions!

Puppy Socialization: Why Social Media is a Must for your Business


I consider social media as important for a business as socialization is for a puppy. Social media can be defined as the interactions between people and businesses online through websites or applications. This is your online presence and has replaced many traditional marketing and promotional tools. It can be a confusing area as there are so many tools out there, with new ones popping up regularly. In my GoodReads section on the sidebar of my blog, you will find a book called 500 Social Media Marketing Tips. I found this an excellent resource and great reference book, so highly recommend it! I am going to discuss some of the most popular social media items here and will go into more details on each in separate posts. This is not meant to cover all of them, but more about what are currently the most used by businesses. I have put them in order of what I consider to be priority items, so this will help you focus on where to begin if you are just starting out

Although this may not be considered a social media tool, it now works as the front door to your business, and should also link to your social media items (ex: Facebook and/or Twitter accounts). It is often the first impression for potential clients, so it is an area that you should invest in. Depending on your business, you may still have clients who do not use any social media tools, so a website is the only online access they have to you. There are any wonderful build-your-own tools, but I encourage you to invest in a having a web development company create your website for you. There are a few reasons for this; they can provide a unique and customized design to allow to stand out from your competition, they provide you the support you need, they have the experience to ensure your website provides the best service to your clients, they can assist with growth as some programs are limited and your time is likely better spent on something else for your business instead of creating a website.

To ensure you create leads through your website, ensure it has up to date information. Your site should be easy to navigate and allow clients to quickly find the information they are looking for. Keep your site clean and simple and do not use too many colours or bright, distracting colour schemes. At a minimum, your website should showcase your key services/products, have a section about the company and your team and hours, location and contact information. If you own the domain, but do not have your website up yet, you should have a landing page explaining that your website is being developed and how they may contact you for more information.

Check out dogma’s website!

Facebook still has a lot of growth to address many business’s concerns, but it is the most popular social networking tool and one I consider a must for an organization. It is an excellent tool to interact with your clients, provides affordable target marketing and is an excellent tool to reach out into different markets and promote your business. Ensure you give your page a name to enable others to tag your business Facebook page. If you do not have this set up properly, you do this through the About section and Facebook Web Address field. When using Facebook, ensure you are not just using it as a sales tool. Share related articles, funny videos/graphics, promote related businesses, create contests and add pictures/videos of your business that encourage feedback.

Check out dogma’s Facebook page!

This is an important tool for you individually as a business owner. It is considered a professional networking tool and allows you to make connections within your industry and with other professionals. It is a good idea to keep your profile up to date and spend the time outlining all areas about yourself. You can use this to promote and get the word out about your business as well.

Check out my LinkedIn profile!

This is an excellent tool if you like to write. It allows you to provide free resources to your client, which is a great value-added service! It helps to promote you as an expert in your industry and creates the opportunity to reach people outside of your market. It also provides new information regularly to your clients (as long as you regularly update it) and can assist in relationship-building. If you provide great information through your blog, your clients will share it and help promote you and/or your business!

Take a look at dogma’s blog!

Twitter has provided me with the furthest reaching social connections due to how it operates. It is another social networking tool that provides quick status updates. It should be used on a more frequent basis to keep users engaged. What made Twitter unique was its use of hashtags. A hashtag is a key phrase or term preceded with the # symbol. You would highlight keywords in a tweet by putting the # symbol in front of the word. You can use more common terms or create new ones. For example, some of our hashtags we commonly use are #dogs, #yyc (for Calgary), #dogmadogs, #urbanK9 or #kinderPUPS. If you click on a hashtag, it will show you all tweets that include that specific one. You can join groups and retweet any tweets you think would be valuable for your clients.

Check out dogma’s Twitter account!

Instagram is a fun way to share pictures and short videos of your business. Being surrounded by dogs all day, it is easy for us to take fun and interesting pictures. You could showcase certain products or create fun ways for your clients to follow your projects or service offerings. It is another excellent tool for increasing client interaction and also uses hashtags as a key format of their services. You can download separate apps to add fun frames, filters, video editing and showcase pictures differently!

Find dogma on Instagram!

YouTube is a video sharing website. It may not be relevant to your business, but can provide another excellent way to promote your services and/or educate your clients. Video can be an excellent tool to set yourself apart from your competition and is ideal for promoting yourself as an expert. We are just growing ours and are building it out in 2015, so I will keep you updated on our process. YouTube is also now integrated with Google, so directly links to your gmail or Google+ accounts, which provide some excellent tools and great resources for your business.

Find dogma on YouTube!

There are so many tools out there and this is just a small outline of what is recommended to start. Build slowly to ensure you keep each up to date. The worst thing you can do is create a social media avenue that is stagnant and rarely updated. Keep your interactions brief as most people are quickly scanning and do not want anything that will take too long. Provide quality and engaging content as this will increase the chances that your information will be cross-posted or shared, which creates free promotions for your organization. Do not shy away from social media as this is quickly becoming the new avenue for marketing for businesses. When researching companies, most people look at social media, so if you are not set up or your information is outdated/poor, the chances are you are losing a large number of your leads for your business! The best part, to start, it is all free!

Have questions? Feel free to email me at megan@dogmatraining.com.

Share your experiences, fears, or success stories with social media in the comments below!