Small Business Q&A: Dog School 101

This canine-focused business hosts Pet First Aid class as a fundraiser for the German Shepherd Dog Rescue Group of Georgia on Oct. 27.

The for-profit, Dog School 101 on Kingston Court near I-75 is about good staff, good dog owners and good dogs, according to business owner, Sandy Watson. The training facility and dog day care center is also about being a good citizen.

Watson is hosting a Pet First Aid class to raise funds for German Shepherd Dog Rescue Group of Georgia. The class will be taught by Jennifer Perry of PetTech on Saturday, Oct. 27 from noon to 4 p.m.. The cost is $60.

“All of our staff has gone through the class, so I know that it teaches valuable information,” Watson shares. “I’ve known Monica King of GSD Rescue for over a decade and I know that the group provides a life-saving service to dogs who have no one else. They need financial support”

The 56-year-old Watson has been training and showing horses, then dogs since elementary school and has worked in the dog industry, in different roles, throughout her career.

Xalina Babunovic, Watson’s business partner and a self-taught dog trainer, believes that supervision of the day care dogs is key and is proud of their perfect record of zero dog injuries.

Babunovic says, “We test for aggression before accepting a new day care dog client and match compatible personalities for shared dog spaces.” Aggressive dogs and unaltered adult pets are not accepted at the day care.

Training offerings do include working to control aggressive dog behavior. Watson and Babunovic’s training philosophy follows a ‘soft’ approach with foundation in communication, trust and respect.

“All dogs are trained. It’s the owners who don’t know the communication connection,” Watson said.

Q. What's the best thing about your job?

A.  The dogs. And, freedom to bring some of my 12 puppy dog children to work. And, Miss Claudia.

CLAUDIA LEGGETTE. Sandy first hired me, years ago. I was visiting my mother and we went to the original Haynes Pet Center where Sandy was manager. I walked in and Sandy and I started talking and it was like we had known each other for a lifetime. At the time, I was planning to relocate here and Sandy offered me a job, and held it for me until I moved.  

Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?

E. East Cobb has been dubbed, people who care about their animals, and, a lot of our clientele live here. About 15 percent of our clientele moved with us from our former location. This space is convenient to I-75 for people who use the interstate to commute.

Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?

A. Xalina and I worked together at another training facility and we knew we could do it better. Our focus is to make the dogs feel welcomed, loved and secure.

Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?

A. We will go with someone and help them decide on a new puppy. We help people find a certain breed, or age, or personality type of rescue dog to adopt. And, we offer discounts on training classes to rescued dogs.

Q. When did you start your business?

A. 2002. This is our third location. We moved here 2009. Our first site was 800 sq. ft.; here we have 12,000 sq. ft. inside and 4,000 sq. ft. outside. The space includes seven play stations. The stations are fenced areas that dogs are grouped in by compatibility. All the areas are supervised, all the time. Safety is our number one rule,  

Q. How did your business get started?

A. Xalina and I combined our savings and started with very little capital. I did already have knowledge from working in the pet industry for years. I had experience as a buyer for pet stores and I had a lot of other contacts. 

With a whim and a prayer, we started with only a training facility then added the day care, and it bloomed. I also do grooming and plan to add retail space.

We average about 35 to 40 dogs here per day. Since we’ve started, we’ve had about 5,000 dogs go through our beginner obedience class.

We have many clients who’ve been with us for 3 or 4 generations of dogs. I estimate about 80 percent of our business is word-of-mouth and repeat clients.

We have five part time staff, and little turnover.  

Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?

A. Research your location. If you think that your business is just for the money, you’re not going to be successful. Here, we’re into quality, not quantity.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?

A. Tips for picking a dog day care, or training facility, are: interview the business on the phone, show up unexpected and notice the cleanliness of the place. How does it smell? Hygiene is important at a facility that has a lot of dogs.

After you select a day care, pay attention to how your dog reacts when you’re pulling into the parking lot on the second or third visit. If your dog does not want to go into the business, find another place.

Trust your dog. Day care is not for every pet. Know too, that if your dog is exhausted when you pick it up, it could be from playing or it could be mental exhaustion from a stressful time. Pay attention to how your dog acts when you pick your fur baby up from day care.

Sandy Watson, owner/trainer/groomer/buyer

Dog School 101

2171-I Kingston Court


kathy turner October 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Great Place. We took our Rescue Dog Daisy here and they are awesome Trainers.
Becky October 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Wonderful place and amazing owners. They have been such a treat to go visit, Sandy has worked grooming miracles on our Mudge, getting him used to nail clipping. Xalina was his teacher for obedience classes and we both learned so much.


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