The Power of Pack Walks

During my years as a dog trainer I’ve tried a lot of different things to bring in more clients. I’ve tried the things that work for many other small business, done some things very specific to dog training and also taken a stab at some very unique and creative ways to spread the word about me and my business. At this point I feel I have a pretty good idea at what works and what doesn’t for this crazy business of dog training.

Traditional advertising and promotion is pretty much useless for us dog trainers. This knowledge only comes to me after spending a good chunk of my hard earned cash giving things like newspaper ads and posting flyers a try. What does work time and time again is getting out in the public and giving away stuff for free. What you give away can vary depending upon what your strengths and likes are, but I personally like to do a little bit of everything.

My favorite way to show some good will to the dog loving community and to showcase my business is to do free pack walks. I started doing these a few years ago and the response to this simple service is unreal – it’s by far the most requested thing I do.

It’s so simple, yet so powerfully helpful to the dogs and people involved (and just plain fun to boot).

I’ve seen many trainer do group walks but I’ve never seen anyone do it like I do. Other trainers often require that people only bring well behaved dogs to the walks, where I prefer reactive, anxious and grumpy dogs.

The reason I like the bad boys to attend is that walking dogs together in a group is the single best way to help dogs achieve a calm state of mind in the presence of what normally causes them to react. By keeping dogs moving together you unify them, bond them as pack mates, and give them a non-confrontational positive experience around people and dogs (two of the biggest triggers of reactivity).

The reason the walks work so well is because it’s a completely controllable situation and I’m able to take the time necessary to work a dog into a different state of mind. This is a near impossibility in the real world where the environment is so unpredictable. Also the walk is a very therapeutic thing for a dog and one of their favorite things to do.

When you move a dog’s body forward, their mind’s goes along for the ride.

That’s why pack walks are great for the dogs, but the bonus is that they are also great for your business. First off, they get you out in the public eye. Let me tell you, nothing gets attention like 20+ dogs cruising the park walkways together. You’ll draw many a confused look and maybe a few who will actually join your walk.

Second, it helps you get to know people that you would not have normally come into contact with. Many of the people who attend my walks are not my clients, but are just people who heard about the walks and wanted to check it out. Along the walk you can introduce yourself and let them get to know you a bit. This alone will get you a bunch of referrals – and from people who have never used you as a dog trainer and you would never have met.

Lastly, it sets you apart from the other dog trainers and provides a great service to your existing client base. They will love that you take the time to walk with them and help them work with their dogs, turning them from regular clients into raving fans.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJl8NCMCDPA&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Okay, now that you see the benefits let me give you the specifics on how I run my pack walks.

  1. Reactive dogs are not only welcome but preferred.
  2. You do not bring your dog but instead orchestrate everything, help people with leash walking and talk to everyone (don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards).
  3. Make sure every dog is on a 4 or 6 foot leash – no retractable leashes allowed (they are the work of the devil).
  4. Everyone has to respect the other dogs personal space.
  5. You select the walking order and move dogs around as you need to in order to help the more reactive dogs.
  6. Stop every 5 – 8 minutes and have every get their dogs on a relaxed leash before moving on.

The coolest thing about pack walks is watching the reactive dogs start to settle in and get into the rhythm of the walk, one by one. Calm energy is contagious and the walk really helps dogs achieve that nice, calm state of mine. Just instruct people to keep their dog’s eyes forward while moving and work to keep the leash relaxed.

I can’t tell you how many people have almost left at the meeting area because their dog was barking and lunging, but then thanked me in amazement at how well their dog did on the walk. It’s pretty cool stuff.

So get out there and give it a try. Don’t feel like you need to have a large group to make this work – even a handful of dogs can be beneficial and make a difference to both the dogs and your business.

Happy walking!

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Leave A Reply (9 comments so far)


  1. Heather Hamilton
    5 years ago

    Wow cool! I think I’ll try this!


  2. Heather Hamilton
    5 years ago

    Also, I just finished reading all your posts on here, and I’m watching all the free videos. You said you were going to post more on how you run your pack walks. Can you do a video on that? I really want to do a pack walk, but I’m pretty new, and haven’t really dealt with reactive dogs yet (or aggression). I can easily avoid a confrontation if I have the dog, but if a client has it, and it gets away, it’s something I’m not currently comfortable with- as I might have to break up a fight.

    I can’t wait to see this video!


    • admin
      5 years ago

      Great idea Heather. I’ll try to film my next pack walk and make a video on how I do it, them post it here.


  3. Donna
    3 years ago

    If I read it correctly, ONLY those who have taken a class or private lessons may participate in the Pack Walk this Saturday?


    • Fern
      3 years ago

      Donna – this post is from a few years back.


  4. Rita
    3 years ago

    Hi there. I LOVE your idea but couldn’t get anyone on board! How do you get people to show up!? Thanks in advance.


  5. Eve Wrest
    2 years ago

    Hi Fern!

    I have been listening to your Podcast for a while now and love it! I’m not a dog trainer but would love to partner with a great trainer I know to offer a pack walk (s). How did you get the word out for your first walk? How long was the walk? Did you need a permit from the city?

    Thanks!
    Eve


    • Fern
      2 years ago

      Hey Eve.

      Thanks so much for listening. My pack walks started out as mostly my clients so I just had to email my client list and would get a bunch of people each time. If you don’t have an existing fan base I would use social media and advertise in some local dog businesses. It will take some time to get some word of mouth generated. You can also create a meet up via http://www.meetup.com (I know of a few people who use that and it’s worked out nicely). My walks were about 45 min. I personally never got a permit, however I think it depends on how strict your municipality is with that kind of thing. Good luck!

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