Ali Imel owns Yosemite Bark, located in Fresno, California. As well as offering service dog training support, Ali offers a range of training services including group classes (from puppy socialization all the way up to Canine Good Citizen), private lessons, day training, and behavior consultations. In addition to the Cooperative Paws SDC™, Ali is a registered veterinary technician and a certified Karen Pryor Academy graduate (KPA-CTP). Ali has trained service dogs in a variety of contexts. We are grateful she was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions.
How did you become interested in training service dogs?
In 2015 I launched an inmate dog training program at Valley State Prison. Originally, we trained shelter dogs to become more adoptable. Approximately a year into the program I was approached by a woman who had just formed a nonprofit with the goal of training rescue dogs to become service dogs for veterans (in honor of her son who was killed in Afghanistan). She was looking specifically for a force-free trainer. I drafted a new curriculum for the inmate program tailored to service dog training. Our first class graduated in April of 2017.
Tell us about how you’ve incorporated training service dogs into your business.
Seeing the success of the inmate program gave me the confidence to add service dog training to my own business offerings. I currently offer both coaching and day training lessons. If growth continues I will add group classes as well.
How has offering service dog training impacted your business?
Adding service dog training to my business has made a huge impact. It has increased my overall income because service dog clients are long-term customers. They don’t need just a lesson or two — they need a year or two of lessons. I also see that it has increased my position on Google. You’d be surprised how many people search for service dog information.