The Dog's Life Meets the Good Life

“West Company has been there every time I needed them. It is good to have a guide along the way to provide that business expertise."


Sean Dewil sits next to the grooming station with a large dog by his side at Dirty Dog Daycare & Grooming.

“Kennels are stressful on dogs,” says Sean Dewil, the new owner of Dirty Dog Daycare & Grooming, a Ukiah-based kennel-free dog facility. “It is constant barking. They want to get out of those crates. It is awful,” says Dewil.

Dirty Dog Daycare & Grooming is currently the only dog care center in Mendocino County that offers kennel-free boarding and other services, and owner Sean Dewil, has a unique history of working with canines.

Previously running Canine Energetics, Dewil became well-known for his ability to identify a dog’s temperament, behavior and personality, skills he developed while living and working in the bush, and observing the wildlife around him.

Dewil, who is from South Africa, grew up going on safari with his parents, who ran a safari tour company in Zimbabwe. Since 18, Dewil has worked with animals in many ways including becoming a qualified safari guide and working for two years in Kruger National Park in South Africa, collecting behavioral data on the African Wild Dog, also known as African painted dog.

“You always have to be watching body language. You need to watch for triggers and know how to correct it, direct it and stay on top of it. It is all about following the protocol,” explained Dewil

His experiences taught him that, “animals all have laws and rules in which they abide. the same thread goes through nature, herds, troupes, and prides,” explained Dewil as he has applied what he learned in the bush to his approach with domestic dogs.

Dewil works closely with the owners and dogs to address a variety of social and behavioral problems including barking, separation anxiety, aggression, fearfulness, and leash pulling. Dewil helps owners identify and understand their dog’s behavior and teaches them how to correct it in a consistent manner with a variety of training tools that best fit their specific dog.

A crucial tool Dewil uses for socialization and rehabilitation of a dog is the concept of the pack walk. A two-mile outdoor walk with a group of 10 to 12 dogs. These walks allow Dewil to learn about the dog’s personality, and for the dog, it helps with their socialization because they can learn about expected behavior from interactions with other dogs.

When Dewil came to Ukiah in 2007, he immediately recognized the need for dog-related services. He worked at the Mendocino Animal Hospital as a Quantum Touch practitioner providing hands on healing to dogs before starting Canine Energetics.

“When I came here, I saw there was a huge market for people who didn’t understand how to really work their dogs. I started doing the pack walks and then came Canine Energetics center in 2010. I realized that I could make a nice kennel-free dog facility, which no one had done before,” said Dewil.

In 2013, Dewil was forced to close Canine Energetics as he was having trouble hiring adequate employees to meet the demand, but soon after he was presented with the opportunity to take over Dirty Dog Daycare in Ukiah.

Wanting to avoid some of the challenges he faced at Canine Energetics, Dewil turned to West Company, a local nonprofit that supports small business development. West Company helped him establish his business, from budgeting and financial paperwork to defining services and hiring qualified employees, something he struggled with before.

“West Company has been there every time I needed them. It is good to have a guide along the way to provide that business expertise. If I need to do something important or quick, I find West Company. They will be like a buffer and give me awesome direction,” said Dewil.

Dirty Dog Daycare officially opened in May of this year offering a variety of services including daycare, grooming, personal training, rattlesnake avoidance training, overnight boarding and pack walks.

“We want to offer the best service in Mendocino – good daycare, kennel-free boarding, excellent client service, and really good service with the dogs. If the dogs are happy, that’s all you really need,” said Dewil.

At some point he says, he hopes to expand to a larger facility and expand his services. For now, he is focusing on making sure the animals he cares for enjoy their time spent at Dirty Dog Daycare. “When dogs have the opportunity to get off leash, to get away from the suburbs and to smell nature. This is all they really need- sunshine and exercise,” explained Dewil.

Dirty Dog Daycare is located at 884 South State Street in Ukiah. For more information call (707) 463-8800.

Torrey Douglass