Decked out in apparel from T.J. Maxx on a daily basis, Aly Baughman seems to always have dog hair on her clothes.
And she doesn’t mind one bit.
“I think dog hair on clothes is just additional glitter to the woman’s outfit,” she said.
The 29-year-old is the owner of Canine Excellence, a professional dog walking service, and full service pet care business, assisting dog owners from Petaluma to Corte Madera. Founded in 2011, Canine Excellence is based in Petaluma and is designed to help dog owners with busy households find a bit of balance.
Born and raised in Novato, Baughman moved to Petaluma about nine years ago.
“Right out of high school I knew that no matter what I wanted to do in life it was going to result somewhat in the dog or animal world,” she said.
As comfortable with cats and horses as she is with dogs, Baughman attended Santa Rosa Junior College, where she took classes Equine Science. Eventually, she decided to go back to her roots, and began looking into career opportunities in the dog world. She worked at different kennels and rescue centers, while attending animal behavior college, where she earned a dog trainer’s certificate.
Before founding Canine Excellence, she was hired as a dog walker for a company that covered Petaluma to San Francisco. After working there for about two years, learning the ins and outs of the dog walking industry, she decided to part ways.
However, many of her clients, canine and human, were unhappy about letting her go.
A number of those clients, it turns out, gave Baughman the added boost she needed to start her own company — which Baughman originally named “Doggie Etiquette 101.” She soon realized it was “too cute,” and after about a year changed the name, and Canine Excellence was born, with the shiny new tagline, “An Excellent Canine beings with Canine Excellence.”
Baughman’s most popular and requested service is the walk & train program. Many of the services you would expect to call a dog trainer for are incorporated into these walks. Baughman and her staff will walk large active breeds for about two hours, a distance of about three to five miles. Each staff member is trained to walk five to twelve dogs at a time.
The dogs are trained to sit and wait at crosswalks, and to pull off the trail to let other walkers pass by. The dogs learn “sits,” “stays” and leash manners. Additionally, they’re taught not to lunge, jump or bark, or to greet people without permission.
Through Baughman’s years of experience, she’s learned that mental preparation is more exhausting to a dog than physical training, so Canine Excellence incorporates both, resulting in a client’s dogs getting tired faster than if she merely took the dog to the park for six hours.
“That’s why we like to call our program walk & train, versus just dog walking, because anyone can put a leash on a dog and walk them around the block,” she said.
In terms of where they walk the dogs, Baughman’s been asked multiple times on social media, “Where’s that trail?”
“And I always say it’s a dog walker’s secret,” she said, with a smile.
As the owner of four rescues, Baughman said it’s a dream career to work with dogs, and every takes pleasure in the improvement she sees in them every day.
“There’s never a dull moment,” she said. “I’m always entertained. How could you not want to wake up to a bunch of wagging tails and cold noses, and stroll through the park.”
Baughman said she enjoys meeting new people, and that the connections she’s made throughout the industry are unbelievable. Although most of her clients come from Petaluma and Southern Marin, she has some clients in Napa and Healdsburg. Even Redwood City clients bring their dogs in for boarding, and one couple in Oakland drop off their dogs with her for daycare when they’re in town for meetings.
“When it comes down to the right service, and to quality care for your pet,” said Baughman, “it’s amazing to know that people want that from me, and will go the extra mile to get that. That alone makes me so happy to get up and go to work every morning.”
And makes all of that dog hair more than worth the effort.