Bennett, P. C., Cooper, N., Rohlf, V. I., & Mornement, K. (2007). Factors influencing owner satisfaction with companion-dog-training facilities. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 10(3), 217-241.
Research Questions: Among people currently attending dog-training schools in Melbourne, Australia, what are their reasons for attending, their expectations prior to training, their training experiences, and the factors contributing to their satisfaction with these experiences?
Study Sample: Study participants were adults with at least one canine companion currently attending a Melbourne dog-training school (N = 178). Participants were between 19 and 78 years old and were mostly female (143 females; 35 males). Recruitment was facilitated by dog-training business representatives who distributed study materials to clients and through newspaper advertisements.
Methodology: The authors developed a questionnaire to be completed either online or in hard-copy format. The questionnaire was comprised of seven sections. The first three collected basic demographic information on the respondents, their canine companions currently in training, and the facility at which they were receiving their training. The fourth section asked respondents to recall the degree to which their dog had exhibited certain behaviors prior to training; this was measured on a 5-point scale from “never” to “very often”. The fifth section queried respondents on their expectations prior to beginning training classes by asking them to rank the importance of certain statements on a 5-point scale from “not at all important” to “extremely important.” The sixth section re-worded the expectation questions and asked participants to comment on their actual experiences using a 5-point scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Finally, the seventh section of the questionnaire asked respondents to rate their satisfaction with their training experiences and the likelihood they would continue training at their current facility or recommend it to a friend.
Findings: The majority of study participants (83.7%) reported acquiring their dog for the purpose of companionship. Participants reported choosing a training facility primarily on the basis of location (66%), types (58%) and times (42%) of classes offered, and personal recommendations (41%). Their dog’s pre-training behavior was not ranked as a particularly important factor in a participant’s decision to enroll in dog-training. Overall, participants reported that it was important for their dog to become more obedient (stay and come on command), to have good manners around food, and to be less excitable around unfamiliar humans and dogs. Participants also reported wanting to become more proficient in general handling techniques. Most participants reported feeling that their training objectives had been met; however, results indicate respondents reported only marginal change in their dog’s behavior. Ultimately, the authors found that what was most important to participants was that their instructors were friendly and well-trained, the school provided a range of socialization and training opportunities, and that participants could improve their own handling and training skills. The authors conclude that these findings suggest dog-training schools should offer a range of courses and encourage professional development opportunities to continue to attract and maintain clients.
Limitations: The primary limitation of this study is that reported data were dependent on survey respondent recall and are reflective of the respondent’s subjective opinion of their and their dog’s pre-training and post-training abilities as opposed to objective measures. Additionally, all respondents were currently attending training classes and voluntarily agreed to take part in this study. Thus, the study sample is likely biased toward participants more dedicated and satisfied in their dog-training activities than the average client; results may not be representative of all dog-training clients in the Melbourne, Australia area.
Summary by Katie Lynn Murtough