Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet training but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Hazel Johnson, Founder of caniAmis, located in Rancon, Nouvelle Aquitaine, France.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm a dog reactivity specialist. I'm English but based in France, so my face-to-face clients come from my local area; however, I operate globally online and have a very European clientele. These are typically individuals whose dogs present with one or more behaviour challenges, such as barking and lunging at other dogs, pulling on lead, jumping up at visitors, having difficulties when left home alone, or who don't travel well in vehicles. Often, by the time the owners find me, they are at their lowest ebb, having tried many different forms of training which, for one reason or another, have not worked for their dog. I'm the last chance saloon for many dogs, which is reflected in my motto: Play together – Stay together.

My clients are often surprised to find that it's not me who trains their dogs! I simply support them to train their dogs themselves in their own homes and environments using the games-based method of training. This method identifies gaps in a dog's skill set that is responsible for its behaviour. The gaps are filled by playing quick fun games at home that encourage the dog to make great behaviour choices in real life.

Tell us about yourself

Strangely enough, I'd been afraid of dogs my whole life until I relocated to France in 2016 and decided to adopt a Jack Russell. His story kept popping up in my social media feed, and I found myself unable to ignore his plight. I guess you could say that he found me! He really wasn't what we were expecting at all, though. To say he had every behaviour struggle under the sun is an understatement! I didn't know anything about dogs. I'd never had a dog and had no idea how to train him or help him. There were many days where I really wanted to take him back to the refuge, really dark days where I absolutely couldn't cope, and days where his difficult behaviour caused friction at home. It was bleak! But I'd made a commitment to Jack, and I was determined to help him.

I absolutely did not want to use force in my training. So it was in trying to find kind and respectful solutions to Jack's behaviour problems that I came across games-based concept training. Through this fun method, I grew my skills as an owner, Jack's competencies started to develop, and his behaviour slowly started to improve. My biggest motivation to start my business came from the nagging feeling that I couldn't bear the thought of another person or family struggling unnecessarily with their dog's behaviour. Having somebody to guide us through the training right from the day we brought Jack home from the refuge could have saved us so much heartache. I really wanted to make sure that I could offer that support to others. So when the opportunity to study to become a games-based concept trainer presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment happens every time I support a client on their journey from the depths of despair to the life they always envisaged when they got a dog in the first place. Training dogs who have behaviour issues isn't a quick or easy ride, and keeping owners motivated to keep going when they feel as though they could cheerfully throw in the towel can be really quite challenging, especially when working with clients at a distance. However, watching those dog-owner relationships grow and the dog's behaviour transform is the most rewarding aspect of my business. I have great respect for the clients I work with for their commitment, determination, and perseverance to bring about that change.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things I find is juggling everything. There always seems to be so much to do! With the online part of my business, the back end can be ridiculously time-consuming, which doesn't always leave as much time as I'd like to spend training my own dog or doing things I'd like to do with my family. I might spend an hour on an online call with a client, but the behind-the-scenes work to make that call happen and to make sure they have everything they need following the call can take at least another two hours! I do love what I do, though, even the administrative side of things, but it is a constant juggling act.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Focus on building an audience rather than selling if you are just starting out. It is difficult to sell a product or service if you don't have visibility. I've found that networking with others, particularly those related to my niche, is one of the most successful ways to do this.
  2. Invest in a reputable and proven business coach if your business is in the growing phase. Having the right coach for your business will arm you with everything you need to take your business to the next level and potentially steer you away from common mistakes, saving you both time and money in the longer term.
  3. Run your business with positivity and an abundance mindset. These qualities attract potential new clients and are the basis for a trusting relationship with them which will encourage them to choose to work with you. I always say that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a no-go! Creating an environment where people are compelled to go outside of what they can comfortably afford for fear of missing out on a product or an opportunity may bring you huge amounts of revenue, but it eventually destroys any relationship you have with your clients.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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