Dog training

Taming the dog training industry of the “Wild West”


With the launch of his Snoot app, former student and entrepreneur Brian Galea aims to professionalize dog trainers and create a community of responsible and informed dog owners.

Shortly after Brian Galea adopted a one-year-old border collie from foster care in Cleveland, he set out to learn all he could about dog training. He had no choice because, as the two-time University of Miami alumnus recalled, Dash was “an absolute wreck.”

“He had all the fears in the book. He literally couldn’t walk on a manhole cover. He hated skateboards, noisy cars, weights falling on the gym floor, ”said Galea, an adjunct professor in human anatomy who received his MBA in May after realizing he was pursuing the wrong career. “If I took him to a store and the sound system turned on, he would panic.”

Six years later, Dash has traded his fears for a skill set that will appeal to everyone. He’s a certified therapy dog ​​who hugs strangers – and can pick up and deliver a soda from the fridge – at the right time. And Galea is at peace with his decision to put aside his dream of becoming a doctor and focus on transforming Snoot, the dog training app he founded while at Miami Herbert Business School, into a national platform that unifies all aspects of dog training and possession.

“I had the idea before I started, but it drastically evolved and became more focused as I spoke to more professors during my MBA,” said Galea, who helped launch the “Cane Angel Network, which connects college-affiliated startups with early stage investors. “I joke that I get absolutely bang for my buck for my tuition by getting all of this free advice.”

Now available for free on the App Store, Snoot is ready to provide new dog owners who have adopted their pets from animal shelters or other rescue organizations with selected, research-based information designed to help them. to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted companions. Organized around topics such as diet and health, socialization and good manners, barking and chewing, and the ever-important potty training, the app’s positive reinforcement lessons include step-by-step videos. step and corresponding product recommendations, said Galea. , allows Snoot to provide its information for free.

So far, a handful of dog rescue operations have agreed to encourage people who adopt one of their dogs to use the app. Miami-Dade County Animal Services, which facilitate more than 1,000 dog adoptions each month, is one of them and Galea expects many more to follow. Last week he introduced Snoot to 8,500 rescue operations across the country.

And soon, new dog owners will be able to find and book a dog trainer through Snoot, a service that the Professional Dog Trainers Certification Council (CCPDT) has agreed to share with the nearly 5,000 dog trainers and consultants. behavior that the organization has tested and certified since its inception in 2001.

“First and foremost, we want to reach people when they need Snoot the most, in the vulnerable days and weeks after rescuing a dog,” said Galea, explaining Snoot’s market strategy. “We want them to have high quality information backed by the most reputable organizations in the dog industry, the CCPDT, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association. And, of course, the shelters where they had their dogs. Then we will have the coaches because Snoot will be valuable and they will want to be a part of it. “

But his vision does not end there. Noting that anyone can represent themselves as a dog trainer, Galea sees the day where Snoot will become a motivating force in creating standards and licensing requirements for dog trainers. “Right now, dog training is a very strange kind of Old West industry,” he said. “Anyone can go in there. Anyone can advertise. There’s no way of knowing what you’re getting, and usually dog ​​owners don’t even know how to ask for credentials or methods, which I really want to figure out.

However, it would take years for Galea to recognize the value of his idea and the potential to expand it into what he calls “the ultimate dog owner’s guide to everything.” After graduating with a BS in Biology from U in 2012 and working as a research assistant for two years at the Miller School of Medicine, he headed to Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, where he received his masters degree in human anatomy with the goal of going to medical school. But when his old dog died, he decided to adopt a border collie, and when he found Dash, he unknowingly found his calling.

“His name was Rupert and he lived on a farm in the boonies. And when he saw me, he pulled away, dropped down at my feet, and turned around for me to stroke him. I almost cried because it was only a month after my previous dog died and I just needed a friend, ”Galea recalls. “Her adoptive mother asked, ‘Do you want to see the others?’ and I said ‘No, he’s my dog.’ But it soon became very clear that he had all of these problems. He was afraid of every noise on campus.

After returning to Miami, Galea began teaching human anatomy at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, applying to medical schools, and taking Dash to all the dog training classes he could. They were such a great team that Dash quickly became a Certified Therapy Dog and Galea a Certified Therapy Dog Tester through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Soon after, he co-founded Heel 2 Heal Therapy Dogs, a nonprofit organization that sends teams of volunteer therapy dogs to medical and other centers across South Florida, including the Richter Library. at the University, where stressed-out students facing final exams were overjoyed to see Dash last week. Galea also obtained her certifications as a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant and started her own personal dog training business. Then, slowly but surely, he began to doubt his intention to pursue a career in medicine.

Graduate student Rebecca Vargas has a stress relief visit with Dash during Finals week.

“It took a long time for me because I had invested so much in it and felt like I was quitting,” said Galea. “But I couldn’t stop taking the training because it’s teaching. And I love to teach. And dogs are super fun, and I love the psychology and science behind their training. But there wasn’t a lot of money in it, and it wasn’t glamorous.

Eventually, this apology made Galea realize that he was pursuing medicine for the wrong reasons and, intrigued by Miami’s booming startup ecosystem, he decided to get his MBA and become an expert. in venture capital (VC). But, as he helped develop the initial screening processes for early stage startups in the inaugural ‘Cane Angel Network’ class, he kept his idea for Snoot in his back pocket and continued to refine it as it went. as he spoke to more and more professors.

Then, as an active member of the Graduate Students Association (GSA) and representative of graduate students on the board, Galea began to organize and moderate a series of networks between alumni and members of the GSA. This is how he met his fellow double alumnus David Mullings, founder of Blue Mahoe Capital, a predominantly Caribbean-focused investment firm, who was happy to share his experiences with GSA and possibly help to realign Galea’s priorities.

After getting his MBA, Galea reached out to Mullings, believing he would be a good contact for VC jobs. But when Galea mentioned this “side little thing” he was working on, Mullings encouraged him to forget about VC and follow his heart. “It was clear he had a solution to a problem that would improve people’s lives, but more importantly, he was passionate about it,” Mullings said. “And that’s why his business model has the potential for success, because it’s scalable and he has a passion for overcoming the potholes and potholes he will face. ”

He also has Dash, who taught him other invaluable lessons. “He gave me so much more than what I was looking for,” said Galea. “He taught me the joy of playing with dogs and making a living doing it.”