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Case Study: Trainer

Caroline Spark
Business: City Dog Country Dog
What: Dog training and camps
Where: Portland and Yachats, OR

The challenges
  • New to marketing
  • Building a business in two geographic areas
  • Uncertain business vision



From humans to dogs
Dr. Caroline Spark had worked as a psychologist and counselor to humans for 25 years when her lifelong love for dogs began pulling her in a new direction. Fascinated by the recent shifts in dog training methodology, Caroline sought out education and training with John Rogerson and Karen Pryor, and others, earned a four-year diploma in Advanced Canine Behavioral Sciences with the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, and gained professional certification as a professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and a behavior consultant.

Counselors don’t often think of themselves as a brand, and so Caroline hadn’t given much thought to marketing her fledgling business. But a colleague convinced her to attend a business workshop at APDT led by dogtec founder Veronica Boutelle. Veronica’s advice to not give your services away for free hit home with Caroline. She’d been assisting at a Portland dog training facility, and volunteering her time with shelter and service dogs, picking up a client here and there. Despite her impressive credentials, she realized she wasn’t putting enough value on her knowledge and skills.

We helped Caroline focus her vision and create a concrete plan of action. We encouraged her to put herself at the center of her business so that it would grow up around her organically, based on her skills and fed by her true passions.

City or country?
Caroline lived in two places: an apartment in Portland, and a country property with 40 acres over three hours away in Yachats, Oregon. Having seen first-hand how her own dog’s behavior problems were helped by time in the city and the country, she wanted to do the same for other dogs, and to build a business that could thrive in both locations.

We helped her with branding, collaborating on the name of her business, “City Dog Country Dog” and its tagline: “Training Solutions for Busy Lives.” Next, Caroline looked long and hard to find the right designer, who brought her website to life, visually capturing the spirit of City Dog Country Dog. She had new business and rack cards printed, every piece aligned with her developed brand and services so that she wasted no money on reprints.

Our conversations with Caroline about how to build a business in both locations, and how to manage her time, culminated in the success of her brainchild, the Call of the Wild Dog Camp – a three-day weekend in the country for dogs and their people. With dog pro colleagues assisting, Caroline offered an extensive program featuring dog sports, nature games, training games, off-leash hikes, and creek paddling. Caroline wanted to give dogs a place where they could “be dogs,” and her gamble paid off; Dog Camp was a massive success, establishing her brand and niche, and within a year her business was taking off, bringing her more private clients in both locations, and attracting colleagues who wanted to help with future camps.

With her business growing, time became ever more limited, and Caroline turned to our Homework CD for use in her private consults. The prepared hand-outs saved her time in the short term, and provided a springboard for adding her own material later on.

Aside from Call of the Wild, Caroline’s business today focuses on in-home behavior consultations in both the city and the country. She offers group classes, vacation training, and a one-dog-at-a-time board and train in the country. Recently she started A Dog’s Dream, a nonprofit project that provides vacations for therapy and service dog teams, through Oregon Coast Therapy Animals.

Thinking big
Satisfied clients recommended Caroline to local vets who now send referrals to City Dog Country Dog. Caroline signed up for dogtec’s syndicated newsletter service, and she delivers her personalized newsletters in print form to the vet offices and sends it electronically to her growing email list, providing prospective and existing clients with fresh, informative content.

Throughout the consulting process, we encouraged Caroline to think big, to imagine that she could eventually surpass the income she’d made as a counselor, and within three years she’d done just that. She hired an intern and found a contract trainer to help with her growing business. Caroline calls her career switch the “best, best thing” she’s ever done.

“One of the best things about working with Veronica is that she helped me think bigger. Like I had my nose close to the ground with what I knew, and she helped me jump off into space.”

– Caroline Spark

Caroline’s Picks
Favorite dog-related websites

Favorite Publications
Whole Dog Journal
APDT Chronicle

Behavior Education Network

Favorite Workshops
Suzanne Clothier
Sue Ailsby
John Rogerson
Roger Abrantes
Ken Ramirez