Case Study

Say you’re a positive reinforcement dog trainer. You live in Dallas, Texas, home to a staggering concentration of wealth from oil, airline, banking, commerce, and technology industries. Your primary service areas are Frisco and Plano, two of the city’s most affluent suburbs. Here, mansion follows mansion. CEOs and VPs from Fortune 500 companies stroll the manicured lawns with purebred dogs—dogs that don’t always act with the Disney-like perfection called for by such exquisite surroundings.

This is a good market for a trainer—plenty of canines in need of manners (and attention) and owners with both the ability and willingness to pay—and predictably, you do quite well here. In such circumstances, it might be hard to imagine you would win much by becoming a certified Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training (VSPDT) trainer.

Kathrine Breeden imagined it, though. She had a thriving business of her own and was already a member of APDT, IAABC, and Truly Dog-Friendly, and a licensed Dogs & Storks presenter. She had built good word of mouth among clients and received a steady stream of referrals from groomers, sitters, and veterinarians. She had a website, a brochure, business cards, and a full skin on her car. And yet, when she saw in an APDT Chronicle of The Dogad that Victoria Stilwell had launched a certification program, Kathrine jumped at the chance.

Good thing she did. Within the first three months of Kathrine’s certification, her income went up by 50%. It has stayed at that level ever since.


Transplanted to Dallas from her native Britain through marriage, Kathrine, a lifelong animal lover who brought her horse with her when she moved to the US, started pursuing her interest in dog training during a four-year stint working at two different dog daycares. She devoured training books and videos on her own time, and began to see private clients in the evenings and on weekends. The owner of the daycare, wanting someone reliable to refer clients with unruly dogs to, alerted Kathrine to her first APDT conference in 2004.

There, Kathrine attended seminars from the likes of Patricia McConnell and Turid Rugas, and that was it. She was hooked. In 2005, she set up her own business, Be Kind To Dogs, quickly building a good reputation and a considerable client base. With a background in marketing and sales, she didn’t struggle, as many dog trainers do, with selling herself and her services. On the contrary. So why was she among the very first batch of trainers to receive VSPDT certification?

“I saw the potential,” Kathrine says. “I knew it would give me instant credibility and it has.” Case in point: After she began marketing herself as a VSPDT trainer, Kathrine’s conversion rate with new clients went from 85% to 98%. “For a lot of people, it seals the deal.”

As a former sales professional who meticulously tracks her own performance, Kathrine acknowledges that her conversion rate was high already. Which just makes the increase all the more impressive. Any sales pro will tell you that it’s hard to move the dial when you operate at that level. A percentage point or two is a big achievement, let alone thirteen. But the certification, according to Kathrine, does much of the selling for you.

“That’s the beauty of it. When you market yourself as a VSPDT trainer, people know what to expect. Effective training, straight talk, and humane techniques. People know Victoria and what she stands for, so you spend much less time explaining your methods or managing people’s expectations.”

A Marketing Bonanza

Add to that Victoria’s recognition factor, which Kathrine points to as a great help with her marketing efforts. “Victoria’s face and name are really well recognized. And the VSPDT program gives you a lot of freedom to use the Positively logo and photos of Victoria.”

Another thing Kathrine likes about the program is the amount of materials and options VSPDT members get to use for marketing support. So far, she has availed herself of the tri-fold brochure, T-shirts and polo shirts, logo, and fridge magnets. The announcement of her certification is the first thing that greets people on the Be Kind To Dogs website and she has JPGs on her bio page of both her certificate of membership in VSPDT and a personal letter of recommendation to animal care professionals from Victoria. The co-branding, she says, only strengthens her own brand.

“People have no problems understanding that I don’t work for Victoria Stilwell, but have been certified by her. And unlike most certifications, this one actually means something to the general public. They understand that you are positive only, no alpha rolls or macho stuff.”

Kathrine plans to capitalize even more on her connection with the VSPDT brand. Her car, already in a skin branded with her own business, will be co-branded when she next gives it a makeover. She is in the process of revamping her website and intends to display the VSPDT logo alongside her own in the website banner. She’ll be using more of the photos, too, and is working on a script for a 30-second video that Victoria will record for her (she will do that for any of her certified members). The video will sit on the home page, ready to greet visitors with a personal message about Kathrine. She also sees big potential for marketing herself with shelters. On her to-do list is the production of a co-branded banner and life-size cutout of Victoria for use at rescue benefits and other dog-related events. At least in her area, Kathrine says, Victoria’s appeal in rescue circles is sky-high.

“How better to stand out from all the other trainers who put their brochures or business cards up at shelters? People who adopt from shelters are very likely to have watched It’s Me or the Dog, so the certification has extra impact.”

As Kathrine sees it, she has only just begun to tap the power of the VSPDT brand. And the best part? It’s a question she doesn’t hesitate to answer. “I get to help spread the message about positive dog training. That’s what it’s all about for me. Being kind to dogs.”

Membership Benefits

  • Public association with Victoria
  • Listing on both and VSA website Trainer Search Engines
  • License to co-brand, rebrand or launch a business under the VSPDT brand name
  • Personalized email alias on the platform
  • Access to personalized marketing tools such as VSPDT-branded letterhead, envelopes, tri-fold brochures for vet offices and referrals, business gifts, notepads, business cards, car magnets, fridge magnets, and much more
  • Opportunity to be the featured guest on an episode of Victoria’s Positively Podcasts
  • An exclusive invitation to attend VSPDT forums with Victoria and her team
  • Check out the full list of member benefits

VSPDT Community

Members have access to the VSPDT Facebook group and Kathrine recommends it for trainers looking for tips, resources, and inspiration on how to market themselves. Members post pictures of marketing materials and promotions they have had produced, ask questions, and share ideas and results.

Ready to join the team? Click here.


“Being a member of the VSPDT family has been a tremendous asset to my business…” –Laura Clawson, ABCDT, Unleash the Pawsitive, Carrollton, GA



Find out how one dog trainer increased her income by 50% percent by adding the VSPDT factor to her marketing.



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