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Instinct Dog Behavior and Training Business (US) to Franchise in Canada

27 Apr 2018 - Brian Burton and his wife Sarah Fraser had full-time employment in New York City. Burton was a software engineer and Fraser worked for a marketing agency.

All that changed 10 years ago when the couple co-founded Instinct Dog Behavior and Training, a facility dogs from all over the United States visit for training and behaviour help.

Burton, formerly of Sydney Mines, and Fraser, a native of Pictou County, had been volunteering for several years at animal shelters, which was a leading factor in establishing their business in 2009.

Several years after starting the business, they were able to save enough money to open their first location in Manhattan, which Burton describes as a “little 1,500-square-foot basement.”

“It’s really offering a place for dogs with fear, aggression and anxiety to get help,” said Burton in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We opened that facility and we really focused on board training, which is like training camps where dogs come and stay with us.”

In its early years, the business grew in popularity and quickly became successful, employing 14 people.

Last year, the company moved into its new 6,000-square-foot facility in East Harlem, N.Y., and today employs 25 people.

Burton credits the success of the company to its business-model of positive reinforcement with the dogs in training.

“A lot of the board training camps out there these days are a little old school, but we focus on more positive training and that’s what we’ve become known for,” said Burton.

As the business flourished, Burton and Fraser began to receive inquiries about franchising. After a year and a half of preparations, New York State approved the company’s franchising request.

Burton hopes to sell two franchises out of state this year.

“It’s really exciting and our goal is to hopefully have 20-30 locations in about five to seven years,” said Burton. “It’s really about focusing on people and their dogs and really taking a stance that dogs are family and I think that’s been sort of at the core of what we do, and I think it’s been at the heart of our success.”

As part of its franchising plan, Instinct Dog Behavior and Training will open a business office in North Sydney, which will include hiring three client service counsellors and an IT person, who will be designated to help franchisees.

The office will be located at 5 Court St., near the downtown area. Although he is starting with four employees, Burton hopes that number will expand to 25-plus in the next five years.

The company also looked at locations in the Philippians, Texas and upstate New York for its business office, but in the end agreed Cape Breton was the best fit.

“I can’t even describe how excited we are about having an office in Cape Breton,” said Burton. “I think it’s one of those things where both Sarah and I are really excited about this because there are a lot of great people in Cape Breton with good communication skills and a good work ethic — it’s really a no-brainer.”

Burton and Fraser first met while attending Dalhousie University in Halifax. Burton was studying computer science, while Fraser was studying business.

Following graduation Burton was recruited and moved to New York City to work in 2004 and Fraser joined him a year later. The two have been living full time in the Big Apple for 12 years.

“We were in our 20s when we opened (the business),” said Burton. “You don’t know what you don’t know, but I think that once we started Instinct, we’ve always had the vision in our head as a place where we want to get it (the business),” said Burton.

“It has taken almost 10 years to make sure that we’ve evolved our training methods, we’ve evolved our business system and client management to get it to a point where it’s salable and ready to help other people open at other locations.”

The business has a number of different price options for dog owners. A three-week pack lesson, which also includes a lifetime group class, runs for about $540. Training camps, where dogs stay at the business, costs $1,400 for a one-week camp, while a four-week camp costs about $4,000.

Instinct has helped more than 3,000 dogs at its New York facility.

The business has been featured in the New York Times and New York Post newspapers as well as on NBC Nightly News to name a few.

Burton said once the company has five to 10 franchises in the United States, they will consider franchising in Canada.

“The first ones will be in locations in Canada with a million people or more as that’s where we have a lot of faith in our system,” said Burton.

As for the North Sydney office, Burton said interviews for jobs will take place in mid-July, with hiring set for September. The positions will be filled by Cape Breton employees.

The official opening date for the North Sydney office has not been confirmed.

BUSINESS FACTS

Instinct Dog Behavior and Training:

• The business is owned by Brian Burton, a native of Sydney Mines, and Sarah Fraser, originally of Foxbrook, Pictou County.

• The couple started the business 10 years ago.

• The dog behaviour and training facility is located in a 6,000-square-foot building in East Harlem, N.Y. The location offers 2,500-square-feet of private outdoor dog run for play and training.

• The business has provided training for thousands of dogs and owners in New York City.

• The company, which currently has 25 employees, has been approved for franchising and expects two more facilities to open this year in other parts of the United States.

• The ultimate goal is to open 20-30 locations across the United States and Canada over the next five to seven years.

• The company will be opening a business office in North Sydney as part of its franchising operation. It plans to hire four people at the North Sydney office, including three client service counsellors and one IT person. They hope that number will grow to 25-plus employees in the next five years.


Cape Breton Post

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