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2ND Place: WAG CENTRAL | Stratford, CT

Wag On

A former schoolteacher went back to school to assemble the ultimate boarding, training and play experience.

OWNER: Angela Pantalone | WEBSITE: | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION : 2017 | AREA: 15,000 square feet | EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time, 25 part-time | INSTAGRAM: wagcentral

A FORMER TEACHER, Angela Pantalone knew exactly what to do first after deciding to open a doggie day care and boarding facility: Go back to school.

“I enrolled in a 350-hour training and kennel management program to learn how to speak dog,” she says of the Professional Trainers Course at Connecticut K-9 Education Center in Newington, CT.

Angela Pantalone

Pantalone didn’t stop her studies there. To understand other aspects of the business — from facility design and decor, to branding and layout, to hiring and training staff — she looked to her future peers.

“I traveled to see top day care and boarding facilities throughout the U.S. By understanding their inner workings and how dog safety is prioritized, I knew that the magic was the combination of these things.”

When it came time to graduate, Pantalone considered buying a franchise, but “I decided that Wag Central would start from scratch, fully utilizing the wealth of knowledge I’d just learned and loved.”

The 15,000-square-foot facility opened in 2017 and has since seen 50 percent growth year over year.


Upscale Setting & Services

With help from Wiles Architects and Tripka Interiors, Pantalone transformed the former offices of an HVAC contractor into a facility that impresses both humans and dogs. Brand colors orange and gray flow throughout the interior, which features stained concrete floors, tile-wainscoted walls and wooden accents. Building columns double as birch trees, thanks to clever paint accents. Front windows allow for an abundance of natural light.

“I really wanted to bring the outdoors in, and I think we nailed it,” she says.

Day care and boarding make up 60 percent of revenue at Wag Central. Not surprising since Pantalone once taught kindergarten, dogs follow a school-like schedule that includes indoor and outdoor activities, with rest time in between. Weekday day care rates are $32 for half and $40 for full; the five-hour weekend rate is $40. Discounts apply to additional family dogs and multi-day packages.

Overnight boarding rates range from $58 to $88 per night across a variety of accommodations. The highest price gets guests a Canis Major or Canis Minor Luxury Suite, a large quiet room separate from the main boarding area, decorated in stellar themes.

Pet parents can add pickup and drop-off services, swim lessons and grooming to their dog’s day care or boarding stay. Appointments with partner veterinarian Erin Fleming also are available.

“We can even include owners via FaceTime,” Pantalone says, adding that all employees have CPR and first-aid training, and that Wag Central has a veterinary technician on-site who also interns at Fleming’s clinic in nearby Fairfield. “If a dog isn’t eating or their pee is a funny color, she can take a first look.” The vet tech can also administer medications and certain vaccines.


Stay & Play & Shop

Wag Central offers pet parents plenty of opportunities to join in on the fun. Wagaloo Cafe welcomes people and pre-approved leashed pups with its comfy seating and treats for both. The Lounge hosts parties for any reason, with staff handling everything from sending invites and confirming guest vet records to playing with partygoers and taking pics.

The indoor Play Park remains open seven days a week to help dogs get exercise no matter the weather. And Wag University provides positive-reinforcement obedience training for all ages and skill levels, plus agility and nosework. One-on-one and board-and-train options also are available.

The facility’s retail area carries products that support its services and align with its high standards.

“What we sell, we use,” Pantalone says. “So Kongs and treat puzzles, anything that keeps dogs busy and not just sitting in a kennel. We sell a lot of swim vests, and the collars and leashes our trainer uses in class. If it works here, we recommend it to our clients.”

Class of 2019 & Beyond

New hires get on-the-job training by shadowing staff members for a minimum of 20 shifts. Continuing education happens through monthly meetings and quarterly, topic-based training sessions. The next generation of Pantalones are among the students.

“My oldest daughter, Ellie, is heading to college in the fall, and we don’t know what we’ll do without her. She has a strong head for business and an uncanny ability to see the whole picture, yet still manages good relationships with everyone, even though her mom is the boss. Annie is learning to speak dog very well. At just 16 years old, she can control a pack of pups, give love and affection, and discipline them like a seasoned dog trainer. My son, Gus, is learning to love cleaning, which is a never-ending task!”

Judges’ Comments

Beth Miller: Clean, engaging and thoughtful. Wag Central looks professional and comforting for those leaving furry kids in their care.

Jane Harrell: Chic and modern, Wag Central’s cohesive brand touches everything and everyone they come into contact with. There’s no way a pet parent could doubt this team’s professionalism and doggy-spoiling expertise as soon as they walk in the door.

Beke Lubeach: I like the look of the bakery and cafe. It looks like they’ve invested heavily in the services side of the business.

Leel Michelle: This business is the bees’ knees! So many amazing things to experience!

Kristen Levine: Impressive story and build-from-scratch vision, not to mention strong growth after only two years. I want to visit Wag Central!


5 Cool Things About Wag Central

1 EASY-PEASY BOOKING. Once clients register for an account through the Wag Central portal, they can upload forms and files, schedule services and purchase packages — all online.

2 GOLDEN BOARDERS. At no extra charge, dogs ages 8 and older get orthopedic bedding, extra trips outside, medications administered, and a choice of 10-minute cuddle time, canine massage or gentle grooming session during their stay. A Therapeutic Boarding program is also available for dogs with special medical needs.

3 GLAM SQUAD. In addition to the usual menu items, Wag Central groomers provide hair dye, stencil design and nail polish for It Pups.

4 FACETIME AT BEDTIME. Pet parents can schedule a FaceTime call with their dog and the staff member tucking them in.

5 STATE OF THE ART. Among the many high-tech cleaning systems at Wag Central is PetAirapy. It uses short-wavelength ultraviolet light to kill or neutralize viruses, bacteria, mold and other germs.



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