tatum 1Tatum Brown founder of the The Social Dog Company was living on her own and suffering from anxiety and depression.

“I would come home and just feel really alone, so someone recommended that I get a dog,” says Tatum.  

“I had always loved dogs, but I wasn’t really aware of how to go about purchasing one. I looked online and bought a dachshund for $1,000.
However, when I got it, it had obviously come from a puppy mill (which I later reported). It was starved to make it look like a miniature, had worms, fleas, a urinary tract infection and all of this horrible, horrible stuff including anxiety.


tatum 2“I decided I wanted to do more for dogs in these situations, there are so many dogs out there that need homes,” says Tatum.

Tatum wanted to link passion and purpose together, so she had a chat with some rescue staff. She discovered that many of the smaller rescues are very low on funding and rely primarily on volunteers.

Coming from an innovation and entrepreneurship background, Tatum saw an opportunity.

 “At the time, I was on Tinder and noticed that the people I was attracted to all had dogs. I coupled this with the realisation of how easy it is to talk to people at a dog park, so I thought why not bring dating and dogs together.


“And that is how I came up with Dating with Dogs, which was one of the first events that I held in Canberra. Since then it has grown and now we are also in Sydney and I’ve just gone down to Melbourne. We also started doing other doggie social events that bring people together,” says Tatum.


Tatum stresses that all her events have a fundraising element to them, raising badly needed funds for smaller rescue organisations.
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“We do a very popular ‘Canines and Cocktails’ event where we fill out a bar with rescue and foster greyhounds which are also available for adoption. We get these greyhounds out and about in the community so people can see them because you cannot necessarily judge a dog when they are in a pound or a foster home. It’s nice to be able to gauge them socially and it also lets the dogs be themselves.


“People come along and they get a doggie themed cocktail, there are treats on the tables for the dogs and basically it’s cocktail hour with your friends.

“Many people come alone. After a hard day at work, the dogs are really therapeutic and just wander around and end up lying on laps for a cuddle. A number of people have told me that it really helps, whether they are going through a break up or something is happening at work, or they just aren’t coping. They don’t personally have a dog, so it allows them time to hang out with the dogs and get a little bit of canine-therapy,” adds Tatum.


“There are not many events that people can go to as a solo person in Canberra. It can be a little bit cliquey and I think many people will agree that once you have a little friendship group, people tend to stick to it. I think people struggle with the loneliness factor which can then lead to depression or anxiety or other mental illnesses.
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“The dogs are a natural ice breaker and people let down their guard. I’ve heard from people that it was exactly what they needed, they weren’t coping and didn’t have anyone to talk to”.

Tatum says The Social Dog Company has also gone to a couple of universities for Mental Health Week, it’s a free event and we just hang out. The dogs are off lead and they run around and get some photos, some pats and cuddles. 

“Dogs naturally bring light and love to the events, instantly putting smiles on faces and they always bring a laugh. It stems from mindfulness, if you are watching a dog behave and interact with you it brings you into the present. I know that having a dog has done that for my mental illness. If I am crying they’ll come up and they are non-judgmental. Patting and drawing attention to them helps you get out of the bad mood that you are in; it brings you into the present and gives you that mindfulness”.

Another innovative event organized by The Social Dog Company is ‘Yoga Poses and Puppy Noses’, an hour of yoga where you bring your dog and they wander around off lead.

When asked about funny moments and challenges, Tatum says, “I really like to have the dogs off lead at the events.
When other people do dog-orientated events you can bring your dog but it has to be on a lead, whereas we provide a tatum 5safe space for dogs to socialise off lead. We find that the dogs actually cope better too."

“My first Dating with Dogs, I had no idea what I was doing and that was a leaded event, so the dogs were on leads. I soon found out that having that many people made the dogs agitated, protective of their owners or they just wanted to play. They are like a child that has to stand by their mum or their dad and they just get irritated and start misbehaving. So, that is why off lead works well for my events and it also allows the owners to relax too. It means that the people that don’t have a dog feel comfortable as well.


“With the yoga event, the dogs just wonder around and they’ll come and sit on you or lick you and it’s just got that nice fun element to it while you are unwinding. We did have a dog pee on someone once! We are all dog lovers so it just added to the entertainment”.


When asked whether anyone has found their true love at Dating with Dogs, Tatum says there have definitely been some connections, but more importantly there have been a lot of friendships.

“I’m kind of low on friends, I keep to myself a lot of the time, but I have been able to connect to people. It may not be love but it may be something longer-lasting than that, which is friendship”.

When asked about future plans, Tatum says she is currently focused on growing the events.


“We will shortly be kicking off another event in Sydney called ‘Pup Crawl,’ where dog owners take their dogs around to a number of dog-friendly bars.

“I am a bit of an entrepreneur at heart, so I am always looking for opportunities that would service the industry I work in. One area that I’m looking into is an airBnB for petsitting.


“Having three dogs I know it is super expensive to get dogs petsitted. I am always on pet forums and dogsitters are dropping out last minute or it is too expensive. People are happy to return the favor if their dog can go to someone’s house and vice versa. At the moment I am developing a membership-based website that offers an exchange for pet sitting services.

“I think half of going into business is having the balls to put yourself out there. You can have days where you are winning and then the next you just want to give up. It is being able to be relentless and reminding yourself that it’s just a bad moment and tomorrow will be a better day. It is a lot of head work running a business,” says Tatum.

To find out more about the Social Dog Company visit https://www.facebook.com/thesocialdogcompany/

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About Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre
Lighthouse has a strong track record of supporting entrepreneurs, researchers and inventers on the path from concept to commercialisation. Since July 2008, Lighthouse has worked with over 990 distinct enterprises and provided group and peer based services to over 3400 enterprises and individuals. For over five years Lighthouse has successfully delivered business advice, education, mentorship and networking opportunities to help these businesses commercialise their ideas and grow their companies. Lighthouse also delivers programs such as the ACT Microcredit Program for the ACT Government. Visit www.lighthouseinnovation.com.au for more information.