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McCann Professional Dog Trainers, which started as a grassroots organization and now has a 42-years legacy, has transcended its Canadian borders; now, its global presence spans 76 countries with the team training over 100,000 dogs. 

Established in 1982 by Deb and Marty McCann in Flamborough, Ontario, McCann Dogs began its journey as an in-person dog training facility. In 1999, Shannon Viljasoo, now the director of online training, became an integral part of the team. Intrigued by McCann Dogs while training her own canine companion, Shannon discovered her passion for dog training and soon dove into the apprenticeship program. Despite holding a degree in computer programming, she boldly pivoted her career trajectory to pursue her calling as a dog trainer at McCann Dogs.

For over 13 years, Viljasoo conducted in-person training sessions. As demand surged for dog training services, McCann Dogs diversified its offerings by establishing a robust online presence, notably through its YouTube channel, which now boasts over 1.3M subscribers and brings in a large percentage of the company’s clientele. 

While McCann Dogs was first resistant to online dog training, the team knew it wanted to be able to further support its students. They decided to start an online course as part of the business in 2016. “We figured that as long as we had good quality instruction and set up a good support structure, we would be able to help people get the same results with their dogs all over the world,” shares Viljasoo.

Flash forward to 2024, where, in addition to in-person courses, the company offers three online programs and a la carte workshops via Thinkific that help people have a “well-behaved, four-legged family member.” 

Here’s how McCann Dogs became a leader in online dog training:

Skip ahead:

  1. They found Thinkific

When the company launched its first online program, it used Joomla as its learning management system. 

However, Viljasoo says it wasn’t keeping up with McCann Dogs’ needs. “I started deep-diving into other platforms to figure out what would be more effective,” she shares. 

A year later, the team made the switch to Thinkific. “One of the reasons we went with Thinkific is because it’s a Canadian company,” she explains.

“Right off the bat, Thinkific was much more straightforward,” continues Viljasoo. “It was intuitive and guided—and the student experience was much smoother.”

Now, the team offers both in-person and online courses—with the online part of the business becoming a significant generator of their annual income.

“I love Thinkific and it’s rare that I run into problems with it,” she says. “Most of the time I have no problem figuring things out on my own and moving forward with what I need to do. When I can’t figure something out myself, the support team is great.”

  1. They built multiple programs

McCann Dogs has three main online programs: Puppy Prep Guide, Puppy Essentials, Life Skills, and multiple online workshops that range in topics.

Each of the three online programs offer a combination of live and pre-recorded content. Through live group coaching calls, the team is able to support their students in a more personalized way than solely through pre-recorded material.

“People can participate as little or as much as they want,” she shares. “If students can’t make it to the live coaching calls, we provide the recordings of the calls in Thinkific so that people can watch them later.”

Then, students also have the option to go through the pre-recorded lessons, which are shared via videos and PDFs. The team also uses a Facebook group as a support network where students can post videos of them training their dogs and gain feedback. “This is a great way to keep our students motivated and accountable,” she says. 

In 2021, the team launched a higher-learning membership program called Monthly Members Only, which is for graduates of the Life Skills program.  Each month, the members are presented with a new concept. Since launching the recurring membership, they’ve garnered over 300 monthly members. 

Each of their programs are always open for enrollment, but expire after a specific time-frame. For example, Puppy Prep Guide and Puppy Essentials are available for three months upon enrollment, and Life Skills is open for four months. According to Viljasoo, this designated timeframe helps to encourage self-motivation and accountability. 

But online learning isn’t only for the organization’s online students; dedicated to providing an enhanced learning experience for students, McCann Dogs provides online learning to their in-person students in the form of supplementary information. “Students can log into their online lessons when they get home from workshops. There, they’ll find repeated instructions and homework challenges,” she shares. 

  1. They leveraged YouTube for over a decade

Over the past few years, McCann Dogs has prioritized its online presence.’

It has an active Facebook page with over 27,000 followers, an Instagram account with more than 76,000 followers, and a popular podcast. But its most successful social media platform is its YouTube channel, which was started 10 years ago and has since garnered more than 1.3 million subscribers. 

Due to persistent and consistent dedication to the channel—as well as a few videos that took off early on—it has continued to see subscriber growth. Now, the organization has an entire team designated to the company’s social media, and that includes a videographer and video editor for the YouTube channel. These videos—as well as the two free Thinkific workshops—Luring and Training When You Don’t Have Time To Train—help people to get a taste of the McCann Dogs training style and encourage them to sign up to the programs. 

For the creators who are intimidated by YouTube or showing their face on screen, Viljasoo has some words of advice. “It gets easier as time goes on,” she shares. “Just do it. All of the stuff you’ll laugh at in a year or a few years will serve a purpose and will help you grow.”

“Don’t worry about being perfect,” she continues, echoing many other Thinkific creators’ advice. “There are no perfect videos out there—and life isn’t perfect. Ditch the idea of perfection and just jump in.”

Since developing such a strong online presence, the McCann Dogs content has been able to reach 76 countries. Mostly, its audience is made up of 25-40 year-old females. Since there is a large following from the US, the company now charges for their courses in US dollars.

  1. They bundled their courses

On top of selling the programs and workshops individually, the team also offers bundles. 

For example, to save $50 USD, students can purchase the Online Puppy Prep Guide & Puppy Essentials Bundle; To save $97 USD, students can purchase the Online Puppy Essentials & Life Skills 1 Bundle; and for the biggest savings—$147 USD— students can purchase The Full Online Bundle, which includes all three courses. 

To purchase programs individually, they vary in cost; the Puppy Prep Guide is priced at $97 USD, the Puppy Essentials program is $367 USD, and the Life Skills program is $397 USD. Further, the Monthly Members Only program costs $29.95 USD per month, but isn’t advertised to anyone aside from graduates of Like Skills. 

“Pricing is such a hard thing,” Viljasoo reveals. “There isn’t a lot of regulation in dog training; you can get people who have read one book and decided to start dog training, or people like myself who have been in it for multiple decades.”

“Some people think our pricing is a great deal, and others think it’s too expensive,” she continues. “It’s very relative.”

According to Viljasoo, she’s able to be more consistent with online pricing versus in-person, as there are less variables. “In-person, we have to deal with things like increases in propane to heat the building and higher fuel and staff costs. Online, things stay fairly even.”

To collect payments, the team uses Stripe—but they’re looking at making the switch to Thinkific Payments. 

  1. They grew a reliable team

The team is built up of 12 dedicated members, encompassing both full-time and part-time staff, alongside 25 associate trainers who pursue training alongside their primary careers.

Despite being around for so long, she describes her team as an open-minded group of people. “We’re constantly evolving to make our training better and better. A lot of businesses that have been around for a few decades stagnant in their learning and their ability to bring in new methodology.”

When asked about their biggest key to success, she says it’s all been because of her team. “We have really good people who work hard. I’m really proud of my team.”

In pursuit of expanding their offerings, Viljasoo’s goal is to recruit more individuals who can help them to create course content. “We’re constantly looking to add new programs, but the struggle is finding the time to do all of the planning, create the videos, and make the courses when we’re still actively working in supporting students.”

Reflecting on her journey, she advises aspiring online entrepreneurs to dive in without hesitation. Acknowledging the gradual nature of success, she emphasizes celebrating each milestone, as building a thriving business is akin to a marathon, not a sprint.

Her parting wisdom? Embrace the online realm wholeheartedly—it offers unparalleled reach and potential for impact.

If you’re ready to turn your knowledge into a business, don’t wait. Jump on board with Thinkific now, and sign up for free