Ask The Coach – K-9 Coach Q&A

Recently we were interviewed by Our Town Magazine.

You can see the full article online here >>


OTM. How did K-9 Coach begin?

I worked in the veterinarian field as a kennel technician, a veterinarian assistant and a surgical technician for many years. While in college, I also worked with a criminal attorney thinking I would pursue law and even took the LSAT. I realized early on, that law was not my passion, but I always had a passion for working with dogs. I decided to go back to the canine field and began working at a local animal hospital, Powers Ferry Animal Hospital. Over time, I knew I wanted to work more in the training field and decided to put my focus there.

With the support of Andy Smith, DVM at Powers Ferry Animal Hospital, I headed back to school and, within a year, I had worked with dogs in search and rescue, cadaver recovery, drug and explosive discovery, personal protection and basic and advanced obedience. I earned a Masters Certification in Dog Training and Behaviorism, came back to Atlanta and started teaching group classes in the parking lot of Powers Ferry Animal Hospital. It was summer-time. The parking lot was hot, uncomfortable and busy. I had a stand-up, chalk-board easel that said “Classes Forming Now!” It was not ideal in any way and I absolutely loved it! That was the birth of what is now K-9 Coach.

OTM. Your mission statement and philosophy?

Simply put, our mission is to improve the lives of our customers and their dogs. This permeates everything we do at K-9 Coach from our service offerings to our level of customer service.

When our customers are old and reflecting on their lives, we want them to look back to that dog they loved. We want them to smile and remember the relationship they shared. We want them to be filled with happy, positive memories. We don’t expect them to remember K-9 Coach specifically, but we know that those memories will exist, in part, because of our work. If we accomplish that, then we’ve left a legacy worth leaving.

We love that customer service is a number one priority for K-9 Coach. Can you tell us why it has become such an integral part of your business?

In the 15 years since we were founded, we have worked with well over 7,000 families and over 10,000 dogs. They all want what is best for their pups and they all chose us to share in that experience together. We work very hard to honor that and customer service is key in that process. Many companies will say the customer is always right, but we believe that the customer and our employees make a team that together reaches the goals of the customer and their beloved pup.

We believe and train our staff that customer service is what happens from the very first time a person hears the name K-9 Coach all the way through each and every interaction they have with us. Customer service is about more than how you address the inevitable problems that arise in a relationship. Good customer service, for us, is about creating an experience that is worth repeating each and every time!

OTM. Your articles in Our Town over the past few years have enlightened readers on the world of dogs. Why is education so important to your business?

Thank you, we really enjoy writing these articles! What is important to us is that we always improve the relationship between dog and human – not just with us, but always, everywhere. Education is key to that success! It’s all about providing information to enrich lives.

On the public side, we write articles, post blogs, speak at events, do television interviews, etcetera. On the industry side, we develop and deliver accredited educational events that are open to competitors, colleagues, other dog organizations and the public. We’ve hosted over 50 of these events and have brought in the world’s leading figures in animal care, training and behaviorism. If one person reads something we wrote, or sees a presentation we did or hosted, and their dog has a better experience, we all win!

OTM. What makes K-9 Coach stand out from other like businesses in the area?

There are many factors that make us stand out: our 20 plus years of experience in the industry, our relationships with our clients and our suppliers, our incredible team and the innovative and nurturing environment provided for that team. We live here, our business is here, our son’s school is here and our church is here. We embrace our responsibility to the community we love. As a business neighbor, we support local schools, nonprofit and charitable events wherever possible and, since moving to Smyrna in 2008, we have contributed more than 8,000 hours of community service and over $150k in cash and in-kind donations. We believe that our direct involvement and care of the community we serve as a small business is key to our success.

What services do you offer and how do they benefit your customers?

We want to improve the lives of customers and their dogs and so we offer training and behavior modification, lodging, playcare, grooming, retail and other specialty services. All of these are designed to support our mission and, as part of that, all dogs that take part in our services receive complimentary no jump, barking and gate control training to both succeed in our pack and leave even better than when they arrived.

K-9 Coach is a Training and Behavior Modification company first and foremost. From the most basic position, a well-trained dog is a better companion and will live a longer, healthier life. From an extreme position, a good training foundation can be the difference between life and death. Assume that you open your front door and your dog darts out to chase a nice squirrel! As your dog flies toward the street, you yell “Max. Come!” Sure, Max might not come regardless of how much training he has received. But, he’ll be A LOT less likely to run into the street and get hit if he has received training!

We began offering Lodging and Playcare services in 2008 because our training customers requested them. They would take their dogs to board at, or play in, other facilities and, when they returned home, their pups would be less well behaved – jumping, barking, messing in the house, charging through doors and open gates, etcetera. So… we designed our lodging and playcare to incorporate essential social interaction, free-time and structured play, in concert with ample rest opportunities as well as enrichment activities ensuring that our training philosophies stayed at the forefront.

Grooming and Spa services are a natural part of having group play, but they also improve dog’s lives and help minimize behavioral issues. Basically, a clean dog is a happy and healthy dog. And, let’s face it, a clean dog get’s a lot more love and attention from home and in public. From a strict behavioral position, dogs should be able to be handled and manipulated without biting, growling or getting overly anxious. This is another reason it’s important to have regular grooming and vet check-ups from puppy age onwards and it’s why a puppy groom is specifically included in our portfolio of puppy services. Our groomer’s technical expertise help our pups look great and get tons of love. Their care and loving touch help our pups to be more calm, comfortable and relaxed on the veterinarian and grooming table.

Our final service is our Retail products. People may ask how retail serves our mission. First, our store is a convenience for customers. They are already bringing their dogs here and the opportunity to purchase food, treats, toys, etcetera, without having to go elsewhere, is a welcome benefit. Our products also help improve behavior. For example, high quality dog food helps to ensure a long, healthy life, minimizes waste and medical issues and will help in addressing behavioral issues. Think about how much better you feel, physically and mentally, when you eat good foods.

Q. We know that you have a very talented staff on board- thinking it might be a good idea to let the readers know how deep your organization runs with talented professionals.

Our employees are second only to our customers when it comes to our vision. They deliver K-9 Coach to our customers and, as such, drive our success more so than anything else. So, we invest in them.

ALL of our employees can submit for reimbursement any professional development conference, workshop, tradeshow, certification or class fees which they believe will contribute to our mission. I am sure I am forgetting something, but I can currently think of staff with degrees and certifications in animal sciences, behaviorism, biology, customer service, human resources, management, marketing, massage therapy and veterinary technology. For our professional staff (management, groomers, trainers and behaviorists), we require AND pay for a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education every year and so we send them to conferences and workshops where they can hone their skills and receive advanced certifications.

For us, the investment pays off as staff have been featured in and quoted by numerous local and national print and broadcast media. We wrote a national training curriculum for the Humane Society of the United States. We have even been asked to serve on professional and canine specific boards and committees at the local, national and international level. For example, since 2012 we have served on the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Board of Directors. This five-member board leads and oversees the efforts of the 500+ member, international association directing the dog training and behavior modification profession world-wide.

OTM. Can you tell us about the many awards that K-9 coach has received?

We celebrate everyone’s success here and have had a lot of staff receive individual accolades. However, the team rewards are our greatest achievements.

We have been named the Best of Atlanta, Cobb, Smyrna and Vinings Dog Boarding, Doggie Daycare, Dog Grooming and Dog Training every year since 2008. We were the first and are still the only company to ever simultaneously be named Best of Atlanta Daycare, Boarding and Training by Atlanta Magazine. We were awarded the Cobb County Small Business of the Year in 2011 and were a finalist for the US Small Business Administration’s Business of the Year Award in 2012. We are an Angie’s List Super Service Award winner for the last 6 years.

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