Pup Club - Isabelle

Pup Club - Isabelle

Pup Club

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Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio


Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.

I have always had a passion for animals. For as long as I can remember my life revolved around caring for and being around all types of animals. I grew up with a dream of becoming a vet but soon realized it would be too much of an emotionally challenging job. After a few years of trying different career paths I realized working with dogs was not only a feasible option but something that I truly wanted to wake up every day and do. I walked dogs for a few years for an Ottawa based company and then decided to take the leap and start my own dream company.

What did you get a degree in, and what made you decide to initially go that route? Did you attend school here in Ottawa?

I completed a Bachelor of Communications at the University of Ottawa. I had a curiosity for working in media and felt a Bachelor in Communications would be a good stepping stone. I have definitely used some aspects of my degree in the running of Pup Club.


What made you decide to do this full-time and not as a side-business?

I felt that if I didn’t make this a full-time business then I wouldn’t provide the reliability and service that I believed was needed to succeed. I wanted to be available whenever my clients needed me.


Tell us about Watson!

I adopted Watson in October 2016 from Ottawa Dog Rescue and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He was an owner surrender at 5 months old for behavioral issues. He has an incredible ability to learn tricks and an unconditional love for his family. His hobbies include skateboarding, playing with his Pup Club friends and cuddling.

When you decided to pursue your passion, did you know that meant starting your own business?

I worked for a very successful and inspiring dog walking and boarding company for a few years. I started out thinking it would just be a fun part-time job walking dogs. When I came back from Alaska I realized that I wanted to start my own company. I felt I was in the perfect position to apply my knowledge, experience and love for dogs to my own company.

Tell us more about Alaska! Why did you choose to go there, specifically?

I was struggling with Watson’s behavioral issues and sought help from a dog trainer who happened to be based out of Alaska. I was then offered an internship to learn how to run a dog board and train business. I hadn’t traveled as much as I had wanted to and felt that it would not only be a good learning opportunity but a chance to explore an incredible part of the world.

What was something you learned while out there that surprised you most?

I was surprised at how quickly a dog can transform with a few simple training methods. It truly is amazing what dog training can do!

How many dogs do you typically have on a group walk at one time? 

Our group walks range from 4-8 dogs at a time. They’re great for the higher energy social dogs who need some extra exercise while their owners are at work. We bring them to private land for an hour long off-leash run. We also provide on-leash private walks and in-home boarding!


What is some advice you have for people who are interested in starting their own business?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and welcome all advice with an open mind. It can be very overwhelming at first and having a core group of people to bounce ideas off of and lend a helping hand has made a world of difference.

When you’re not caring for dogs, what is your favourite thing to do in Ottawa?

Ottawa is such a great city for outdoor activities. I love doing anything that involves getting some fresh air and exercise. I picked up wakeboarding this summer and I think it might be my new favourite activity. Everyone should check out Evolution Wake Park in Carp!  

What is your favourite type/breed of dog?

I’m a little biased because I own one but I love all terriers! My second favourite breed are labs. They’re easy-going, intelligent and overall very social dogs.

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