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The science of the dogs

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How Jody Foster became her own boss.

Jody never imagined that she would one day be leading her own dog walking and training business, but thanks to an unlikely circumstance involving a horse and a timely text message from PA, she’s now making strides in her new business.

At PA, we've worked with Enterprise Cube for several years to provide a Be Your Own Boss course, which we offered for free to residents. Jody is just one of the many success stories.

“My daughter and I have lived in a PA Housing property for 7-8 years now. I used to live in Walton-on-Thames, working at a local restaurant, which gave me experience in the service industry and retail. I really enjoyed the customer relations part of it, learning how to get customers to come back.

“Around that time, I received a text message from PA about the Be Your Own Boss course, which I was able to get a place on. On this course, one of the key lessons I learned was not to be too harsh on staff. Team management skills are vital. Another skill that I learned was the bookkeeping side of things, logging data on Excel spreadsheets and saving money on expenses. Throughout, we got both group and one-to-one support with the trainers which was really useful.

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“She’s like our business mascot. When she comes to visit, the neighbours really love her. She has taught us a lot about dog behaviour.

Her previous owners used a prong collar, which can be very painful and cruel, so she was saved from that environment.”

- Jody and her partner’s Alaskan Malamute, Maya.

“With a small investment, I bought the equipment and saved for a studio to start doing professional photography, mostly of new-borns. I made this my proposal for the big Dragon’s Den-style pitch at the end of the Be Your Own Boss course. In fact, the website – – is still live. When I moved from Walton to Cobham, I met someone who needed a study for portraits, so I agreed and worked with the Guildford Photographic Society, modelling wedding dresses too.

“However, when lockdown hit, I had to give up my access to the photography studio. Also, sitting around indoors editing photos all day could be quite dull sometimes. To get out the house, I started getting paid to walk dogs. While I was out, I photographed the dogs and sent the photos back to the owners. This soon caught on – and I had fun doing it, especially with that element of creativity.

“In a strange turn of events, my dog walking business idea really took off when I had to relocate to a neglected horse in Cobham. I’d sometimes water and feed her, and somebody nearby questioned what I was doing. I was just trying to help where I could, but long story short, I ended up with a free horse.

“In the search for somewhere to keep her, I found a bit of unused farmland nearby. As I was doing lots of dog walking, I contacted the landowner to ask if I could walk the dogs on there and how much he wanted for me to use the land. He said £300, so I was happy to pay that. This really kickstarted my dog walking business idea.

“Always wanting to learn more, I volunteered with the Dog’s Trust – gaining experience with reactive, fearful dogs. After lockdown, I decided to keep learning so I could get better at training the dogs. I got on courses about puppy training, canine behaviour, and dog psychology, before qualifying as an Assistance Dog Therapist.

“Originally, I was only a one-person team, but I now have three full time staff, two part time staff, and somebody who occasionally covers shifts with us. I still get involved in the field almost every day and often do shifts in the morning. My daughter also likes to join me in the half term holidays. Hopefully, one day, she can carry on and make this a family business. It can be hard work though, especially in cold weather, so I’m glad the Be Your Own Boss course gave me lots of helpful tips to keep the team motivated.

“The business is having a positive impact on the dogs. When we were walking a Labrador, I noticed that something wasn’t right, so we worked with a physio who treated the problem and now they’re zooming around like a new dog. Also, there was a small terrier called Sydney who was very fearful. He would get protective and needed a muzzle and safety line. But after two months with us, he is no longer as scared of other dogs or as aggressive.

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“We’re not a doggy day care (which is more about petting) or dog walkers that won’t take dogs who need muzzles. Taking on that challenge and making a difference for these dogs is our Unique Selling Point, and it really pays off.

- Jody and some of the dogs she trains

"We recently saved a dog from going to a rescue centre and the owners have kept them. We’re also versatile with clients – and when we have a smaller number of dogs, we can do different walks depending on their individual needs. Seeing the dogs so happy really makes it a satisfying job – it’s like my medicine!

“The business is now my main hobby. I like to put together a monthly newsletter with photos and stories, with a ‘dog of the month’ in each edition. Sydney was our dog of the month this time. I’m also building an online shop: but it’s still a work in progress. The treats on there are all healthy and eco-friendly, and my own brand – sourced from a local butcher – is coming soon too. This is also one of the expansions that I’ve always wanted to do. These projects are an outlet for my creativity – designing the branding and enjoying the challenge.

“If we had the opportunity to expand and get more land in the future, it would be great to have an on-site vet, dog grooming, and a physiotherapist. The sky’s the limit.

“I’d like to thank Maya, my partner’s dog, for teaching us so much. I’m also grateful to the horse I took care of too. She has passed away now, but without her, I never would have had the idea to use the land. My message to people is not to walk away when you see a situation where you feel you could make a positive difference to your own life and the lives of others.

“I’d also like to shout out just how useful the course PA got me on was. Everybody learned something, and I made a lot of friends too, such as Jayanne, who set up her own successful business, Cake Girl London. We encouraged each other and gave feedback on our services. For example, I taste-tested her cakes, whilst she got herself a puppy and asked for my advice. A lot of us from the group now use each other’s services – they are useful people to know, and they have a positive energy that motivates me to do better.

“Without the course, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m now able to fulfil my rent on time with money to spare. My partner and I are in a very good place. We recently went away to Cornwall with my daughter – it meant so much to be able to go on our first holiday in 5 years. It was so special! The course also helped me to feel like I wasn’t in a vicious cycle as a single parent – and now I can push for my dream of giving my daughter a better life. Without PA’s text message, I’d be living a completely different life, and this is not something I ever thought I’d be doing. It’s a mad story, really!

“It would be great if more people could take advantage of this employment support. Just having that help for people like me and that encouragement – ‘If you’ve got an idea, let’s hear it’ – could help a lot of people to feel less trapped.”

As Jody’s story shows, employment support can be truly life changing. If you would like any employment or digital support, visit our Help and Support section.

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