Trainer Networking Groups
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers, APDT, is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. In order to help facilitate trainer education and professional growth, we are providing a listing of "trainer networking groups." Whether you're an experienced trainer or a "newbie," having a group of colleagues to bounce business ideas off of, discuss cases with, collaborate on community projects, or simply to enjoy the company of like-minded individuals, belonging to a trainer networking group can be an invaluable experience. If there's no group in our area, we have provided some helpful guidelines on how to form a group.
If you would like to have your group listed, please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org – Group Name, Group Web Site, Region Covered, Number of Members, Is APDT Membership Required?, Membership Requirements, Profile of Group, Location of Meetings, Discussion Topics, and Main Contact(s).
Why Form a Trainer Networking Group?
There are several reasons to form a trainer networking group in your area:
- Education - As we all know, you can’t have two dog trainers in the same room and not learn something! Dog trainers are passionate about their work and determined to share and learn. Getting a group of trainers together can be a great way to learn from each other, as well as participate in learning opportunities such as discussing books and DVDs as well as “real life” cases, or having a speaker come in and talk to your group.
- Networking - A Trainer Networking Group gives its members an opportunity to let each other know what they are doing in their business, which creates an excellent referral network. Meeting face-to-face allows you to see the people that you are referring clients to, and vice versa, and builds up your knowledge base of the types of services and specialties in your area.
- Support - Most dog trainers work alone and it can be a very lonely business. Trainer Networking Groups give like-minded people a chance to get together, talk, vent and learn. No one understands the problems a dog trainer has better than another dog trainer! Having a chance to get together and unwind (perhaps over some cookies and chips!) can help to stave off burnout and alleviate stress.
- Community Service - There are many ways in which Trainer Networking Groups can participate in community activities to help further education among the public. Some groups choose a particular group or activity which they focus on, such as sponsoring a local shelter or 4-H group; other groups participate in community fairs, promote CGC testing, hold classes for local shelters, etc. Participating in community service is also an excellent way to promote your business services.
How to Form a Trainer Networking Group
There are no “rules” for Trainer Networking Groups, however some groups currently in existence are very successful and we have polled them to see what their secrets for success are.
- Trainer Networking Groups begin with a core group of members. The responsibilities are divided and ideas bounced around about the group’s structure and activities.
- Trainer Networking Groups are comprised of trainers living and working in a specific area. The size of your group largely depends upon the number of trainers in your area. It is up to the members of each group to decide how large they want to be and how large of a territory they want to cover.
- A very important issue, and one that must be decided prior to starting the group is: who will be allowed to join the group?
- Only one group polled limits its membership to APDT members.
- Some groups invite only positive trainers, whereas other groups invite everyone. The groups that are open to all trainers find that, through attrition, they were generally comprised of positive trainers.
- Most groups allowed non-trainers (pet-sitters, groomers, etc) who are in the dog business to join their groups.
- Most groups allow members to bring guests to their meetings. (Remember, guests are potential members!)
- It is a good idea to discuss how new members will be invited early on-that way, if a guest expresses interest in joining, you can give a non-committal answer which explains your new-member policy.
Meeting Scheduling and Location
- Of the groups polled, most met at restaurants, the local shelter, or a training club on a monthly basis.
- The groups felt that a neutral location was important.
- One group felt that changing locations kept their group alive and successful.
- The Carolina Trainer’s Forum meets quarterly, because their group encompasses both North and South Carolina. They meet less often for a longer period of time. The distance members have to travel will influence the frequency of your meetings – if all of your members are located in a relatively small area, it will be easier to have more frequent meetings due to the shortened travel distance compared to a group that has members spread out over a wide geographic area.
- The day and time and length of the meetings varied in the poll. The groups attempt to accommodate their members as much as possible.
- One group meets on a quarterly basis and meets mid-morning through mid-afternoon on Sunday. Another meets monthly and has 9 lunch meetings and 3 dinner meetings each year; they feel that most members should be able to make a traditional 12-1pm lunch meeting and the 3 dinner meetings accommodate those who cannot make a lunch meeting.
- All the groups have food at the meetings. Some groups have a potluck system, while others meet at a restaurant and order off the menu. Your core group members will make the decision how the food is arranged. The general consensus is that food is essential for a successful group.
Trainer Networking Group Organization
- Most of the groups had an agenda that they follow. The agenda is usually sent with an e-mail notice of the meeting.
- Some groups have member(s) that are in charge of creating the agenda; other groups ask for ideas at the end of the current meeting.
- The structure of each group varies, however they all seem to have a short social period while members arrive, then a meal.
- Some groups discuss their agenda issues while eating; others carry the social time over through the meal and discuss their agenda items after the meal.
- None of the groups have a formal organization with by-laws, officers, etc.
- One group does collect dues and sends out minutes.
- All the groups feel that informality is necessary for a successful group.
- One group has a “red paw” which is used for more active discussions and only the person holding the red paw can speak; however this is not used all the time.
- Most groups do not have a formal structure, but feel that having an open, non-judgmental structure helps. All the groups require their members to be civil and polite to each other.
- One of the groups polled has a yearly questionnaire for their members to complete so that other members know whom to refer clients.
- All of the successful groups have an educational focus for each meeting.
- For trainers who have their Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) designation, regional groups can also offer continuing education units (CEUs).This is very beneficial for those trainers who have a difficult time attending seminars due to time and money constraints. Other certifying organizations can offer CEUs for trainer educational group activities so check with your certifying body for more information.
- Please note, it will be necessary for each group to work directly with the CCPDT regarding CEUs. CEUs are not granted through the APDT.
- Trainer Networking Groups can also help new trainers get off on the right foot. This can take the form of formal education through the group’s educational program, a question and answer period at a meeting, as well as having experienced trainers available that a new trainer feels comfortable calling for help.
This is just the beginning of setting up a Trainer Networking Group. Please remember that you can contact any Trainer Networking Group or the APDT for further information. You can also visit the APDT Barkboard Trainer Networking Group section for feedback from other group members on group ideas and activities.
If you have a Trainer Networking Group set up and have non-APDT members attending, you can contact the APDT Communications Office to get copies of The APDT Chronicle of the Dog and membership information flyers to hand out to promote APDT membership.
If you are a member of a group, or are looking for help in forming one, you can also visit the APDT Barkboard and go to the "All Things APDT" forum. There is a forum inside for the discussion of networking groups.