I am a dog obedience instructor and live on an island north of Seattle in a rural community. We live on five acres and that is where I teach my classes, here at home. That brings me back to the first sentence; I am a dog obedience instructor. However, there is so much more to being a dog obedience instructor than just teaching the classes.
Last year we had a 30’ x 36’ indoor training facility built on our property. That involved being an architect and a contractor (my husband did most of that but I offered my support). Having the building has been great but we also had to paint the outside, insulate the inside, and we are still working on the drywall. Once the drywall is complete we will put our painting clothes on again and paint the inside.
Speaking of building, having an indoor facility has meant adding some agility equipment to enhance the games that I have been incorporating into classes. This involved the use of PVC piping and wood, which of course lead to the use of power tools. Now I must admit there is a feeling of getting the job done when you put on the tool belt, eye protection, and grab the power saw. (It is usually at this point that my husband comes out to check on what I’m doing.) Of course, that last step of any building project seems to be getting out that paint brush again.
Before clients walk inside of your building their first impression is of the grounds. This is true no matter where you teach your classes: your own property, training club, or public park. The grass should be kept cut, and to keep your students from getting covered with the grass clippings it works best if you bag the clippings as you cut. There should b no telltale signs of dogs in the area so have a scoop in plain view and check the area yourself regularly. If you train in a public area, pick-up any litter that is laying around. To enhance the appearance of your training area a well-kept flower bed is appealing. Since time is always a factor you don’t want to spend too much energy with weeding so make sure the beds have a nice covering of mulch to keep weeds to a minimum. My main flower bed is a perennial bed (the flowers come up every year) and consists of plants that grow well naturally in our northwest climate.
But before I head out to the training area I need to make sure I have an attractive business card placed at all the local groomers, veterinarians, and pet stores. I also need to place ads in the local newspaper, which has involved trying some different advertising techniques and seeing which is the most cost effective, eye catching, and brings in the most customers.
If I’ve done a good job with the above I’ll have to spend time at my desk answering the phone and scheduling classes. This is only one aspect of the office work involved. In order to keep track of students, lesson plans, and handouts I will need to do some filing. I’ve discovered over the years that it is best to file the student’s paper work under the dog’s name, since I seldom remember the people’s last name but I always remember the dog’s name.
A huge part of my office work involves my computer and a recent addition: the scanner/copier. I use the scanner from time to time but the copier feature of that piece of equipment has been invaluable. (I’m lucky because my husband works at home, too, as a technical writer for computer books so he is always handy to help me with the computer issues.) I use the computer to keep my lesson plans up-to-date and in order to create brochures and auxiliary handouts. Since it has taken years of work to create all of these documents I better make sure it is all backed up regularly.
After the classes have been taught I need to do something with the money I have collected. So while I am in my office I do the bookkeeping involved with running a business. I also need to keep track of the inventory I carry and place orders when needed. Once the order is delivered I price the products and restock the shelves.
Another after class activity is sweeping and sanitizing the training facility. I also sprinkle the building with borax as a flea control method from time to time. In the outdoor areas where dogs gather I use diatomaceous earth as a natural flea control product. Then I put away all the equipment we used for the games at the end of the class in preparation for the next classes.
So next time someone asks me what I do, to answer honestly, I might say, “I’m an instructional designer, writer, receptionist, bookkeeper, file clerk, graphic designer, custodian, groundskeeper, gardener, exterminator, architect, contractor, painter, salesperson, computer technician, and when I have time, a dog obedience instructor.”
©1996 Carol Cronan