What a Great Dog! expertly juggles retail, dog training and multiple locations to achieve success.
Offering multiple services can be intimidating for any pet retailer, particularly if one of these services is training. What a Great Dog! (WAGD) has taken these challenges in stride, winning the 2019 Retailer Excellence Award for Multi-Service Retailer at this year’s Global Pet Expo. Based in Texas, WAGD operates two stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In addition to handling retail responsibilities, each location offers a training facility that includes an agility ring, two training rings and a private consultation room.
“When people get hooked on training and participating in dog sports and activities, their lives are enhanced and their dog’s lives are too,” says Kenna Sloan, WAGD’s business manager.
A Family Affair
WAGD first launched in 2007 as a training business in the home of Maureen Patin, Sloan’s sister. Fueled by a lifelong love of dogs and a passion for training them, Patin left a 22-year career with PepsiCo to start her own business. She gave private lessons and taught obedience classes in her family’s barn in Prosper, Texas. She also earned the title of Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
In 2010, Patin and her husband, Harold, purchased a 3,700-sq.-ft. commercial building in downtown Prosper. The space underwent major renovations and they settled on a barn theme reminiscent of where the business started. With rustic details and barn doors, the location included a tiny retail shop, one indoor training ring and a small outdoor agility course.
More training classes were added and helmed by multiple staff members. Sloan says it soon became obvious that more room was needed, and in 2012, WAGD moved to a new, larger space in Frisco, Texas. The Patins converted an empty warehouse into a state-of-the-art, 16,164-sq.-ft. facility complete with three rings. The Patins decided to continue focusing on training rather than expand into boarding or daycare.
WAGD’s continued success allowed for the opening of a second location in Richardson, Texas in 2017. This new space is 16,000 sq. ft. It includes two obedience rings that have rubber flooring and an agility arena with synthetic turf. It even offers video instant replay for reviewing agility performance.
According to Sloan, this second location “has quickly become busy with activity as more people discover the joy of learning about dog behavior and training.”
A Full Offering
This new facility has allowed WAGD to further expand its focus on behavior help, which Sloans says there’s a great need for in the pet community.
WAGD offers group training classes and private lessons, along with seminars and workshops designed for a wide array of customers that range from first-time pet owners to experienced dog sports enthusiasts. The courses dive into specific subjects like agility training, nose work and tricks.
“Our most popular classes are our pet manners classes,” says Sloan. “We cover all the basics—such as sit, down, stay and come—in a beginner six-week course. We then offer more advanced classes to solidify and refine these behaviors.”
She adds that the large facilities offer enough space for both staff and customers to be creative with their exercises and practices. The majority of WAGD’s training customers do long-term, weekly training.
Along with classes, WAGD offers nail trims and even has a holistic vet who offices in both locations a few days each week.
However, hosting such a wide array of services isn’t always easy for the WAGD team.
“The biggest challenge can come when onboarding new employees and training on all of the things we offer—both services and retail,” says Sloan.
In building a retail selection, Sloan says her team takes vital input from the WAGD trainers and stocks treats, food and enrichment items that they endorse. For WAGD, product quality and trustworthy vendors are essential.
“We do sometimes vary retail items by location or have our staff favorites that may differ from location to location,” says Sloan. “We’ve found the key to keeping customers at both locations happy is communication—between WAGD locations and to our customers.”
WAGD forges close customer connections by maintaining a strong social media presence, an extensive website and an email newsletter that are all used to communicate sales, class schedules and product offerings across all of its locations. The retailer also utilizes software to track purchases by the names of both customers and their pets. The software even suggests items based on purchasing history.
Monthly events also help WAGD build strong bonds with the community. Along with product promotions, vendor visits and customer appreciation sales, the retailer also offers fun gatherings, like summertime ice cream socials. It even hosts raffles to raise money for local nonprofits.
Despite a full schedule of training classes and customer events, the WAGD team has had time to strategize for the future.
“We’re in the midst of adding over 6,000 sq. ft. to our Richardson location, bringing the total to 22,000 sq. ft.,” says Sloan. “This addition will give us two additional training rings, plus private lesson space.”
The team also has aspirations to add a third location, though with a business model that requires a very large open space, it can be hard to find the right fit in terms of real estate.
Even while developing these big ideas, the WAGD team maintains its commitment to serving customers and expanding its training program. For this retailer, the goal at the center of its business is to help people build a better bond with their dogs. PB