Holly's Response to the Annual Survey
Firstly, I'd like to start by thanking everyone that completed my annual survey. It is invaluable information to me to see how I'm doing and what I need to do to improve, so again, Thank you.
This is the first year that I am writing a response blog Question and Answer/Comment and Response styles and I hope that you will take the time to read it - it is longer than my usual posts, but I think it's worth it! All survey responses are confidential, so I don't know who wrote what (though some of them I can make a good guess). So if you have any further comments or questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. I value open communication with all of my clients - it is something I am very aware of and work on all the time - so I would appreciate the opportunity to communicate more with you!
Future Blog Topic suggestions
1. Not a suggestion but a comment instead. I like that topics are related to your personal experiences and journey as a dog walker, small business owner, daughter, etc
This comment actually brought a tear to my eye - not at all joking. I often wonder where the line between professional and personal should lie and am very aware of which side I'm standing on. I am sometimes hesitant to share personal experiences with my clients for fear of "not being professional", or for "over-sharing".
However, I recently came to the realization that I value good, personal relationships with my clients just as much, or more than, a good, professional one (and let me be clear - I value a professional attitude A LOT). When asked what I want to accomplish with my business, the answer is 1) To provide a kick-ass dog walking service that you can completely trust, and 2) to create a space where a meaningful relationship can blossom between you, your dog and your dog walker.
I can easily write an essay about each one of your dogs, but the fact that I have developed relationships with many of you to the point of asking how you are, asking about your family or your trip, and even sharing aspects of my own life with you - that to me is hugely fulfilling. And I would not have gotten to this place without my personal journey through being with your dogs, being a small business owner, an individual, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a sister, a partner.
So thank you for being on this journey we call Life with me.
2. 5 min training games we can play with our dogs at home (things like the collared scholar puts out!)
I'll let you in on a little secret - This was my contingency plan for if I had to go into self-isolation. BUT, that hasn't been the case (yet anyway, fingers crossed and hands washed!). When thinking about what 5min little videos I would put out though, I believe that they would be more focused on building tools and skills that you could easily apply to the outside world.
For example: how to practice good on-leash walking at home with varying levels of distraction, how to build a long sit-stay, how to build up giving your dog commands from afar, how to play tug-a-war or fetch while building obedience, how to build attentiveness, etc.
So, I would absolutely love to do a series of videos. Just let me add an 8th day to the week..... Or teach me how to manage my time better. But it is now on the radar and thank you for the suggestion!
1. Dog and puppy photos would be uplifting at this time.
I wholeheartedly agree! I am notoriously bad at taking awesome candid shots of the pack when we are out for our walks. I have been making an effort to pull my camera phone out more though, and I am hoping to include lots of more photos on both my Facebook page and Instagram page (account? can it be called a page? #idontknowhowtousesocialmedia )!
Thanks for the reminder and suggestion.
Would you be interested in a dog walking service with a strong emphasis on training exercises?
This was one of the questions on the survey with a scale sliding from "extremely interested" to "not at all interested", but there was a question about this question that I would like to address (a question about this question I would like to address.... sounds like a line from a rap. New career?).
During the branding process, a business owner is really pushed to explore what makes their business different than its competitors. Other than the obvious (I don't do straight off-leash walks) I struggled with what I actually do that makes me, well me. I was walking a pack in Strathcona on a Thursday morning when the answer came to me - I actively, and I mean ACTIVELY, work with each dog on their obedience, attentiveness, patience and energy levels. To me, this means that I am actively working on each dog's training.
So over the past couple of months, I've been trialling a new concept where I take a little time out of each walk to work on a Pack Training Exercise. That may mean taking some extra time to work on a long sit-stay, practice sits and downs individually or as a group, practice accepting treats in a calm manner, and getting creative with how I can push each dog's abilities just a little more than I normally would.
So to answer your questions, when I ask if you are interested, I'm really gaging whether my clients are appreciative of what I have been more actively practicing over the last couple of months.
I am relieved (phew!) that my clients have been very appreciative and I've received tons of comments and testimonials to reflect it.
What is your favourite part of what we do?
This again was an open-ended question placed to you to give me some feedback as to where my efforts are appreciated and where they aren't so much.
Overwhelmingly, the most appreciated part of my business is the walk reports. I, admittedly, sometimes take them for granted as just something that happens. Of course, I'm going to fill out a walk report! That's where the accountability part of the business comes. Of course, I'm going to show you that we actually went for a walk, that your dog was actually in the pack and that your dog did their business (or didn't).
But, it is a really great reminder to me that not all companies do walk reports, it is something that sets me apart. It is also a great reminder that the walk reports are my primary point of communication with all of you. To further what I said before, communication is absolutely key. I will continue to give great reports and I hope to make them even better by taking more time to thoughtfully give you a better report on your dog's time with the pack (and also take more pictures, LOL).
As for the other great perks of Silver Jet: compostable poop bags, charity donations, guaranteed walk times and high quality walks - those perks aren't going anywhere because they directly reflect my values as a small business. I hope that I can develop even greater things in the future.
What would you like to see from Silver Jet Dog in the future?
1. More social walk updates! Instagram, bloopers, pics!
I think I need a lesson on how to use Instagram... ;D But I will definitely make an effort to take more photos - and even post them LOL!
2. Would it be a fair goal to get some sort of accreditation? That would boost reputation. Also, give you the chance to take on other walkers.
YES! Getting some sort of accreditation has been on my very long "look into it and maybe do it" list. It will require some more research on my end as to whether a good course is better than getting accredited or vice versa. And of course, finding the best place to take the course! It has officially been moved up on my list!
Just to fill you in on a bit of my background, I have actually worked as a dog training assistant here in Calgary, and have worked at one of the best dog daycares in the city. All of my knowledge has come from studying with great trainers in the Calgary area, reading lots of books, watching a lot of videos and working hands-on with dogs.
Over the last 3 years, my "toolbox" of techniques and approaches has grown substantially through experience. I have created my own approach through a mishmash of what I've been taught and what I've learned through experience. One of my (very) long term goals is to write a book. Something along the line of "10 steps to a better dog and a better you" (working title LOL). But I strongly believe that a very large portion of training dogs is to be able to look inside yourself and 1) evaluate your emotions and reactions and 2) practice awareness and mindfulness with your dog.
All that to say - I would love to take a course to boost my knowledge and add to my toolbox. And I would love to take my new-found knowledge and apply it to my pack and to my life. And I would love to take my experience and pass my knowledge onto every one of you guys!
3. The second part of that last comment: give you the chance to take on other walkers.
As many of you know, many months ago I was trying to hire another walker. That attempt failed (obviously). However, I'm going to try again!
I've done a lot of soul searching and letting my thoughts and emotions around the idea of hiring somebody pan out. I mean that quite literally - I imagine all my ideas about what hiring someone would look like being put into a gold pan and then letting all the non-important and unhelpful beliefs fall back into the water until I'm left with what is actually important and viable.
So, here is me announcing that I AM HIRING! I posted an add on Facebook and will post a blog as well. So if any of you know a super amazing individual who would love to work with dogs and would love to learn from me, then send them my way!
Thanks for making it to the end of this mega post - I hope it was informative for you! And Thank you all so much for filling out the survey and saying such wonderfully thought-provoking things.
I can't thank you all enough.
Until next time, happy trails.
Holly, Duke and Jax