A Five “BARK” Review

When it comes to doggy daycare, Piedmont BARK knows best. The winner of Best Doggy Daycare and Best Pet Supply and Grooming in this year’s Best Of Atlanta awards, Piedmont BARK is the most loved and trusted dog destination in Atlanta. We sat down with the owner and founder William Campbell to chat about the inception of Piedmont BARK, the ins and outs of the business, and what customers can expect from this Disneyland for dogs moving forward.

When and why did you start Piedmont BARK?

“I launched Piedmont BARK in 2002. At that time, I was in marketing and brand consulting working out of my home, but there was always an entrepreneurial streak that ran through me. What made me interested in the concept of doggy daycare, which was pretty non-existent in 2002, was my worry that if I began working in a corporate setting, I would have to leave my dalmatian Sebastian home alone. What I felt like I needed for Sebastian in Midtown, where I’ve lived since 1998, was non-existent. So that made me think, ‘Gosh, I could create a space like that.’ I wanted to create a unique doggy playground that could meet the needs of Midtown pet owners like myself where all dogs would be comfortable to come into.”

What services does Piedmont BARK offer to pets and pet owners? 

“We offer doggy daycare, boarding, and grooming. We have a grooming salon with three full-time groomers and about 24 full-time and part-time employees in total. We average about 20 dogs a night boarding with us – this number spikes on the weekends and right now during the summer, when we’re running about 50 dogs a night. But daycare has about 100 dogs a day.”

“We don’t try to be something we’re not. Our focus is daycare, boarding, and grooming and work towards being the best we can be at that instead of being sidetracked with doing something that’s not our specialty. We have a lot of external resources we can call on because we’re so well-established; we have specialty people that we can call on when we need them. But we try to stick to what we’re good at.”

Can you describe the Piedmont BARK facility? 

“We have a 10,000+ square foot building that’s actually split into two buildings. The first building holds the lobby, grooming salon and our area for our large dogs, which holds the big play areas and suites. Our second building has a similar set-up for small dogs, miniature dogs, geriatric dogs, and puppies.”

“When I designed the lay-out of the facility, I tried to take off my ‘human hat’ and think ‘What is it that’s important to dogs?’ My own dog Sebastian was my inspiration. Sebastian loved large areas to run and play, so we provide that for every dog that comes in. He didn’t want to sit in a crate all day, so we don’t do that. But we do provide adequate area for our dogs to rest.”

It’s very clear that it’s important to you to put the dog first. How do you ensure the best, safest, and most comfortable visit for the pets that come in? 

“Everyone that comes here entrusts their dogs with us because what we offer is a safe, secure environment, kind of like the dog is at home. The big difference is the dog gets to socialize and play with dogs of similar size, temperament, and age. Since our inception, we’ve strived to safeguard all the dogs that are entrusted in our care. I mean, these are people’s babies. Animals have always been our children in the LGBTQ community. So, when they’re in our care, they’re our extended family.”

“One of the ways we make Piedmont BARK safe is with our temperament tests. Every dog that comes to Piedmont BARK has to do a trial day and we do take it very seriously. We have a whole rating sheet on the dog, like how they get along with other dogs and people, whether they’re dominant or submissive or nervous. That trial day always shows us so much about the dog. This is just to see if they will be a good fit at Piedmont BARK. In order to keep our environment safe and stress-free, we have to have some tough conversations with our clients sometimes. When we see a dog acting crazy, we’re not the people to say, ‘Oh your dog did great today!’ when you come in the afternoon to pick them up. We’re going to be honest with you because we’ve got to. We also offer a lot of time for canine-human interaction through our dog to staff ratio. We have about 1 staff member for every 10 dogs.”

What does Atlanta’s LGBTQ community mean to Piedmont BARK?

“In the early days, in 2002, about 80 percent of my business was LGBTQ. My first ad ran in the Southern Voice, the Georgia Voice’s predecessor, during gay pride. I’m a gay businessowner, and my commitment from day one was to our community – both the LGBTQ community and the greater Midtown community. The community, specifically the gay community, has supported my business since day one. And we make sure to reinvest into the community; we give about $10,000 a year to local charitable causes.”

Do you have an anecdote of a particularly memorable pet?

“Oh wow, there are so many. We’ve had some dramatic stories but we’ve had more funny and happy ones. We had a dog and every morning he came in for daycare, after playing for a while, he would throw up a pair of female underwear! We of course had to tell the owner – I had one of my female managers handle that one. But it would keep happening – we saw socks, underwear, even a bra once! Eventually, the dog did grow out of it. But that was definitely a difficult conversation to have – ‘Umm… your dog is throwing up lingerie.’”

What does the future of Piedmont BARK look like?

“We’re not going anywhere, but we’ve had thoughts of expanding. I don’t want to tip my hand too much but look out for a new Piedmont BARK facility elsewhere that’ll be daycare only. Besides that, it’s going great and we couldn’t be more pleased.”