As I write this, Ontario is in the middle of battling the second wave of Covid-19, and we’re all under a Province-wide Stay at Home order. All of our dog training facilities are closed, and economists are suggesting to get ready for a “double-dip” recession (don’t expect a Spring economic recovery).
Despite that, I’m here to suggest now is the best time ever to consider switching careers and pursue pet dog training, whether it’s a side-hustle, a passion project, or all-in as full-time employment or starting your own business.
I started When Hounds Fly in the last recession – the 2008/2009 recession caused by the sub-prime mortgage collapse in the US. At the time, I worked in sales for a large US technology firm, and no one was hitting their quota, no one was buying, and the sales pipeline looked pretty grim. Hero one day, zero another, and I found myself unemployed late 2009.
A global recession was the perfect time to pursue dog training! Really! It was time to follow my passion. I had only owned a dog for about three years at the time (although I was forced to learn very fast, as my first dog was severely dog reactive and had severe separation anxiety!)
The same conditions that made it an easy decision for me to go all-in back in 2009 are almost the same now in 2021. Here are two similarities:
Pet Spending Increases During Recessions
In 2008, as people had less certainty in terms of earnings, spending, and budget, people held off on big purchases (expensive vacations and other luxuries) and instead put their spending on their pets. And, rather than get cheaper with their pets (buying lower-cost food, reducing veterinary care, buying less toys and accessories), spending in these categories increased.
The “Dog Parent” Generation
Millennials continue to trend towards having less kids (or delaying), and in their place, more dogs. Survey after survey shows that pet dog owners get a lot of joy out of spending on toys, treats, clothing, and experiences for their pet dogs. An important part of that is investing time and money for enrichment of their dog’s quality of life – for which training and mental stimulation is a crucial part of the equation.
And finally, here are two trends that are unique to 2021 that make the pet industry poised for even more growth than previous recessions:
Work from Home/Work from Anywhere
A common reason for people to delay getting a dog is being away from home for long hours. Previously, that would altogether prevent people from getting a dog, or require considerable budget for daytime care options (typically dog walkers or dog daycares). With the shift to work from home/work from anywhere, this primary barrier is removed for many and has caused a major increase in the demand and purchasing of pet dogs.
The second unique characteristic of 2020 and 2021 is the continued reduction in global travel/tourism due to the pandemic. If you’re not going to be travelling around the world for 4-6 weeks this year, or possibly the next two, for many, now’s the time to get that dog you’ve always wanted.
For all these reasons, I think it’s safe to say the demand for training and enrichment-related products and services for pet dogs is going to continue to grow into 2021 and beyond – and if you’ve been thinking about a career change, now’s the time to make the move.
Going back to 2009, when it was time for me to go all-in, I invested in taking the six-month long Dog Trainer Professional program with the Karen Pryor Academy to earn my KPA Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) designation. Taking a comprehensive program is crucial, as too many self-taught dog trainers (that these days just watch YouTube videos) are missing crucial details that often make their advice ineffective, or harmful. It also acts as a signal to the market that you’re the real thing.
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program in Toronto – Spring 2021
One thing that is very different than 2009 though – I am pleased to announce that the flagship Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program will be available locally here in Toronto! Back in 2009, you either had to travel to Ottawa or Upstate New York to take it. In 2020, as I joined the Karen Pryor Academy as a faculty member, we’ll now be running it out of When Hounds Fly starting Spring 2021.
I remember clear as day – it was around the completion of Workshop 2 that I began looking for commercial space for our first location – which we still have to this day at 1108 Dundas Street West – so that we’d open roughly as I was completing the Karen Pryor Academy program.
Since that time, I have seen countless pet dog owners in group classes, or privately 1-on-1. I’ve helped dozens of shy puppies come of their shell, helped many struggling owners get a handle on their rambunctious teenagers, and helped lost, desperate owners struggling with some very serious issues get some relief and see success.
I haven’t always been able to help everyone have a successful outcome, but I know that the vast majority of times, I’ve been able to help achieve our mission of strengthening relationships between a dog and their owner.
Over ten years after the start of my journey, I am excited about the opportunity to pay it forward and help the next generation of positive reinforcement dog trainers!
The KPA DTP program is for dog trainers that wish to take their clicker training knowledge to the next level. Veterinary staff (vet techs and veterinarians alike) and pet care professionals (dog walkers, dog daycare staff) with a strong interest in clicker training also benefit from this program.
About the Author
Andre Yeu is the founder of When Hounds Fly. He is one of only two Canadians to be part of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy Faculty.
In Spring 2021, he’ll be teaching Karen Pryor Academy’s flagship Dog Trainer Professional (DTP) program in Toronto. The DTP program is regarded by many as the gold standard for dog training in the industry.