Sandra was struggling to know what to do with her dog, Rolo, a friend mentioned gun dog training which would be perfect for her Flat-Coated Retriever, so she looked online and took her dog to a training class. Coming away from the class, Sandra thought "I could do this myself". From there she went to do her training in London, spent a year with a mentor and came away with a bountiful knowledge, fully qualified and ready to get started.
Sandra started touring the local area deciphering where to set up her training academy. She picked a date and stuck to it regardless of what hurdles came her way. Sandra designed and printed her very own posters and put them up anywhere she could, in shopping centres, vets, on trees etc… She found her first location and had her very first puppy class in September 2010. At this point Sandra had no idea how the company would take off, she had no money to spare and even paid the rent for the location after the first class with the money she made there. Even from the get-go, her training academy was a hit with her initial class filled up with 8 puppies.
Sandra gained her first volunteer. She posted an advert on gumtree for a volunteer opening and from there she gained more and more staff. Every single one of Sandra’s team started as a customer.
Sandra was able to quit her full-time job only 6 months after starting the academy. She was working for the NHS in health and social care and then quit to follow her dream of being a full-time dog trainer.
About a year after starting the penny dropped and it suddenly felt like a real business. Sandra had 35 regular customers that came each week – some had been there from the start.
This was the year that Sandra was able to take her first holiday leaving someone else in charge of her business. Later in the year the Train the Trainer programme started with 4 or 5 people that were originally volunteers.
The first big milestone - moving locations. This was a big step for Sandra and the team, they finally moved to a location with electricity, proper toilets, storage, office, running water and shelter! Gone were the days of bracing all weather conditions in a field, teaching out the back of the car. (Still managed to make all customers tea and coffee though.)
The NDTA (Known then as AA Dog training) won their first of many awards. They won 2016’s Best Business of the Year Award. (Three best rated). The company had come a long way and quickly went from just Sandra to a big ‘we’.
The name was changed from AA Dog Training to The National Dog Training Academy. The name change came after Sandra’s Entrepreneur Circle Group laughed at her original name and told her to change it. She went away, made the change, and never looked back. Fun fact – The original name, AA Dog training, was created to appear at the top of the yellow pages! The orange and red a thing of the past and everyone donned our beautiful maroon.
Sandra welcomed her first full-time employee, like the rest of the team they had started as a volunteer. Later that year the Train the Trainer course became an official program of the NDTA. Started as a 5-day course but now runs as a 3-day course. No advertising was done, it was all done through word of mouth. That year also saw our very first person from Train the Trainer course go out on their own and create a successful business. They do still come to puppy classes with Sandra though!
Jumping a bit closer to the present day, this was the year where Sandra decided to make some big changes within the business – it was time to expand and go national. Towards the end of 2020, during all the craziness of the current pandemic, Sandra introduced an office manager to the team and a business development executive.
Bringing us to this year – we have more team members than ever before, and we are growing at an exceedingly fast pace. We’ve gone massively digital with the launch of our entirely virtual platform; we’ve given everyone with an internet connection the chance to train their dog or puppy from anywhere in the world. We’ve also expanded our land-based training to a bunch of new locations, such as Whiteley, Fawley and more…
The NDTA win two awards at once! We are named Top 3 Dog Trainers in Southampton by ThreeBestRated and Best Puppy and Dog Training Academy 2021 by UK Enterprise Awards. This year is a very exciting time for us and our members, be sure to keep an eye out for all the things we will be up to. Be sure to check in and see how far we’ve come by next year!
Getting your puppy training right is so important. Come and have a look to see how our outdoor training classes, are different.
Dog training with us is not only effective but great fun too. It’s positive for both you and your dog.