Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Teena Patel grew up in a community where people kept animals for food and for protection. But, owning pets for the sake of companionship was unknown. She fondly recalls going on safaris and observing wild animals in their natural habitats, citing these experiences as her most formative. Seeing the freedom enjoyed by lions, zebras, and other creatures deeply moved her, and set her future career into motion. Patel moved to the United States as a teenager and adapted to American customs, even getting a pet dog. She also held on to her dream of becoming a park ranger and protecting wild animals.
After earning a degree in psychology and an MBA, Patel sought a career where she could channel her passion for the care of animals. First, she tried working as a trainer for killer whales, but became quickly disillusioned by the conditions in which they were kept merely for human amusement. Patel then looked for another way to work with animals and earned a degree in dog training at a prestigious school in New York City. But, once more, she found herself frustrated by the artificial nature of training practices and the lack of engagement with the dogs’ actual needs.
Rather than give up her passion, Patel decided that there had to be a better way. Drawing upon her childhood experiences, Patel developed a new method of training that focused on the whole dog. She taught people how to interact positively with their animals and to integrate them fully into their lives. She jettisoned the “tricks” and gimmicks that are the standard fare in this industry. Patel quickly earned a reputation as an innovator and won a dedicated following of dog owners in her city of Orlando.
After almost a decade of successful dog training, Patel wanted to bring her philosophy of enrichment to the blossoming industry of dog daycare. Now in her eleventh year at the 3.5-acre Doglando facility, Patel does away with the standard “doggy daycare” warehousing of animals in kennels and runs. In place of this industrial model, Patel focuses on what is right for the animals, providing experiences that improve and enhance their behavioral health. She gives each dog the freedom to roam the grounds, go swimming, and play with the staff and other dogs. Coupled with a program of careful training, the Doglando experience results in dogs who are better-behaved, better integrated into their families, and above all, happier. True to her passion, Patel gives dogs the freedom to be dogs.