There's nothing unusual about a boy wanting a dog. Not every kid wants to train them, but Dorman Pantfoeder did.
"I’ve always had a passion for working with animals. When I was little, my mother read me the Dr. Doolittle books," Pantfoeder said. "Veterinarian was an option, but by the time I was in high school, the thought of more school didn't appeal to me. I wanted to be working with animals, hands-on."
When he was a boy living at home, his family bought a dog and took it for training.
"We went to the training facility, and the trainer pretended like he was holding the place up. The dog pounced and took control of the situation," he said. "After the staged enactment, the dog went around and made friends with everyone. My jaw dropped to the ground! I'm like, 'I’m in.'"
Pantfoeder went to work for the trainer in exchange for the education to become certified as a trainer himself. He focused on families with problem pets, helping them work with the dogs, often as a last resort before getting rid of the dog. That led to writing a book and his own training business.
"Between kennels and my own clients, I would have 10-plus dogs a month in rotation. Some of them would be mobile training, where I do it in the clients' home. Others would be in a camp setting with other dogs," he said. "Sometimes getting the dog away from its home and regular environment allows for faster training. The subtraction from the family and the behavior involved kind of reboots the dog."
Pantfoeder uses an uncomplicated approach.
"The conditioning that goes on creates patterns, and the patterns will be repeated," he said. "If the patterns aren't fun, certainly the dog will want to avoid them. That’s the whole theory of dog training."
That theory allowed Pantfoeder to re-brand his business, Good Dogs Training, after the recession. The pitch was, in essence — can’t afford not to train your dog.
"When the recession [hit], it was perceived that dog training was almost a luxury," he said. "We can show people that, actually, dog training is a really good investment."
Today, referrals are more important to Pantfoeder's business than before the recession.
Pantfoeder said, "I'm fortunate that I have a client base that knew the process. They knew that they were going to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by saving their furnishings!"
He's changed his advertising away from phone books to web ads.
"I've seen a big change since I've moved from working with the phone companies and gotten into more of a search engine mode," he said.
Pantfoeder published a guide some years ago for owners who've recently acquired a dog, and has been working intermittently on a second book that approaches the subject by thinking from the viewpoint of a dog. If your dog knows what’s expected of it, though proper training, everyone’s life will be better. And that, Pantfoeder says, makes dog training a good investment for families.
He said, "We're trying to put a more positive spin on engaging the dog."