A lot of people baby their dogs, but how many teach them how to use iPads?
That’s exactly the skill that Anna Jane Grossman’s School for the Dogs is bestowing on its canine charges.
Grossman, a lifelong New Yorker, was a journalist for over half a decade before following her passion and becoming a dog trainer. She tells CNN about her extraordinary career path.
“I used to have fun training my own dog to do tricks,” Grossman says. “I remember when we were kids, my mom brought in a dog trainer who said ‘you’re really good at this.’”
“But at the time it seemed like someone saying you could grow up and be a plumber, it didn’t seem to me like something one would aspire to do,” she adds.
Grossman’s career changing moment came after the financial crisis of 2008, when many editors she worked for as a freelance journalist lost their jobs and publications slashed their budgets.
“The pool of freelancers out there grew because so many people were laid off and I think I just didn’t have the hustle in me anymore,” she says.
So Grossman agonized over what her next professional step should be.
“I kept in coming back to the thought that I really like dogs – talking to people about their dogs and hanging out with my dog – and wouldn’t it be cool if I could somehow make a living doing just that?”
Making the change
Grossman took a six months long dog training course, which she says was crucial in steering her in the right direction.
“I really knew nothing going in, I was lucky to find my program. The training that I do is really science based. It’s all about using positive reinforcement effectively and it really jibes with who I am as a person,” she says.
“As soon as I stared this training I thought, clearly this is what I should be doing with my life. Everything clicked into place.”
Dogs on iPads
Being a seasoned journalist, Grossman had a fairly good idea of how to generate buzz, which is where the notion of teaching dogs to use iPads came from.
“I wanted to show people that you can do this seemingly amazing thing with your dog very easily, that having your dog touch a tablet with their nose is a fun exercise which uses the same building blocks as when dealing with really serious problems such as aggression, anxiety or teaching your dogs to walk nicely.”
“I worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I worried to some extent about the opinions of my journalist colleagues. But the irony is once I made the switch and I started to tell people what I was doing the response was always ‘oh my God that’s so cool’, “she says.
Grossman was also concerned about how she would make a living. But she found strength from partnering with a fellow aspiring dog trainer who had left her job as a graphic designer, and was in the same boat trying to carve out a new profession.
“I think that working together we were able to encourage and help each other figure out how to turn this thing that we believed in into a business. We did a lot of learning and continue to do a lot of learning together,” she says.