A successful two-woman dog training business is seeking a new downtown home after a fire destroyed their previous space
Chelsea Lifelong New Yorker Anna Jane Grossman grew up on 17th Street and 3rd Avenue watching her mother start her own business, and run it out of their apartment. Following in her mom's foot steps, she has partnered with Kate Senisi to open a dog training studio, School for the Dogs, which they also started out of Grossman's apartment.
After college, Grossman worked as a journalist, getting stories published in the New York Times, Gizmodo, and the Boston Globe. In 2008 she wrote "A Chorus of Dog Whisperers" for the New York Times, which told the story of people changing their established careers to become dog trainers.
"That article had sort of planted a seed in my head," she explained. "Between 2007 when I wrote that article and 2010, I was always keeping my eye out for [dog training] programs."
Grossman decided upon the Karen Pryor Academy, which pairs online classes with several weekend workshops. After finishing the program, and becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), she met her partner Kate Senisi at a meet up for New York trainers.
Two years ago, they transformed Grossman's childhood home into their studio and have been building a successful business. She continued to live in the back of the apartment, while they utilized the former living room space and roof deck to work with their clients.
Grossman helped develop a tablet app that allows dogs to paint, press buttons with their nose, and take "dog selfies." Their work has been showcased on the Today Show, CBS, and made front-page news at the Wall Street Journal.
Senisi is from Schenectady, NY and became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior consultant after changing her career as a graphic designer. She specializes in aggression issues, leash walking, and self-control.
"We show people how to be a leader to your pet, without using force," Senisi explained. "Our training is force-free all the way." Both trainers want to reduce the number of pets surrendered to shelters, which is usually caused by a pet's behavioral issues.
As their business was beginning to thrive, they were forced to start over after an electrical fire decimated Grossman's childhood home and their entire studio. On December 29, 2013 she woke up to strange noises coming form her wall.
"The power went out, which didn't seem right because there wasn't a storm, and it was late at night," she said. "Then there were popping noises coming from my wall, and five minutes later smoke just started billowing into the apartment." They lost everything, but have continued to operate their business by renting space from different doggie daycare centers around Manhattan.
At a recent class, held at a dog training facility Grossman is using temporarily in Chelsea, we spoke to one of their longtime clients, Sharon Marine and her dog Violet. She has remained loyal to Senisi and Grossman during their transition because she has continued to see amazing results with Violet.
"They have taught me better ways to interact with Violet, using positive reinforcement to teach her things, but it has also been teaching me," Marine said. "Annie and Kate have such a great approach, they make it fun, and they never make it stressful if your dog isn't picking up on something right away."
Grossman had a clear ability to multitask; she was catering to different developmental stages of each dog in class. She uses a reward-based training method, teaching dogs stimulus control, how to stop and sit right next to their owners on command, and ways to avoid distractions.
"Training your dog is an ongoing thing, so having a space is important," Grossman said. "The [training] space helps communicate that this is a place we want you to come back to through out your dog's life."
Schools for the Dogs has raised $12,618 through an Indiegogo campaign, working to reach their goal of $20,000. The money raised will help get them into a new location and replace a lot of the equipment that was burned in the fire. They are working on securing a location on 1st Street and 2nd Avenue on the Lower East Side, which has a back yard and plenty of space for their growing business.