Bark Academy

Many business owners spend hours scouring the Internet in search of positive reviews from satisfied clients. Missy Kelly needs to look no further than the wiggling hind quarters of a vigorous tail wagger.

Such feedback is a sure sign of another happy canine visitor to The Bark Academy specialized dog training and doggy daycare. Entering her fifth year of business, Kelly has been in her new digs at 300 S. 4th St. since May. That’s down the hill from the post office, a route that will become known by many a Wausau dog owner once the new dog park opens across the parking lot from her store front.

“We knew the dog park was coming when we were looking at new locations,” Kelly said, relishing the exposure her business is likely to get by its proximity to the park, which is scheduled to open in phases through next summer. Sharing space next to her front door is Muttley Crew dog grooming, whose owner, Brenda Kraft, relocated along with Kelly.

Kelly’s 4th Street location offers about 5,000 square feet inside and another 5,000 outside.

“It was just an empty warehouse,” Kelly said. “It was gross.”

It’s now a well-lit, open concept with organized pens, and features a cheery mural painted along the west wall.

And it’s far from empty as The Bark Academy sees about 25 dogs a day on average, a number Kelly said has grown steadily.

The facility is roughly a 10-fold increase from her original location on Merrill Avenue. The new space is allowing Kelly to take just a little bigger bite of the $75 billion that Americans spend on their pets every year.

Kelly, who owns The Bark Academy, is a professional dog trainer with her sister, Britany Sciborowski, her lone (full-time) employee.

She joined Kelly full time when the new location opened, but neither is a stranger to training animals.

“We had dogs growing up,” Sciborowski said. “And I trained horses. They’re not much different, honestly.”

Over the years, they’ve come to learn how intuitive animals can be and to become virtual mind-readers by the way dogs behave.

They (dogs) read the person. They pick up that energy off their owner and give that feedback. Dogs require a lot of patience. —Missy Kelly, owner, The Bark Academy, Wausau 

“They read the person,” Kelly said. “They pick up that energy off their owner and give that feedback. Dogs require a lot of patience.”

They noted how dogs can pick up on any number of overt or subtle stressors in a home; a birth or a death, a wedding or a divorce, a job loss or a relocation.

Any dog owner who runs has probably experienced the excited hopefulness of a pooch watching as its owner puts on shorts and running shoes.

Like owners of any local business with regular customers — barbershop, bar, butcher, etc. — Kelly and Sciborowski have come to learn the personalities of their dozens of regulars. That helps them sort the dogs among their various pens.

The primary focus of the business is day care. It’s a new addition given the space as the previous location simply did not have room.