An Interview with Subhadra Cherukuri, the brilliant mind behind Wag-Ville, a premier pet care facility

Subhadra Cherukuri

A Conversation with Subhadra Cherukuri, Founder & CEO of Wag-Ville

Welcome to an exclusive interview with Subhadra Cherukuri, the brilliant mind behind Wag-Ville, a premier pet care facility nestled in the heart of Bangalore.

With an unwavering passion for animals and a desire to provide the best care possible, Subhadra embarked on a journey to create a haven for pets and their owners alike.

As the founder and CEO of Wag-Ville, she has been instrumental in shaping the pet care landscape in the city, and her dedication to animal welfare and innovative approach have made Wag-Ville a beloved destination for pet owners seeking top-notch care for their furry companions.

Tell us a little about yourself

Subhadra Cherukuri: With an MBA in Finance, I used to be a Management Consultant with EY (Ernst & Young) primarily, as well as organizations for 16 years prior to starting Wag-ville in 2018.

I am also a certified Canine Behaviorist and Trainer, as well as a certified Equine (horse) Facilitated Leadership Coach and a horse-riding instructor.

I am married to Mark Mackenna Anthony, an ex-techie, now a restaurateur. My father is a Chartered Accountant, and my mother was a documentary film-maker, retired as the Deputy Director of Doordarshan, Hyderabad. Passionate about wildlife, I am also a Snake and Wildlife rescuer and a certified volunteer with the Forest Department of Karnataka as well as the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

What inspired you to start Wag-Ville, and what is the story behind its creation as a premier pet care facility in Bangalore?

Subhadra Cherukuri: Being an animal lover, and having several pets of my own, my husband and I were constantly looking out for places to take our dogs to, as well as reliable pet care facilities to leave our dogs when we travel.

When we were young, our parents would hire help to stay at home with the pets when we travelled as a family, and the concept of ‘pet friendly spaces’, dog parks, dog pools etc were an unheard of concept.

We would take our dogs out to general open spaces around the city, and to ponds or lakes to swim. As the cities grew, it was difficult to find such spaces that were easily accessible.

Also, it was hard to find reliable help to look after pets when we were away, and there were very few reliable ‘boarding centers’ or home boarders which would usually be booked up (as the demand way way higher than supply) – other places were highly unreliable, and did not provide adequate care to dogs.

Also, even the reliable places were very small, and the pets would be restricted to tiny spaces without proper outdoor access. 

Also, being an amateur dog trainer in myself since I was in college, I realized that most pet parents in India are clueless about raising their pets in a balanced manner, with the right training which meant, pets would often be badly trained or have severe behavioral issues leading to it becoming very stressful for owners to look after them, and often resulting in abandonment of dogs too. 

While modern day pet parents are highly invested in their pets, there were no places for them to take their pets to.

This led us to think that we should set up our own facility for people like us who also have pets and would need to board them from time to time, and also would like a space to take their pets out to for outdoor activities, as well as offer training and behaviour modification of pets, while increasing the awareness of dog handling, behaviour and training amongst modern-day pet parents. 

How do you ensure that Wag-Ville provides top-notch pet care services and stands out in a competitive market?

Subhadra Cherukuri: At Wag-ville, we aim to provide the best in class services for dogs like Day-care, Overnight boarding, swimming pools, pet friendly cafe, off-leash dog parks, dog grooming, and a pet-product store.

The idea is to offer a single space where dog owners can not only receive all the services they require (except medical / veterinary services), but also offer a space where their dog can get time in the outdoors, spaces that can be used to provide both mental and physical enrichment for dogs, and a place where people can hang out and bond with their dogs.

More than just standing out in a competitive market, it is ethically important to provide the best possible care, as we are dealing with living beings, who cannot speak or express their feelings. 

Keeping this in mind, our spaces and services are designed based on extensive research, keeping in mind the physical and psychological needs of pets from a scientific perspective, rather than just the perspective of pet owners (while pet owners are well-meaning in their approach to raising their pets.

They are often unaware of the pets’ needs from a scientific angle, and tend to anthropomorphosize their pets – treating them like humans – which is not always the best thing as dogs have physical and psychological needs that are very different from humans). 

Our staff undergoes extensive training, which is constantly refreshed in all aspects of dog care and handling, as well as canine first aid.

We also constantly drive awareness amongst our pet owner clients about care of their pet/s and also conduct awareness programs and workshops based on dog care and training from time-to-time.

Our processes and SOPs are well documented and updated as needed, and we follow strict process checks on all processes w.r.t dog care, training and facility maintenance.

Can you share some of the unique features and offerings that set Wag-Ville apart from other pet care facilities in the area?

Subhadra Cherukuri: These are some of the unique features that set Wag-ville apart – 

1. Strict adherence to in-take of of dogs for boarding and swimming (such as vaccination checks, physical checks, behaviour checks), and ensuring that dogs follow a gentle procedure of acclimatizing them to our spaces for boarding through a series of visits, in order to ensure they are eased into staying with us rather than shocked into it, in order to avoid / reduce separation anxiety and the ensuing behavioral or health issues.

We have a vet who visits regularly to also check the pets in our care, in addition to daily routine health checks performed by our staff. 

2. Staff that are formally trained in dog handling and canine first-aid in order to ensure they are prepared to handle behavioral issues, as well as emergencies while boarding, playing, swimming, grooming

3. Our boarding kennels are extra large, allowing 45 sqt ft of space for each dog, in well ventilated kennels with 24/7 CCTV surveillance

4. When boarding with us, dogs are not restricted to kennels. They spend most of their time in the outdoor parks, playing and relaxing.

Dogs are put into kennels only during the afternoons and at night to rest. This ensures they get adequate physical exercise as well as mental stimulation, and do not develop any difficult behavioral issues as a result of being cooped up in small spaces

5. We have 1 acre of space set aside solely for dog parks  – the same has been divided into multiple parks that can be used by dog owners and their pets based on the temperament of their pet. Dog owners, whose dogs are not social, can use exclusive parks.

6. Our pools are always crystal clear – filtered and chlorinated, with pH and Chlorine levels maintained as per canine requirements (which are different from humans). 

7. Our Canine Behaviorists and trainers are some of the best in the country and work with clients to ensure holistic raising of their pet dogs – from a mental, behavioral and physical standpoint.

We help clients work through light to severe behavioural issues of their dogs, and all our training and behaviour modification programs involve the dog owner for the entirety of the program, teaching them how to work with the dog themselves, and helping them build a strong bond with their dogs.

When dogs board with us, we observe them for any health or behavioural issues, and sensitize their owners about the same, as well as guide the owners as to how to have the same resolved.

8. Our entire space of the facility in Bangalore is 3 acres – one of the biggest pet resorts in India – having roomy dog boarding kennels, 1 acre of park space divided into multiple parks, 2 swimming pools, indoor play area for puppies and sensitive brachycephalic small breeds such as pugs, shih tzus etc., an excellent pet friendly cafe (Mackenna’s Smoked BBQ) which serves wood-smoked delicacies for people, and also has a pet menu

9. We conduct specially curated field trips for schools where children of various age groups get to interact with dogs and other farm animals and learn about them.

We also conduct programs for special needs individuals and organisations, to help them interact with our in-house therapy dogs. 

10. All our spaces are monitored by CCTV 24X7

11. We conduct thorough back-ground checks on our staff during recruitment

12. We ensure we keep our rates affordable for the common pet parent and not just exclusively accessible

13. While swimming, our staff are trained to check heart rate and make sure dogs are not physically stressed while swimming.

14. When pets are boarded with us, we update the owners about the well being of the pet on a daily basis, and also send them a video of their pet every day.

What kind of specialized care and services does Wag-Ville offer for different types of pets, such as dogs, cats, and other small animals?

Subhadra Cherukuri: We currently offer care only for dogs.

  •  Boarding and day-care – in addition to regular boarding and day care, we also offer care for dogs with special needs such as paralyzed dogs, senior dogs etc.
  • We offer care for dogs during maternity, if the owner is not equipped or experienced, we offer care for dogs recovering from surgery. We also board dogs with aggression or reactivity issues.
  • Swimming – we offer staff trained in hydrotherapy for cases where the pet requires extensive work and hydrotherapy (not just swimming) in order to help with issues like arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other spinal or bone issues and injuries.

How do you maintain a positive and nurturing environment for pets while they are at Wag-Ville?

Subhadra Cherukuri: Our processes focus entirely on the well-being of the pet from a behavioral and scientific perspective – which as mentioned above may not always be understood by the dog owners.

We therefore also continue to educate dog owners through one-to-one interactions, workshops as well as through social media.

Positivity and care come from doing what one enjoys – therefore we only recruit staff who have a natural love for animals, and then train them for this work.

We ensure our staff is positive and enjoy their work, as this will reflect in their care for the animals, in addition to the processes we have put in place.

We ensure our facility is also maintained in a manner that is calm, serene and enjoyable for dogs and their owners in natural outdoor surroundings.

What steps do you take to ensure that each pet’s individual needs and preferences are catered to during their stay at Wag-Ville?

Subhadra Cherukuri: We connect with pet parents to understand the dogs dietary habits, allergies, medication requirements etc during the time of check-in and cater to the same.

Also, w.r.t. behaviour, we observe the dog during the multiple pre-boarding trials and make a note of behavioral issues and preferences.

Can you share some heartwarming or memorable experiences that showcase the impact of Wag-Ville’s care on pets and their owners?

Subhadra Cherukuri: We have several such instances. We have cases where pets have been boarded with us for more than a year, when the families were travelling for work, or in the process of moving abroad (and waiting to take their pet with them).

One family boarded their 5 dogs with us for over a year. More recently, we have had one family from Singapore fly their dog down to our facility in Bangalore, as they will be travelling for almost 2 years and will not be able to take their pet along.

W.r.t behaviour and training we have several dog owners who have thanked us immensely for hand-holding them through their dogs entire lifetime – from puppyhood on to adulthood and helped them make the right choices w.r.t raising their dogs.

We have also had several instances where we were able to rehabilitate dogs with aggression or reactivity and ease a lot of stress for the owners. 

How does Wag-Ville contribute to the local pet community, such as through adoption drives, rescue support, or charitable initiatives?

Subhadra Cherukuri: In addition to making charitable donations to animal NGOs, we regularly offer our space to NGOs to conduct adoption drives.

We have also worked with NGOs to help rehabilitate dogs with behaviour issues in order to make it easy for them to get adopted. We also work with NGOs to train their staff.

What advice would you give to pet owners looking for a reliable and caring facility to entrust their furry companions?

Subhadra Cherukuri: When boarding your dog anywhere, it is always necessary to look for a professionally run space – whether it is a commercial boarding or a home-based boarding.

Check the credentials of the owner of the space – are they professionally certified in any way? can they attend to first aid if needed? Just ‘being a dog lover’ is not enough for one to be able to take care of someone else’s pets in any way.

Also check if their premises are safe and secure. Check if walls are high enough and boundaries are strong in order to ensure your pet cannot escape.

Put a secure collar on your dog along with a tag that has your contact number prior to boarding. Check on the cleanliness and hygiene of the space.

Also ask for references so you can speak to other pet owners about their experience. Check if there is CCTV available in the boarding space.

Ensure you provide the boarding place with an alternative emergency contact, in case you are not reachable, and also a vet contact as well as history of illnesses and allergies of your dog.

Always settle in your dog in a new place gradually – through multiple visits. If your pet has separation anxiety, you need to first work on the same through a canine behaviorist before boarding. 

Be honest and ethical- update the boarding center about any behavioral issues your pet might have including aggression – so that no staff is put in danger.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Wag-Ville and your dedication to enhancing the lives of pets in Bangalore?

Subhadra Cherukuri: We conduct monthly ‘open house’ sessions for the dog owner community – this is a FREE session for two hours every month where pet owners can come do discuss and receive advice from our behaviorists about raising their dogs, training and behavior issues.

The interview with Subhadra Cherukuri, founder, and CEO of Wag-Ville, has provided us with a glimpse into the inspiring story of a woman who turned her passion for animals into a thriving venture.

Her unwavering dedication to providing exceptional pet care services and her innovative approach to enhancing the lives of pets have solidified Wag-Ville’s position as a premier facility in Bangalore.

With Subhadra at the helm, Wag-Ville continues to be a beacon of excellence, setting a high standard for pet care and strengthening the bond between pets and their owners in the community.

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