How do you train a dog that’s hard of hearing? OneMind Dogs co-founder Janita Leinonen had been competing in agility – very successfully – with her border collie Tekla, when, in 2003, her furry friend suddenly became deaf. All training having been based on verbal cues, Leinonen had to do one of two things: either give up the hobby completely or find a new way of interacting with Tekla.
For an agility enthusiast, the choice was clear. Now, OneMind Dogs’ co-founder and CEO, Noora Keskievari, spends most of her time spreading the word about the dog training method that has evolved from Leinonen and Tekla’s experiences.
“With Tekla, Janita noticed that words and voices really didn’t have much to do with dog training at all,” she tells. “If anything, Tekla performed even better without words, so she decided to try the method on her hearing dogs as well, and the same happened with them.”
OneMind Dogs is an online service aimed to help dog owners train their pets by doing fun and simple exercises. The core idea of the philosophy is to, like Leinonen did with Tekla, step into the dog’s shoes – or better said, paws – instead of expecting the animal to act like a human. This, Keskievari believes, will lead to happier humans and happier dogs.
“Research shows that having a dog significantly adds to the owners’ wellbeing. We want to boost that effect.”
Daily practices that are fun for all
As happy as our dogs can make us, having problems with them will have the opposite impact on our lives. Many dog owners have the best intentions when teaching their dog, but they may not really know what they’re doing.
“For example, something as simple as walking the dog on the street can be difficult if it’s not practised from a very early age,” Keskievari notes. “However, many people don’t start training early enough, and things get a whole lot more difficult as the dog grows older.”
This is where OneMind Dogs sees a big business opportunity. The pet industry is ever growing: in the US alone, people spent over 72 billion dollars on their pets last year, and the sum is constantly increasing. As more and more people are bitten by the pet bug, the Finnish startup wants to find them early.
“We want to promote responsible ownership by helping people out from the very first days with their puppies throughout the dog’s life,” Keskievari explains. “OneMind Dogs is meant to be easy and effortless to use and a lot of fun for both dogs and their owners.”
The fee-based subscription service includes training videos and daily practices that aim to prevent possible problems. Although initially the service was targeted at agility dogs, it is now looking to serve anyone planning to have a new puppy.
Heading to the top of the puppy world
OneMind Dogs was founded in 2012, and the service was launched in November the following year. Throughout its existence, about 70 per cent of its revenue has originated from North America, namely the US and Canada.
OneMind Dogs has spent plenty of time researching the market, and the plans for the future are big. Currently the service is available in English and Finnish, but in Asia, for example, there may be immense markets awaiting as having dogs is becoming increasingly popular.
Keskievari says that, at some stage, subscribers will be able to purchase live support from OneMind Dogs trainers. There are team members in Finland, the US, Australia, Canada and sometimes in the UK, and soon there’ll be an office in Austin, Texas.
“Our goal is to be the leading puppy training provider in the world by 2022,” Keskievari tells.
Having raised more than 500 000 euros in funding in May, the company is well on its way to achieving its goal. Numbers aside, the most important aim is still to make life better for dogs and owners. Keskievari would love to do away with pinch collars and dogs living in cages in family homes.
“Many people have dreamy images of what their life will be like with their puppy, but finding the right kind of support can be difficult. We want to push them towards that dream.”