Tom Simpson, owner of Community Happy Dogs, walks up to 10 dogs at a time. Credit: Hannele Lahti

Talk about office politics.

In Tom Simpson’s work space, Babson thinks he can charm his way out of anything, Bobby will talk your ear off and Poppy seems a little shy. Happ gets along with everyone, Fenway is the group’s social butterfly and Charley just wants to fit in.

Simpson, 62, works with four-legged customers as part of Community Happy Dogs, his dog-walking company. Serving Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Northwest Washington, D.C., Simpson’s thriving business transforms dogs from haphazard tree sniffers to a harmonic symphony of docile canines, gliding down posh residential streets to the steady clip-clop of nails clicking the ground, up to 10 at a time. So well-trained is his posse that even when another barking dog passes by the group, not one pup makes a sound—or a move—in response.

“Tom’s refined it to a science,” says client Elizabeth Wilner of Chevy Chase, whose 2-year-old English Labrador, Happ, walks with Simpson on weekdays. “He’s somewhat of a neighborhood phenomenon.”

Simpson closed shop on his previous company, Marketing Now Inc., to launch Community Happy Dogs in 2018. The Chevy Chase resident and his wife, who have five grown children, enjoy travel, dining and sports when off the clock. But business has exploded, so much so that he now employs three additional dog walkers—one of whom, Simpson says, earned $82,000 last year.  

“They are all world class,” he says. 


Simpson recommends walking dogs for 30 minutes first thing in the morning.  Credit: Hannele Lahti

Simpson possesses strong athletic roots; he says he was once a highly competitive men’s field hockey player. He walks about 24 dogs a day, collectively about 10 miles. 

“Dogs thrive on it—it is their bliss,” he says. “A tired dog is a happy dog.”

Simpson and his employees each walk as many as 10 dogs at a time for either a half-hour or a full hour. In a 30-minute walk, he guarantees the dogs will log at least 11/2 miles, or 3 miles in an hour. Dog owners pay $27 for a half-hour or $44 for the hourlong  service. Each four-legged client is picked up at their home and driven to gather with others for efficiency’s sake.


“It’s a little bit like a clown car,” Wilner says. “I don’t know how Tom does it.”

Once the clock starts and the walking commences, the pups’ parents are updated via text-message reports and photos. Simpson learned the trade’s tricks from dog behaviorist Cesar Millan’s educational materials and from volunteering at the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C.  

“[My program is] transformative,” Simpson says. “Dogs that have poor behaviors improve dramatically.”


How does Simpson do it? For one, the pack avoids sidewalks, favoring quiet streets and the Capital Crescent Trail to minimize distractions. He also makes it clear to his menagerie of goldendoodles, French bulldogs, Havanese and Cavapoos that he’s the alpha, and everyone walks “nose to toes,” meaning they never walk in front of Simpson, instead assuming a subordinate spot.

“When we leave the house, they have to know they are safe and protected,” Simpson says.

He never leaves home without his ample treat pouch, hand sanitizer, pepper spray, a flashlight and, of course, lots of little plastic bags. Simpson trains dogs to walk together, refrain from barking and stay on task during fast-paced neighborhood jaunts. 


“It’s really incredible what he does,” says Melissa Randolph, whose 3-year-old Doberman, Jellybean, tends to be menacing and anti-social. Randolph and her husband were walking in Bethesda, saw Simpson training another dog, and asked him to visit their home for training.

“By the time he left, she was laying down at his feet,” Randolph says. “Incredible—in just one hour.”

Simpson encourages owners to walk their dogs for 30 minutes first thing in the morning, which he says is good for bonding between the animals and their pet parents.


“Exercise and discipline are more important to a dog than affection,” he says. “When we ascertain what’s super important to them, we’re able to achieve incredible things with the dog.”

This story appears in the May/June issue of Bethesda Magazine.