Go ahead, call Margie Wiesman a dog person.
After training dogs for more than 15 years as a volunteer with a local nonprofit -- and carrying credentials with the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), Therapy Pets Unlimited and the American Kennel Club -- Wiesman finally started her own dog training business in 2014. She did it at an age when most might happily jump into retirement, not jump into a new business venture.
The 67-year-old spoke with Name.Kitchen about the puppy passion behind her business, Island Dog Training (IslandDog.Training). She also explained why her business name evokes palm trees and beaches -- things not found in landlocked Huntsville, Ala.
So why start a business at 67?
My mom used to say, “Live life, every golden minute of it.” That’s really true. There’s so much to do!
Where does your love for dogs originate?
Actually, it comes from my father. My father loved dogs, and he was a true dog whisperer. He could take almost any dog and make it a fabulous animal and he never used aversive methods. He never struck his dogs. He always talked to them and I always thought, “When I have a dog, I want to do that.”
You’ve been around dogs your entire life, as a dog owner and more recently as a trainer. Do you consider yourself a dog whisperer?
I don’t like using [the title] "dog whisperer" because it is so closely associated with Cesar Milan. There are a lot of great expectations when you say that. Hopefully I do listen really well, and I think that really is what about with dogs is listening. Their body language will tell you everything you need to know about them if you just stop and pay attention.
Give me an example.
For instance, when the dog comes to the class for the first time, if their normal ear placement is floppy and down, and then suddenly they are very pricked and up, and their eyes are very wide and open, and their mouths are tight and closed, and their bodies are tight and leaning forward – that tells me that this dog may be fearful and may not appreciate being touched. As I walk up to him, I go to him sideways because that’s less threatening. I just have my hands hanging down beside me, and I allow the dog to make the decision to come to me. [Some people] are so bad about saying, “Put your hand out for the dog to sniff.” Don’t ever do that. That’s like an invitation for a bite. Just put your hand down and let the dog decide, “Let me go see what she smells like. Let me check her out.”
I’m totally guilty of that.
Well, now you know.
How did you come up with the name for your business? After all, you’re in Alabama, not the Caribbean.
Yes [laughter]. With Huntsville, Alabama, the nearest water is Lake Guntersville.
So why ‘Island Dog Training’?
My husband and I try to go to the Caribbean, actually the British Virgin Islands, once a year. We’ve been going about 30 years, and we’ll rent a little sailboat and go sailing for seven to ten days, just the two of us. We met so many wonderful dogs in the islands whose body language was so very easy to read, especially the ones who were strays.
And these Caribbean dogs were behaved?
Some didn’t really like people that much, and they would see you, but they would not come to you. Or you have some who’d come running up to you right away and sit down and lean on you. We wanted to be able to have a facility to train dogs to be comfortable in their own fur, like those dogs.
So the name evokes the personality of these dogs you encountered in the Caribbean, something you hope to instill in the dogs you train?
Exactly. When we started this school, Island Dog was the logical thing to name it. It was different. I wanted it to be fun. I wanted people to think about fun things. Islands are usually fun things for people. Beaches are always fun for people. I wanted it to convey the idea that training could be fun. It doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be easy and laid back. Now, does that mean there’s not work to be done? Of course there is. But why can’t we make that work be something that’s fun for you and your dog?
Why was taking this name online important for your business?
That’s the way people get information now. They don’t go phonebooks. They don’t read books or read pamphlets and things, even though I put those out in veterinary offices. But they go to the web, they look for information on the web and if you don’t have a presence there, nobody’s going to find you.
How did you select a domain name?
The first name that I chose for my website was ‘Island-Dog-Training. com.’ But to tell somebody that or to show them, especially if you’re on the phone, it’s just too much. It’s too cumbersome with the dashes.
How did you discover that ‘dot-training’ [.training] was an option?
I didn’t know that it was available until somebody at GoDaddy called me: “Do you know we have a ‘dot-training’?” As soon as they said that, I said, “I want to be ‘IslandDog.Training!’”
Well, we are known as 'Island Dog Training,' so it was perfect for me. Absolutely perfect. It’s just so much cleaner and easier.
Aside from it being an exact match to your business name, what else convinced you to make the domain switch?
I like the ‘dot-training’ [.training] because it implies that it’s not a corporate place, and I think that’s important when you’re dealing with dogs. It’s warmer and fuzzier. And it tells you what we’re doing: training.
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.IslandDog.Training.