Since 2006, the School for Dog Trainers has welcomed individuals from across the globe. These students arrive at one of our campus locations to further their understanding of canine behavior. Armed with this knowledge, they return home to pursue a career in the world of dog training – either as a trainer through an existing organization, or by setting up their own business.
The Master Dog Trainer Program is the most extensive program we offer at the School for Dog Trainers. This 24-week course covers all aspects of dog training, from the fundamentals of behavior to specialized training such as service dog and police dog training. The Master Dog Trainer program also provides best practices when it comes to growing your dog training business, including Business Week – where students spend time learning about branding and marketing strategies.
In the latest edition of our Graduate Showcase series, we spoke with Savannah Dean, a graduate of the Master Dog Trainer program. Savannah graduated as part of Class 56 in 2021, and then went on to start her own business – Dean’s List K9 Training.
Savannah told us about her business and its services; the challenges and rewards of starting her own business; and her advice for future graduates of programs at the School for Dog Trainers.
Savannah, please tell us a little about your business, the services you offer, and what separates you from your competition.
I offer private lessons where I will come to my client’s homes and provide a very hands-on type of program where the owners learn how to train their dogs themselves. I also offer board and trains where I do all of the up-front training for my clients, and I offer two different styles of group classes, one being for my puppies, and one being for my further along clients to be able to test their dog’s abilities in my advanced group classes.
I can be separated from my competition by my abilities to teach not only the dog, but also the people. I think it’s very important that the owners understand everything just as much as the dogs do. I have seen in many of my competitors, specifically with board and trains, that they seem to just train the dogs and hand them back, spending very little time making sure the owner actually understands how to properly maintain the training.
I also have seen in my area that board and trains are pushed heavily, and private lessons aren’t used as much – so I could say I separate myself by doing what package is going to best fit the client in front of me, instead of just taking the dog home and knowing that when the dog is given back, the training won’t stay strong.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background with dogs (growing up, prior to attending the course at Highland, etc.)?
My background with dogs started once I began working at a doggie daycare/boarding facility. I absolutely love being able to watch the dogs interact! At the time I was actually going to school to be a Veterinary Technician. As I was going through school I found myself being very drawn to the behavioral side of the classes. After a while, I decided to switch up my path and began doing research into where I could learn to train dogs. I then found myself at Highland Canine’s School for Dog Trainers where I got the opportunity to learn and work with dogs of all different breeds, temperaments, ages, sizes, etc.
I absolutely loved the process of starting at ground zero and teaching my assigned dog to do the skills given to me. I now have almost a year and a half of experience since graduating and I have learned so much within that time. I think the beauty of this career is that I have been – and will always still be – learning and seeing new things!
How did you first hear about Highland Canine/School for Dog Trainers?
I learned about Highland Canine Training through a YouTube video I stumbled upon.
Can you provide some insight into how your education at the School for Dog Trainers helped you to start your own business? How do you use what you learned in your day-to-day business activities?
Highland Canine Training and the School for Dog Trainers has helped me so much, to not only get the education I needed to have this career, but to also get it started.
When you first go out on your own it’s a little bit scary, however even after graduating, they have stayed available for me if I ever have any questions. I actually created my business name during Business Week at the school as an assignment. It stuck and is now officially my LLC. Highland Canine gave me the foundation for everything, so I use what I learned there every single day with my clients.
How easy (or difficult) did you find it to transition to running your own business?
Running my business was difficult in the beginning because there are a lot of different avenues you have to figure out on your own. For example, I had to contact a lawyer to get my contracts written up, I had to come up with a system that would work for me that I follow once I get contacted by a new client that goes from their inquiry to getting them into my system and then onto my books, and I had to do a lot with time managing and setting boundaries for myself so I did not burn myself out.
What is your favorite aspect of running your own business?
My favorite aspect by far of owning my own business is having the freedom to make my own schedule. I can work however much or little I want to. If I ever have a vacation, I don’t have to ask permission – I just block myself off.
Today's students at the School for Dog Trainers are graduating into an industry which is experiencing significant year-on-year growth. This obviously has many positives, but it also makes it a very competitive industry to be successful in. Do you have any advice for graduates who are thinking of starting their own business in this industry?
My advice for graduates is to learn how to teach people as well as the dogs proficiently. That was one of the biggest hurdles I conquered once I graduated. You have to remember that all people learn differently just like dogs do so you have to be able to teach them too.
Also, don’t forget to be kind to your competition, even if they aren’t kind to you. Being humble will take you far and your character will be judged by the public if you set the wrong precedent. You can learn something from everyone around you….yes, even new baby trainers!
What are your future aspirations for your business?
My future aspirations for my business are to grow it around my area, and hopefully add on other trainers as contractors around the area of Hampton Roads, VA!