After “falling out of love” with politics and getting fired from his first dog-walking gig, a former student has become one of the most well-known dog walkers in the District.
Danny Kampf, who attended GW but dropped out in 2005, is now expanding his dog-walking business to include dog boarding. Atlas Dog House, which will be located at 1375 H St. NE, will be a boarding service that also provides physical activity for the dogs, with walks and monitored outdoor play when it opens in the next few months.
Kampf can be seen in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood surrounded by as many as 20 dogs all strapped to his body, working as a local professional dog walker for more than a decade. Kampf said he tries to spend as much time with the dogs he works with as possible but lately, creating this new business has involved “garbage human interaction.”
“I’m excited to lead a gigantic dog pack,” Kampf said. “It’ll be an interesting social experience.”
Kampf, who was a political science major, said he originally planned to work in politics after graduation. But once he learned more about the political environment in D.C., he said he didn’t like the high-stress atmosphere and began taking part-time jobs – like dog-walking gigs – to pay bills when he left GW.
“I quickly fell out of love with libertarian politics. I didn’t fit neatly into any political trappings,” Kampf said. “Ten years later, here I am.”
Kampf said his canine clients have adjusted to city life, which makes them behave differently than if they were in the suburbs. D.C. dogs often mimic the type-A personalities of their politically-active owners, even though a dog’s nature often dictates the opposite, he said.
“There are a lot of wonderful, intelligent, loving, hardworking and neurotic people whom I respect tremendously,” Kampf said. “The dogs mimic the high energy and neuroticism of the city.”
Since his temporary gig turned into a full-time career, Kampf has expanded from working by himself to adding five other walkers. Before he expanded, he would walk about 20 dogs at a time for about 10 miles around the District.
When the new dog daycare opens, Kampf said it’ll be one of the only boarding facilities that utilizes dog psychology behind how dogs interact, which he has studied on his own over the past decade by dog walking and using a “pack mentality” to train the dogs.
“We’re the only boarding place I know of that’s taking a behavioral approach to boarding,” Kampf said. “We’re going to create a structured pack.”
Kampf said he wanted his business to showcase his knowledge of animal psychology and that his business partner Josh Center, another local dog walker who teamed up with Kampf for this new venture, also believed in the philosophy.
Kampf and his partner both see their role as the “leader of a pack” and wanted to embrace a long-term approach to training, he said. This training will hone obedience through the pack mentality. Kampf is purposeful in how he presents himself to the dogs, as dog packs have a complicated social structure with numerous hierarchies to establish, like in ancient social structures.
“The pack structure will be much more complex and much more Byzantine,” he said. “That’ll be fascinating to interact with.”
The boarding facility doesn’t house dogs in small kennels – which Kampf said is rare in boarding businesses. Getting dogs out into the open is healthier for them, he added.
Kampf said expanding his business with a store will be a “new chapter in his life.” He said it will give him the opportunity to rest and manage a business that still involves the dogs he loves.
“This is the next stage as an entrepreneur,” Kampf said. “I couldn’t walk dogs forever. This is going to give me a very set schedule and it’ll be easier on my increasingly aging bones.”
Atlas Dog House’s location will maintain a close proximity to Kampf’s dog-walking clients. The Mount Vernon Triangle area – a neighborhood near Chinatown – will house Kampf’s business.
Kampf said interacting with the dogs is his favorite part of the job and that dogs create special connections with people including consistent and reciprocal love.
“Every day you get the same greeting as if they’re meeting you for the first time. There’s so much love from dogs and an amazing support structure,” Kampf said. “My favorite part is that unconditional love you get on a daily basis.”