Changing Pet Training – For Good.
By: Megan Stanley | Dogma Training
Today’s part of my story began when a young black dog came into my life. He was the first dog I adopted as an adult and became my guide on the incredible journey of opening dogma. I had no idea how much my life was going to change when I welcomed this sweet, but troubled, pup into my life. I first met Guinniss when seeking out a new dog at Calgary Animal Services. He was sitting quietly and extending his paw through the bars to place in my hand.
We connected immediately, and I made the decision to adopt him. Taking him out on a walk, I quickly learned that Guinniss was terrified of the world. And he showed his fear through lunging, barking and over-the-top reactivity. I had just started in the dog training world and at the time there were limited options to help dogs like Guinniss. And the ones that did exist, consisted of punishment and brutal methods. He was viewed as aggressive, but I knew the sweet dog at home just needed to be shown that the world was not a scary place.
Guinniss became my greatest teacher.
Through my work with him, I realized that society’s relationship with dogs was very one-sided. The lack of knowledge on dog communication and only looking at things through our perspective was damaging dogs. To top it off, while seeking a place to take Guinniss, the options were limited. Every place was owned by well-intentioned dog lovers, but their lack of formal training in canine communication and behaviour, along with putting large groups of dogs in with only one unskilled worker, was having adverse effects on dogs and their families. And with no regulation in the industry, anyone could open a facility or call themselves a dog trainer and apply dangerous and archaic methods which were putting dogs and people at risk.
The industry needed improvement and my work with Guinniss gave me the inspiration and drive to start dogma. I formalized my training and obtained my CPDT-KA designation (Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed) and went on to be one of the first of four people in Canada to obtain my CBCC-KA (Certified Behaviour Consultant Canine, Knowledge Assessed). I committed to showing Guinniss that the world was safe, working at his pace and using food to help him gain a positive association with the things that frightened him.
As I watched him step bravely out to overcome his challenges, he inspired me to follow my heart and drive change in the dog training and care industry. He became my champion and canine co-founder of dogma.
I opened dogma to lead meaningful change and improve the lives of dogs and the people who love them. Education is the core of my business and we have set the standard of care and training for dogs through having strict capacity limits, the lowest staff-to-dog ratio, the highest trained staff and stringent safety and cleaning protocols. Currently, we see upwards of 150 dogs per day in our exclusive day school, private training and group classes. We also create the dog trainers of tomorrow through dogma Academy that provide quality training to help further elevate dog training in Calgary. We’ve been able to raise the standard of training in our city, but still have a lot of work ahead.
I’ve built my business through purpose over profit and have been lucky to enough to assemble a team of committed and compassionate individuals who share my same goals and vision for our industry.
All of our decisions are made to ensure the overall well-being of each dog and that is never compromised for convenience or money. Dogs may be our focus, but we believe that we have a far greater responsibility. We are a green business, promote a cruelty-free lifestyle, serve only plant-based food at team events, host events and provide training programs that support local businesses in Calgary and provide free resources and access to our training programs to animal-related non-profits who commit to reward-based training methods. We all feel that our responsibility as a business is to make the world a better place for people and animals.
I am grateful for my team and provide the only full-time salaried dog-training with a wide-range of unique perks and opportunities for personal and professional development. I truly believe that you should love what you do and I take my responsibility seriously of providing a positive workplace with the opportunity to learn, grow and make a difference. We’ve become more of a family and it is incredible to have a team that shares my vision.
It has not been an easy journey, but I never expected it would.
I have learned so much and have outlined a few things I think are important for a business that’s focused on social good.
- Know Your Why: This is not just a cliché. It’s your passion. It’s what gets you up in the morning and what keeps you fighting. There will be times where you will feel like giving up and that no one cares, but your passion will keep you pushing. Know your why and keep it in front of you.
- Take Care of Yourself: Surround yourself with like-minded people and other entrepreneurs. It can be lonely, so this support is critical. Practice self care and take care of your physical and mental health. Working in certain industries can put you at a higher risk for compassion fatigue, so be sure to know the signs and have a plan to prevent this.
- Practice Resilience: Being an entrepreneur is not easy and fighting to drive change can be even more challenging. It’s going to be tough, but do not give up and remember your why. You will fail and make mistakes. Understand that this is normal and part of the process.
- Hire the Right People: Your employees represent your business. Know your core values and ensure they match them. You can teach any skills, but cannot teach values. When they match these, you will be able to accomplish great things as a team.
- Know Your Numbers – Do good, focus on your why and invest in your people. But you still need to have a financially healthy business. Track your numbers and ensure you are still making a profit. You won’t be able to drive any change if your business cannot continue due to lack of money.
In today’s world, we need more people building businesses that lead positive and meaningful change.
Social good is not a trend or gimmick. It’s an evolution.
We can make ethical and responsible choices, give back and be successful. The world is changing. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be leading that than falling behind. Get out there and do what fires you up! Life is too short. Live your dream.
Owner, dogma Training & Pet Services Inc.
Megan Stanley is a driven female business owner working to support other female entrepreneurs and create regulations in the pet care and training industry. Megan oversees more than twenty employees at two locations in Calgary. Dogma offers dog daycare, training and a dog trainer apprenticeship program. Learn more at www.dogmatraining.com