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Meet Sandra Brigham of Train Up That Pup in Billerica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Brigham.

Sandra, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I knew as a young girl, by the age of eight or nine, that I wanted to work with animals. At that time I thought I would become a veterinarian or perhaps train guide dogs; back then, we called them Seeing Eye dogs. I also thought I’d like to be a judge, but that’s another story!

It turned out that a career in law was in store for me. In 2004, I was working as a paralegal in Concord when I got a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Simba Aliaye; the puppy that would change the course of my career. I attended puppy kindergarten classes, and due to the seriousness of his puppy biting, I continued his training, moving through several levels of puppy classes. Training not only solved my puppy’s behavior problems, but my learning the ‘how and why’ behind his behavior deepened our relationship and bonded us in a way I’d never experienced with previous dogs – I was hooked!

I continued to work at the law firm, while devoting my free time to a variety of dog activities with Simba. We participated in Rally Obedience, tracking, and agility and, at the same time, I began taking courses and reading everything I could on dog behavior. I also apprenticed at a local dog training facility for over a year. During this time, I took Dr. Susan Friedman’s course, Living and Learning with Animals, which would change the way I looked at life, both professionally and personally. My early aspiration of working with animals was rekindled, and I knew I had to make a career change.

You could say the universe helped me, as I was laid off from my job in 2009, which enabled me to start Train Up That Pup in the same year.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
One of my biggest challenges over the years has been getting dog and puppy owners to recognize the necessity of training. Statically, only a very small percentage (single digits) of dog owners seek professional training, while conversely, the number of dogs relinquished to shelters and rescues each year due to behavior issues is an alarmingly high percentage. Early training and socialization prevents behavior issues, and thus, the need for relinquishment. My Simba could have been one of those relinquished puppies had I not gotten help from a professional trainer.

Another challenge, albeit a small one, is explaining my unique service model. Most of my clients are busy people, but they understand that puppyhood is a crucial time for training. So I offer day training, where I go to my clients’ homes and work with their puppies to jump start their training – the humans don’t even have to be home. I provide daily progress reports, then we all get together at the end of the week to review what their puppy has learned and address any questions.

This service model alleviates many challenges new puppy parents face. Imagine having to work all day and worrying about your puppy being alone for long hours. Being alone for hours is not only lonely for a puppy, it can be stressful. Boredom and stress can lead to problems like inappropriate chewing, house soiling, and other bad habits. Then imagine that at the end of a long day you have to come home and work on training your puppy – it’s a lot! My services provide clients peace of mind, knowing that their puppy is being trained and cared for and getting much needed exercise and mental stimulation.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Train Up That Pup – what should we know?
Largely because of my own experience with Simba, I decided to focus my services on puppies. I find that owners want the very best for their puppies, but few people have the time to provide all of the training and socialization that puppies need, especially during their first few months of life. Puppies can begin my program as young as 8 weeks of age. I teach ‘must-have’ manners, proper greetings, house training, leash walking, preparing for veterinary visits; the list goes on. Basically, I help to prepare your puppy to live comfortably and confidently in our human world!

Probably the most gratifying part of my job is being able to make a difference in my clients’ lives. They are happy and free from guilt and appreciate the incredible differences they see in their dog’s behavior and emotional state thanks to early training and socialization. And the puppies I work with not only have fun, but learn the great manners that help them grow into the type of companion we all dream about when we get a puppy.

Because of the unique ‘full service’ nature of my services, I can only work with a few clients at a time. My hope is always that people will plan ahead for their puppy’s training and care, just like we do with human children.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I have to give a shout out to dog*biz. dog*biz is a full-service business and marketing support organization for the dog pro industry. They help positive dog professionals set up, operate, and prosper in their chosen field, be that dog training, dog walking, pet sitting, dog daycare, or dog boarding.

The business will be 9 yrs. old this July. I NEVER thought I’d get here. As a super uber highly sensitive entrepreneur, I can say that I couldn’t have done it without dog*biz! I remember wondering what steps were going to get me off the ground, how was I going to get to the next level without feeling like a crazy person, was I doing it the right way?

But with dog*biz, I didn’t have to feel stuck and dog*biz “fit” with who I was. While I consider myself extremely introspective, intuitive and creative which lends itself to being a coach, therapist and entrepreneur, it’s the marketing/selling savvy dog*biz imparted that allowed me to be successfully self-employed.

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