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January / February 2024
vol 14 • ed 1

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Copyright December 2023. Pet Boarding & Daycare is published bimonthly by Barkleigh Productions, Inc, 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. Postmaster: Send change of address to Pet Boarding & Daycare c/o Barkleigh Productions, Inc., 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. Editorial offices: 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. (717) 691–3388 FAX (717) 691–3381 Email: info@barkleigh.com
Animal Behavior
Of Pets and People: Dealing with Bad Behavior Across the Board

By Louise Dunn

A cat, a Chihuahua and a Beagle walk into a boarding facility. Yes, this sounds like the beginning of a joke…but it is not. One pet tries to bite everyone who touches it, one will not stop barking, and the other freaks out and hides under the chair (clawing at any arm or leg that comes within reach). These are behavior issues team members face daily, and these behaviors often result in a range of reactions from the pet owner. Reactions include ignoring the behavior as it worsens, wanting to medicate the pet, relinquishing it to an animal shelter or even euthanizing the pet.

How does your team respond to these situations? Of course, pet professionals aim to relieve the pressure in any problem situation—they will even dive into the middle of a dog fight! So what is the best way to deal with the biting, the barking and the scratching? Perhaps the starting point should be what NOT to do. Do not grab or hit the pet, don’t yell at the pet or “feed” it with attention, nor should you ignore the behavior. While these may be seen as a short-term solution, some could even escalate the bad behavior into something worse.

So what else can the team do to help in the long term? Part of the answer is to address behavior issues with the client (perhaps including the pet’s veterinarian, too). The other part of the answer is educating the client on managing behaviors at home. In both situations, it is important to identify what is causing the bad behavior. Is it stress, excitement, fear, anxiety, attention-seeking, protecting, or lack of consistency in training or discipline? Unfortunately, the problem is often linked to fear, anxiety and stress.

For the team, using techniques taught in programs such as Fear Free® or Low-Stress Handling® can help. Techniques to alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets are critical for delivering care or professional services, keeping the team safe (from reducing injuries to promoting a more enjoyable work environment) and partnering with the client in caring for the pet. To make sure these techniques are being utilized, assign a behavior care coordinator to oversee pet behavior improvement plans, which should include providing new ideas and tips to the team, keeping appropriate treats and tools on hand, and providing pet owners with updates and educational materials.

For the client, the team can provide specific tools and resources for use at home. Some clients will need the additional support of training sessions, tactics to continue at home and environmental or routine adjustments. In order to help the client, the pet professional team must be able to show the pet owner that they can try to manage the behavior problem with proper support.

Having a team well trained in pet behavior is a valuable asset to both the business and the clients. Behavior intervention can lead to a life-long relationship between the team, the pet and the client, whereby everyone benefits. Pets receive the services they need, clients trust their pets are being cared for, and the team feels good about their work and can now enjoy being around the pets.

However, this brings up another issue: the bad behavior of the people on the team. It may be a running joke that people work in the pet profession to avoid dealing with other people, but if the team will jump into the middle of a dog fight or take extra classes on how to improve pet behavior, why do they have so much trouble dealing with each other’s bad behavior?

purple silhouette of a woman wagging her finger
The advice for treating bad human behavior is similar to that for treating bad pet behavior; do not grab or hit the co-worker, don’t yell at the co-worker, don’t “feed” them with attention or ignore the behavior.
Behavior issues faced by the team are not just the four-legged variety. Consider another set of common scenarios: Samantha, Brad and Cheryl walk into the facility to start their shift. One regularly bullies the receptionist for improper scheduling, one makes a beeline to update everyone on the latest gossip from social media and the other makes harassing comments to a co-worker. Once again, not the opening line of a joke, but these are behavior issues faced by the team, and they are behaviors that can result in conflict, resignations, terminations and even legal action.

The advice for treating bad human behavior is similar to that for treating bad pet behavior; do not grab or hit the co-worker, don’t yell at the co-worker, don’t “feed” them with attention or ignore the behavior. Again, these reactions may be perceived as a short-term solution, but will likely escalate the bad behavior into something worse. Notice that your team is already well on its way to handling bad human behavior with some of the tools they already use for bad pet behavior!

Bullying can originate from competition at work, jealousy, anger or personal history. The typical actions of a bully are varied, from tormenting and teasing, intentionally ignoring a person or gossiping about the person, tattling or pointing fingers, sabotaging or interfering with work to yelling or swearing at the person. Unfortunately, the reality is that over 35% of adults experience workplace bullying and another 15% witness it happening.1

Addressing this bad behavior is necessary. Experts recommend not reacting with strong emotions to the bully. Instead, calmly use an assertive tone to point out their behavior, report the behavior to a supervisor, document all incidents (date, time, witnesses, etc.) and plan other options if the business does not take action against the bully.2

If pet professionals do not stop bullying co-workers, are they hypocrites for saying they are capable of delivering compassionate care to pets?

Unfortunately, the reality is that over 35 percent of adults experience workplace bullying and another 15 percent witness it happening.
Unfortunately, the reality is that over 35 percent of adults experience workplace bullying and another 15 percent witness it happening.
Speaking of being compassionate, is gossiping about co-workers in line with having a compassionate, stress-free environment? Gossip will destroy a positive workplace—eroding morale, trust and productivity. It also increases anxiety, tension, divisiveness and employee turnover. To respond to rumors and gossip, it depends on the subject. If the rumor is not true, experts suggest talking about it as if it is not an issue. If it is true, the targeted person may want to admit to it and make clear it has been rectified and changes have been made. If the gossiper publicly criticizes a person, calmly tell them there is a better way to discuss the issue privately.3

We owe our co-workers respect that will translate into an enjoyable work environment that ultimately leads to a cohesive team—exactly what the pets deserve. Go a step further and encourage positive gossip and create a culture of pride in the efforts of the talented, compassionate pet professional team.

It is best to tackle the issue of bad behavior from the very moment a person is hired. Any new team member should receive written policies and procedures when they begin their training so they are familiar with the business’s culture, core values and job expectations. Additionally, clearly written and distributed policies that prohibit bullying and harassment (including options for reporting complaints and potential disciplinary action for perpetrators) should be part of new-hire training and reviewed annually. This allows management to hold every team member accountable fairly and consistently. Any delay or failure to investigate or discipline could be perceived as management’s “acceptance” of bad behavior in the workplace. Monitor your culture and immediately respond to a “dog fight” involving bullying, gossiping or harassing activities.

There will always be situations where the behavior of others (animal or human) will be challenging. So why not be proactive and give the team the tools and resources they need to accept the challenge and win?

Create a workplace environment where Samantha, Brad and Cheryl enjoy working with each other and the rest of the team. Prepare the team with tips and techniques to reduce fear, anxiety and stress so that when a cat, a Chihuahua and a Beagle walk into the business, the team is ready to make it a good experience for the pets.

It’s no joke that knowing how to handle challenging behavior issues can make a world of difference, for man and beast.

References:

  1. Swaity, S. (2018, Jan 9). Bullied at Work. Tough Nickel. https://toughnickel.com/business/When-You-Are-Bullied-At-Work
  2. Russell, J. (2016, April 3). How to Recognize and Deal with Bullying at Work. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0403-career-coach-bullies-20160402-story.html
  3. Dodgson, L. (2017, March 22). 4 Ways to Deal with a Coworker Who’s Spreading Gossip about You. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-deal-with-gossip-at-work-2017-3

Louise Dunn is a renowned award-winning speaker, writer and consultant. She brings over 40 years of in-the-trenches experience and her business education to veterinary management. Louise is founder and CEO of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. SVMC works with veterinarians who want to develop a strategic plan that consistently produces results. Most recently Louise received many awards including the WVC Educator of the Year numerous times and VetPartner’s The Life Time achievement Award in January 2016.

Business
Key Person Dependence: How & Why to Avoid It typographic title; digital illustration of a person holding a large key

By Laura Laaman

Do you feel like your business would fall apart without you? As if you’re removing the machine’s central cog when you step away?

Many pet care facility owners end up fully immersed in nearly every aspect of their business and can hardly come up for air. They and/or their manager(s) are often solely responsible for numerous critical tasks. If they should get sick, have a family emergency or simply want to take well-deserved time off, there’s nobody to do those tasks. This is key person dependence, a common and dangerous tendency in the pet care industry.

It’s extremely stressful and risky when your business’s success depends on a particular person showing up and doing a great job every day. But it doesn’t have to be a showstopper when you or your manager is out. It doesn’t have to be a fiasco when your groomer suddenly resigns. It doesn’t even have to be a worry-filled guilt trip if you want to go on vacation with your family. In this article, we’ll explore the ways key person dependence can negatively impact your business and what you can do to avoid or fix it.

How Does Key Person Dependence Affect Your Business?
Call-offs, emergencies and abrupt resignations are inevitable. If you’re relying on any one person to complete a task, their absence can derail a department or business overall. Some of the most common areas of key person dependence include:

  • Grooming
  • Dog training
  • Hiring
  • Scheduling
  • Payroll
  • Training new employees
  • Purchasing and facility maintenance
  • Dealing with customer situations
  • Communications with clients and veterinarians
digital illustration of a person pointing their finger

Call-offs, emergencies and abrupt resignations are inevitable. If you’re relying on any one person to complete a task, their absence can derail a department or business overall.

Ultimately, any task only able to be completed by one person is a problem area. This unhealthy state can lead to a host of issues, such as:

  • Employee burnout. When there’s no one else who knows how to perform a necessary duty, it can put undue stress on that person. They may feel overtaxed and unable to take necessary time off, thus affecting morale and even employee retention.
  • Reduced quality of pet care. When your key person is out, it can easily lead to gaps in care and overlooked or improperly done tasks. For example, how many people create the schedule in your business? If it’s just one, and that person is unavailable, it can upset proper care.
  • Reduced quality of customer service. Taking great care of the pet parents is as important as taking great care of the pets. Business disruptions caused by key person absences can bubble out into customer care, therefore affecting the quality and timeliness of service.
  • Business salability. A business that’s dependent on its owner and/or manager(s) to function can be difficult to sell—especially profitably. High-paying consolidators want a turnkey business that operates seamlessly, regardless of who’s working that day.
  • Owner quality of life. If you’re like many pet care facility owners, you’re the key person for multiple (or possibly most) tasks. This can be incredibly stressful and often reduces the owner’s ability to enjoy their business. And, unfortunately, sometimes leads to selling prematurely.
What Can We Do About It?
Thankfully, these pitfalls can be avoided with the right preparation and awareness. A major goal to reduce key person dependence is to ensure any business task can be completed by at least two (but preferably more) people. Here are some ways to reach that goal and establish a more self-sufficient business:

  • Put a training plan in place. It’s wise to train multiple people on every task to ensure there’s a backup person (and even a backup’s backup). You may also consider preparing a response plan to quickly train a new person should someone quit, need extended time off or be otherwise unavailable.
  • Have enough staff. Due to lackluster revenue, many pet care facility owners hire minimal staff to reduce labor costs; however, this almost always leads to more harm than good. Not having enough quality team members is a recipe for key person dependence, as there’s simply no other choice. It can also lead to higher turnover, thus compounding other issues.
  • Add more roles. How many roles do you have between pet care technician and manager? If you’re like most, probably only one (or none). Adding more levels, like senior pet care technician and pet care supervisor, spreads out responsibilities and adds accountability. Plus, it gives your employees a career growth path, which can dramatically improve motivation and longevity.
  • Support a great management team. Establishing a cohesive, effective team of managers goes a long way in the health of your business. Managers are the owner’s eyes and ears on the ground, and without a strong team of them, the owner will struggle to shake key person dependence. In pet care, managers often earn their roles through providing great care to the pets—but are they trained in vital management skills, too?
  • Implement systems. A “system” is a structured set of processes, tools, and training to streamline and optimize a task or service for a more self-sufficient business. Systems should be documented, verified and deliverable by multiple people, and can be useful nearly anywhere. Some of the most important areas include new customer acquisition, employee hiring/training and marketing, among many others.
  • Have a robust operations manual. A thorough and updated operations manual can be incredibly beneficial. It can help ensure tasks are being executed properly and consistently, and it serves as a reference point for the proper way to complete a task if there is ever a question or gap in coverage.
  • Create a healthy revenue flow. Strong revenues are critical to every part of a pet care business. And if you’re adding team members or roles, you need the revenue to offset the cost. It’s important to regularly re-evaluate your profit centers for any opportunities—overnight care, daycare, grooming and training can all produce more revenue if you don’t already offer them.
digital illustration of two people talking, one of them giving a thumbs up

Not having enough quality team members is a recipe for key person dependence, as there’s simply no other choice. It can also lead to higher turnover, thus compounding other issues.

With the holidays behind us and a new year ahead, it’s the perfect time to look critically at your business. Implementing even just some of these strategies to reduce key person dependence can go a long way in improving your company’s health and trajectory—and your wellbeing, too.

Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care’s Revenue Building Services and Absentee Owner—Staff & Management Development Program provide the tools you need to apply these strategies successfully. If you’re interested in a healthier and more rewarding business, schedule a consultation by calling 1-888-836-8740 or visiting www.outstandingpetcare.com/contact

Business
Why You Need to Know Your Numbers as a Pet Care Business Owner
By Steven Thompson
As a pet service provider, you may have heard the phrase “know your numbers” as it relates to owning your own business. But has anyone explained to you what those numbers are, why they are so important and how they help boost your bottom line?

There are several key areas to think about when running your day-to-day pet boarding and daycare business, including using an accounting system, chart of accounts, gross profit margins and operational procedures. The daily sales and expenses in your pet boarding and daycare business tell a financial story each month, and that story is based on the recording of income and expenses over time. As a business owner, this story provides numerical information to help improve your understanding of how well your business is doing.

Most small businesses, such as your pet boarding and daycare business, might start out at first by relying on the current bank account balance, but as the business grows—in terms of customers and expenses—it is a great idea to get more information about what is occurring on a regular basis.

icon of organized chart
Using an Accounting System
Tracking income and expenses can be a daunting task if you do not have a record for the financial history of your business. Using any accounting system can help you to keep track of this information and provide financial reports. This information can inform you as an owner on what’s needed next by looking at your business in an impactful way.

Cloud accounting systems and third-party apps are designed to provide business owners with systems for billing and saving receipts for expenses digitally to aid in the details of the financial story. One example is ordering supplies from different vendors. Using an accounting system to capture data will give you the ability to review transactions and generate a comprehensive report to calculate the total of your supplies, as well as how often you are ordering from one vendor.

Another byproduct of using an accounting system is the ability to keep track of your accounts receivables (how much you are paid by your customers) and any promotions/discounts that might have affected those sales. Both expenses and income generated by the business can help identify trends and provide perspective on how to improve your business operations by use of reports and all financial history of your business.

icon of presentation board with charts
Chart of Accounts
The Chart of Accounts is a report generated to track business sales and expenses. The Income Statement and Balance Sheet (outlined below) identify what is income and expense, as well as other assets and liabilities for the business.
icon of paper, charts, and money bag
Income Statement
This report highlights all income generated from your boarding, daycare, grooming or training services, as well as from any products sold. It also highlights your expenses, which include cost of goods (e.g., treats, toys, pet food, grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, etc.) and operating expenses in the business (e.g., rent, utilities, office supplies, advertising, professional development, etc.).
icon of calculator
Balance Sheet
This is a snapshot of your business showing all assets, including cash and buildings, accounts receivable (unpaid invoices), inventory such as retail items and pet care products, prepaid expenses such as insurance or rent, and any equipment. The Balance Sheet also shows your liabilities, such as your accounts payable (outstanding bills), credit card debt and loans, and your financial equity in the business, which includes the business owner’s equity and pay.
Along with analyzing the details of the reports, using this information to calculate your gross profit margin will improve your understanding of the financial impact of your current business performance. This can be used to help make business decisions and plan for future growth.
icon of cash register
Statement of Cash Flows
All money spent isn’t necessarily a deductible expense. For example, payments to yourself, loans, credit card payments and equipment purchases are all items on the Balance Sheet that do not affect your net income. Using this statement can help pinpoint where all the cash was received and spent during a specific period.

Once you have this detail for any given month, you can begin analyzing the entire financial report and compare your story from month to month, and eventually year to year.

This same information will be extremely useful to your tax professional and potentially your business bank if you are looking for financing in the future.

Along with analyzing the details of the reports, using this information to calculate your gross profit margin will improve your understanding of the financial impact of your current business performance. This can be used to help make business decisions and plan for future growth. There are many ratios you can calculate using the Income Statement and Balance Sheet, but one ratio to keep an eye on is the gross profit margin.

icon of hand holding potted money plant
Gross Profit Margin
This is an equation that you can obtain from the information on the Income Statement to determine if what you are selling is making a profit. The equation is total net sales less the cost of goods sold and divided by net sales. The goal is to arrive at the 10 to 15 percent ratio. If the result is less than 10 percent, then looking at your expenses and the current pricing of your services may be something to consider adjusting. Even the slightest adjustment may improve your profitability in what you are already doing—whether that is reducing your costs or increasing prices by a small percentage.
Even the slightest adjustment may improve your profitability in what you are already doing—whether that is reducing your costs or increasing prices by a small percentage.
It’s important to note that the items listed for the Chart of Accounts are customizable and the lists are just typical examples, so you may need accounts based on your specific business needs. Consult with a bookkeeper or accountant to help you create a customized Chart of Accounts for your pet care business.
icon of clipboards and notebooks
Operational Procedures
Operational procedures for a pet boarding and day-care business begin with the booking process. Knowing your facility’s capacity and scheduling is critical to your daily operations. Some booking and scheduling apps available can also connect to your accounting software if it is cloud based. This means, when the customer arrives and checks in for their booking, you can already create the invoice to be presented for payment.

The apps available may also retain customer’s information, including dietary preferences, medical history and behavior. By obtaining this information prior to the customer’s visit, the details can enable your customers and staff to have smooth booking and checkout processes. Having the option to add requests or services can also increase the bottom line, and occasionally some services may be added during the booking process when the customer knows what other services are available when going through the booking process.

In addition, there are accounting systems available that can keep track of your staff’s payroll and inventory of supplies so you can stay informed when stock is getting low prior to your next influx of customers.

Getting to know your numbers, using an accounting system, understanding the Chart of Accounts, identifying your current and ideal profit margin, and using third-party apps that integrate with your accounting system will not only help boost your bottom line, but also aid your boarding and daycare business in providing an excellent experience for your customers and their pets.

Steven Thompson is an advisor at Breakaway Bookkeeping + Advising focused on providing accurate and reliable bookkeeping solutions, specializing in veterinary and pet service businesses. He uses financial processes to aid business owners in regaining control over their finances. Steven is an experienced bookkeeper with a tax preparation background, he finds joy in advising small business clients in understanding their financial numbers, and what they mean in terms of business growth. Steven specializes in solutions for veterinarians to run successful practices along with other small businesses in the pet services industry.

Business
The Invaluable Service of Dog Daycare
Two dogs resting in the shade on grass
(& How to Effectively Market it!)
By Jackie Bondanza
Our challenge, however, is ensuring that pet owners accurately understand the benefits of our fully interactive, natural pack dayare services. In this article, we’ll explore the most effective marketing strategies that help facilities communicate to pet owners the true value of dog daycare.
Understanding the Pet Owner’s Perspective

While each pet care facility will have varied philosophies or processes that inform how they offer daycare to pet owners, to target owners we must first consider their perspective. People generally want the best possible care for their pets and seek assurance that they will be safe, happy and well-cared-for in their absence. Our marketing efforts should revolve around addressing these concerns and educating owners on the advantages of dog daycare, including socialization, behavioral improvements, physical exercise and mental stimulation.

In a world with an increasing number of options for pet boarding and daycare, our brand operates under the mindset that daycare is more than just a service; it’s a pathway to a happier, healthier and more balanced life for your dog.

Socialization: A Return to Their Natural State
Dogs are pack animals by nature. They thrive in the company of their own kind, forming bonds and learning social skills from one another. When we adopt them or purchase them from breeders and bring them into our homes, we often unintentionally disrupt this natural dynamic. Fully interactive daycare and boarding offer dogs a chance to rediscover their innate social instincts in a safe and controlled environment.

When dogs get this opportunity, they learn to socialize within a pack in the right way, which gives them the tools they need to live their best life and to adapt to what is a very human world. It also helps reduce separation anxiety, jumping, chewing, barking and destructive behavior—all things that are unnatural for dogs and are introduced by us humans.

By emphasizing the benefits of natural pack socialization in our marketing tactics, we can target pet owners who appreciate knowing that their dogs can form bonds with other dogs, learn essential social skills and enjoy companionship with their kind, all with limited human disruption. In addition, we can educate pet owners on these benefits, and of the concept of pet daycare in general, securing potential new customers in the process.

Two dogs playing together

By emphasizing the benefits of natural pack socialization in our marketing tactics, we can target pet owners who appreciate knowing that their dogs can form bonds with other dogs, learn essential social skills and enjoy companionship with their kind, all with limited human disruption.

Showcase Tangible Results

One of the most compelling ways to market dog daycare to pet owners is by sharing real stories of behavioral transformations that dogs experience in our care. Dogs are not autonomous creatures; they are born into litters of other pups and thrive on the support and guidance of their pack members. When left alone for extended periods of time, they can become anxious and destructive.

The link between boredom and behavioral issues isn’t simply about a lack of activity; it’s about a lack of confidence, leadership and lack of a pack. Regular interactive daycare and boarding addresses this by providing the confidence-building experience of pack interaction. Dogs that may be shy or struggling with behavior problems gain the support of a pack, therefore fostering their self-assurance.

Your organization likely has stories of dogs who have benefited from daycare by overcoming shyness, anxiety or behavioral issues. These real-life examples resonate with owners. Demonstrate the tangible impact of your services on a dog’s behavior and leverage these testimonials in marketing efforts.

Showcase Tangible Results
Your organization likely has stories of dogs who have benefited from daycare by overcoming shyness, anxiety or behavioral issues. These real-life examples resonate with owners.
The Changing Landscape of the Industry
The demand for daycare and boarding services is on the rise, and the sheer number of dogs in the United States far surpasses the facilities available. In recent years, daycare has shifted from a luxury to a necessity, even in economic downturns. Pet owners need help raising their dogs; they need a home away from home that they trust to take care of their dogs the way that they would. This presents a tremendous opportunity for growth within the industry.

In recent years, daycare has shifted from a luxury to a necessity, even in economic downturns. Pet owners need help raising their dogs; they need a home away from home that they trust to take care of their dogs the way that they would.

By harnessing the idea that dog daycare is truly designed to benefit our dogs, we can most effectively target pet owners looking to provide their dogs with the best life possible.

Jackie Bondanza is the CEO of Hounds Town USA, a fully interactive Dog Daycare, Boarding, and Pet Spa facility franchise. She began her journey at Hounds Town as a customer in 2013 and quickly realized that the brand was unlike anything else on the market. She then joined the brand’s corporate team, where she developed a comprehensive franchise expansion strategy and spearheaded the concept’s growth to more than 50 locations across the country.

Cats
Challenging Cat Stereotypes by Exploring the Cat-Human Bond typography with an illustration of a pink lady in a patterned red dress holding a white ca
By Mary Tan
IIf you look up animal-human bond studies, you’ll notice that almost all of them are focused on dogs. And that’s no surprise since the pet industry mostly revolves around dogs. Whether it’s for-profit pet product companies, animal welfare nonprofits or professionals in the pet service industry, canines bring in the money and get the attention. However, cats are coming up in the world as there are starting to be more feline-focused offerings, especially in the service fields.

An exciting development is the release of the first study ever solely focused on cats and the bond they have with humans.1 The $125,000 study was sponsored by Cat Person and conducted by Pet Partners, a national nonprofit focused on animal-assisted therapy. The academic paper is the work of Dr. Taylor Chastain Griffin, chief researcher at Pet Partners, and Dr. Lori Kogan of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University, who both say what they discovered is eye-opening.

“So many nuggets came out of this study. We couldn’t believe how our study participants challenged typical cat stereotypes,” says Dr. Chastain Griffin, who is also a research psychologist.

The study is the result of interviews with 63 cat owners, who are also pet parents of a cat that is a certified therapy animal. Additionally, the paper features interviews with 13 facilities, including senior centers, hospitals and schools, where these therapy felines are regular visitors.

So what did the study find?

Every owner felt their cat was worth the effort of responsible pet ownership; in fact, all of them reported “they never felt a cat is more trouble than it’s worth” and “no one felt looking after their cat is a chore.”

The study also reported:

  • 20 percent of respondents tell their cat something they wouldn’t tell anyone else weekly.
  • 60 percent cuddle their cat every day.
  • 60 percent talk to their cat every day.
  • 40 percent play with their cat at least once per day.

“These findings really show that life is better when it’s shared with cats. It also shows that felines need to be showcased more in public. The typical stereotypes of all cats being aloof, shy, and independent are not true,” says Dr. Chastain Griffin.

Pet Partners, the national nonprofit that registers therapy animals across the globe, has only 400 cat therapy teams across the United States, compared to thousands of dog teams. There is a shortage of therapy animals nationally, as many handlers and their pets never returned to the volunteer positions after the COVID-19 pandemic. Pet Partners reports that there are far more institutions and other human health agencies asking for animal-assisted therapy visits than there are therapy animals.

illustration of a grey cat along with typography that reads: 20% of respondents would tell their cat something they wouldn't tell anyone else weekly; 60% cuddle & talk to their cat everyday; 40% play with their cat everyday
Dr. Chastain Griffin says those in the pet service industry can have a huge impact in helping recruit animals that have the right temperament to become therapy pets: “Boarders and daycare providers have such a special take on animals. They know an animal’s behavior and can spot clients who have a pet that can take on the opportunity and give back to their communities.”

The Pet Partners researcher also believes if more service providers would help recruit therapy animals, they could actually help break the stereotypes of cats as being aloof, independent, shy or untrainable.

In interviews with facility managers who host cat therapy teams, they claim that they were shocked at the reaction of their residents to seeing cats participate in animal-assisted therapy. In fact, many of the facilities reported that “cats were far more impactful” than dogs.

One facility manager in the study reported, “We have people that say they don’t like cats; ‘I don’t want to touch your cat.’ But then they hang out in the perimeter and watch, and by the end of the time they are up close asking questions and touching the cat. Some patients even say they didn’t know they were cat people until a feline came to visit.”

Illustration of a man holding a yellow and black cat
The Pet Partners researcher also believes if more service providers would help recruit therapy animals, they could actually help break the stereotypes of cats as being aloof, independent, shy or untrainable.

Another unexpected finding in the study was the healing power of the purr. A cat purring on a client or patient’s lap was brought up time and time again in interviews, as it was discovered that a cat’s purrs were particularly helpful to promote relaxation, especially for those in difficult situations. It’s believed that the megahertz of a purr has many healing properties.

Dr. Chastain Griffin says this foundational research is just the beginning, as there is far more that needs to be learned when it comes to the cat-human bond. She hopes the study will one day expand to focus on non-therapy cats that are traditional, owned pets.

The Healing Power of Purr typography

A cat purring on a client or patient’s lap was brought up time and time again in interviews, as it was discovered that a cat’s purrs were particularly helpful to promote relaxation, especially for those in difficult situations.

“We just scratched the surface on this project. It’s clear this species is understudied and there is more to uncover,” she shares. “The sweeping stereotypes of cats must be challenged. We need to appreciate our feline friends for who they are and elevate their stories on how they inspire and heal us. Hopefully this study is just the beginning of the power of the cat-human connection.”

Additionally, Dr. Chastain Griffin says the data from this project confirms a truth known by millions of cat owners and cat lovers around the globe: Cats and people are better together.

Think you can help? Pet Partners offers free resources,2 training and evaluation for aspiring therapy animals.

References:

  1. Exploring the Cat-Human Bond. Pet Partners. https://petpartners.org/publications/exploring-the-cat-human-bond/
  2. Ways to Volunteer. Pet Partners. https://petpartners.org/volunteer/ways-to-volunteer/
Facility
Boost Profits & Improve Safety with the 3 Essentials of Pet Wellness typographic title in shades of orange, dark blue, and turquoise with five different dog size illustrative silhouettes in shades of dark blue, orange, and turquoise

By Madison Warner

Dark blue uppercase letter T dropcap he core ideal of many pet businesses is the health and happiness of the animals they serve, but sometimes businesses take a compartmentalized approach by only focusing on one part of the animal. Working with happy, healthy pets can ease strain on your staff and reduce the risk of a problem occurring in your business. Happy, healthy pets also create life-long customers and boost your business’s bottom line. Below is an outline on pet wellness and how to integrate it in your business.
Mental Engagement typographic header - the word mental is in turquoise while the word engagement is in dark blue
The first essential of overall pet wellness is mental engagement. This includes activities such as training, socializing, novel experiences and bonding with people. Inappropriate or lacking mental engagement can lead to anxiety, aggression and other negative behaviors. This can make the pets unhappy, stressed or impossible to work with, thus increasing the risk of bites, scratches, fights and strain on your staff.

To improve the quality of mental engagement for your clients’ pets, your business should assess your current services to see where you could add small (or big) changes to provide more stimulation. Here are some ideas of services to add if you’re currently only offering standard overnight boarding:

  • Daycare and Training
  • Fun daily activities to your existing services (puzzle toy, short walk, etc.)
  • One-on-one “snuggle time” with a staff member
  • Puppy preschool for guided socializing of puppies under one year old
  • Novel or rotating group classes (scent work, agility, out & about, etc.)
  • “Doggy & me” events where pups and their owners can socialize or interact together at your facility (doggy yoga, open houses, contests, 5Ks, etc.)
  • Cat enrichment like nature TV, outdoor viewpoints, interactive toys, etc.
Physical Activity typographic header - the word physical is in turquoise while the word activity is in dark blue
The second essential of pet wellness is physical activity. This includes exercise and movement, rest and recovery. Dogs and cats need about 12-16 hours of sleep per day. Well-structured physical activity and mental engagement can fulfill pets’ needs within just a few minutes per day. Poor physical activity can result in animals that are more prone to injury and increased stress at your facility. Here are some ways to add quality physical activity for the pets in your care:

  • Structured daycare programs that include quality play and rest times
  • Walk or adventure add-ons
  • Cozy bedding for pets who will not chew or ingest it
  • Novel dog activities such as slat mill, agility or challenge course, weekly hiking
  • A stretching, mobility or flexibility program
  • Cat wheel, trees or tunnels for feline boarders to explore
  • Hiding places for cats to nap in
Dark blue pull quote that reads Well-structured physical activity and mental engagement can fulfill pets' needs within just a few minutes per day next to a small dog size silhouette illustration in turquoise
blue silhouette of a dog in mid leap

Well-structured physical activity and mental engagement can fulfill pets’ needs within just a few minutes per day.

Dark blue pull quote that reads Well-structured physical activity and mental engagement can fulfill pets' needs within just a few minutes per day next to a small dog size silhouette illustration in turquoise
Dark blue silhouette illustration of a dog with a non-colored silhouette illustration of a smaller size cat integrated into the dog while a orange health plus-sized shape icon symbol is integrated into the cat

Groomers and veterinarians primarily take care of this part of a pet’s life, but all pet businesses can incorporate biological health services to promote overall wellness.

Biological Health typographic header - the word biological is in turquoise while the word health is in dark blue
The last essential of pet wellness is biological health. This is their health from a strictly biological point of view. Poor biological health increases the risk that the pet could suffer a medical episode, spread disease or be injured. Groomers and veterinarians primarily take care of this part of a pet’s life, but all pet businesses can incorporate biological health services to promote overall wellness. You might consider adding one of more of the following:

  • Grooming or self-serve bathing
  • Monthly or quarterly vaccination clinics hosted at your facility in partnership with a veterinarian
  • A retail area offering pet food, treats and wellness items
  • Partner with pet massage therapists, acupuncturists or other wellness providers to expand your service offerings
  • Continuing health education for staff on recognizing pet health conditions

You might also consider areas where you could remove or adjust something within your business to improve pet wellness, such as:

  • Sound dampening in drying rooms or dog lodging areas to reduce noise
  • Separate entrances for daycare/training/grooming or for each species (cats-only entrance)
  • Take extra measures to reduce overpowering smells in animal care areas

Charge Your Worth

All of this is well and good to talk about, but how do you integrate it into your business, especially if you are already bursting at the seams with reservations and tasks to complete? The first thing to do is charge what your services are worth! A rule of thumb is if your business is overbooked, has a waitlist or is turning people away, it is time for a price increase. This is supply and demand in action!

Beyond this, any time you add quality to the service you are providing to your customers, you need to charge as such. To add a puzzle toy onto any service, it will take time to prepare, set the pet up with the toy, supervise and clean up afterwards, so you should charge a small fee. Not charging what your time and effort are worth brings the industry down as a whole.

While everything feels pricier these days, charging a fair price and compensating your staff well can help ensure longevity of your business. Remember that charging your worth is not about overpricing, but rather ensuring that your prices accurately reflect the value you provide to your clients and their pets. Novelty and scarcity also demand a higher price. Be transparent about your pricing, communicate the benefits of your services and maintain a commitment to excellence to justify your rates. Over time, as your reputation and client base grow, you’ll be better positioned to charge competitive and sustainable prices for your pet services.

Focusing on whole-pet wellness can make your business safer and more profitable by improving the health of your clients’ pets and reducing strain on your staff. Assess where in your business you could add or subtract services, operations techniques or functions to promote positive effects on the animals you work with.

By investing in their health through proper nutrition, regular exercise, mental stimulation, preventative care, and the love and attention they deserve, we can ensure our pets lead longer, happier lives. The journey to pet wellness is a rewarding one, filled with moments of laughter, play and companionship.

The information in this article is not a substitute for veterinary care or advice.

Madison Warner is owner of Ready Pet Education. She teaches pet first aid & other pet emergency education programs to pet professionals all over the United States. Ready Pet Education has been teaching veterinary supervised, comprehensive pet first aid courses since 2018, and offers online or in-person learning and bulk discounts for 15+ students. They also offer emergency and disaster preparedness consulting for all types of pet businesses! www.readypeteducation.com

Profile of Success
Nature of the Dog typography
Small by Design typography
wide view of the Nature of the Dog kennel with a very minimalist interior design and layout, a single dog looks out from behind one of the kennel gates

by Kathy Hosler
Photos by Tailwagger Dog Photography and Elation Studio

external view of the Nature of The Dog boarding and daycare facility in Ada, Michigan

Then Jackie and Luke Moord opened Nature of The Dog, a boarding and daycare facility in Ada, Michigan, they proved that you don’t have to have a huge facility to have a hugely successful business. In fact, their story is an example of how a lunch-hour dog walker and her husband have created a very successful family operation.

In 2011 Jackie Moord was the director of e-commerce for a ski shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It was a desk job and I wanted to get a little exercise on my lunch hour,” says Jackie. “As a lifelong animal lover, dog walking seemed like a great way for me to accomplish that. So, I made a Facebook page to advertise my dog walking business. I started small, but there was a need for it in our area and it wasn’t long before I had a full schedule.”

Luke and Jackie stand close together for a photo in front of their boarding and daycare facility, Nature of The Dog

The couple became so busy with dog walking and pet sitting that Luke left his job as a teacher and he and Jackie operated the business full time.

Jackie’s husband, Luke, was a teacher and he began helping Jackie as her dog walking business increased. At that point they decided to name their business “Nature of the Dog.”

“We chose that name with the idea of honoring the true nature of dogs by having a business that understands them and provides the care and socialization they need,” says Jackie. “Soon, we were also doing pet sitting in our house. We already had a relationship with the owners and their dogs so it just made sense to take care of them when the owners were away.”

Jackie plays fetch with two grown Golden Retrievers in a large gated yard
The couple became so busy with dog walking and pet sitting that Luke left his job as a teacher and he and Jackie operated the business full time. In preparation of taking their business to the next level—a boarding and daycare facility—they moved to a six-and-a-half-acre property in nearby Ada, Michigan.

“One of our most important decisions was how large we should make our facility and how many dogs should we plan to care for,” Jackie shares. “We wanted to be able to engage with each dog. When you have too many dogs, it can be overwhelming. We tried to find the ‘sweet spot’ that would be good for us and let us enjoy the job, and be the best for the dogs.”

view of three well lit kennels at Nature of the Dog boarding and daycare facility, a white dog sits inside looking out the gate of the central kennel
There is a window in every room to provide natural lighting, and the rooms are situated so the dogs don’t face each other.
After much thought, Jackie and Luke decided to keep their facility small. “We have a quiet atmosphere and 24 private rooms,” Jackie shares. “We know that being in a kennel situation can be stressful for some dogs. We feel it is better for the dogs who come here to not be overly stimulated by having too many dogs around them.”

From the construction of the rooms and play areas to how they care for their canine clients, everything is based on the dogs’ safety and well-being. There is a window in every room to provide natural lighting, and the rooms are situated so the dogs don’t face each other.

“Bigger is not always better,” Jackie says. “In our small facility, we can provide more individualized care tailored to the needs of each dog. There is less noise which really reduces the anxiety levels.

a large grey dog runs after a tennis ball in a large gated yard

“The facility is on our property behind our house,” continues Jackie. “We sold the dog walking business and now we only do boarding and daycare. This choice fits well with our lifestyle. We have kids and we homeschool them, so having the business just steps away is ideal.

“Because we live on the property, it is very reassuring to the dogs’ owners. We have security cameras so we can monitor the dogs any time we are not in the building,” she adds.

In addition to Jackie and Luke’s close involvement with the business, Nature of the Dog has a well-trained, knowledgeable staff.

Jackie watches as four large dogs run in the same direction in a large gated yard
leafy graphic
Along with supervising the play groups, the staff assess the needs of each dog in the group and help them socialize properly using gentle handling techniques.
“We have been lucky to find dedicated people who are interested in learning all aspects of dog behavior and handling techniques,” Jackie shares. “We are big on continuing education, socialization, and gentle handling.”

Their daycare operates Monday through Friday and they have four spacious play areas where the dogs are divided into small groups of eight or less according to their size, behavior and play style. Along with supervising the play groups, the staff assess the needs of each dog in the group and help them socialize properly using gentle handling techniques.

The dogs who come for daycare enjoy two group-play sessions before lunch and two in the afternoon and get rest periods in between. Nature of the Dog also offers monthly membership rates for frequent daycare attendees, and every overnight guest also gets to participate in daycare.
leafy graphics
Their website, www.natureofthedog.com, is where most prospective clients get their first look at the facility. It gives visitors the opportunity to see the facility and the services that they offer. And, the online booking portal allows clients the convenience to schedule services and pay their invoices.

“Our website and social media is our main form of advertising,” Jackie says. “I post photos of our clients’ dogs on Facebook and Instagram, and they love seeing what their dogs were up to during the day. Some have enjoyed sharing the photos with family and friends.”

Jackie and Luke’s decision to construct and operate Nature of the Dog with the goal that everything they do will honor and support the true nature of the dog is what sets them apart from everyone else. And, the way they have structured their business allows them to enjoy the lifestyle they want.

By starting and staying small, Jackie and Luke Moord have found the “sweet spot”—for themselves and the dogs they care for.

Think Tank

By Fernando Camacho

Turquoise uppercase letter O dropcapne of the biggest problems with this industry is that you spend almost no time with the person paying you for your services. You get to hang out with and take care of their dogs all day, but they can’t go home and rave about how much fun they had, how nice everyone is or how going to your facility has greatly improved their confidence.

You also don’t get many opportunities to deepen your connection with your client base. Instead, you get a quick 30-60 seconds with them when they drop off and pick up their pooch. And that’s not nearly enough time to create an emotional connection and move to a more personal relationship, which increases brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Building strong connections with customers is essential for the success of any business, but given the limited customer facetime for dog daycare and boarding businesses, it’s even more critical.

Here are seven ways you can develop better connections with your customers:

Turquoise numeral 1 dropcap

Personalized Services.

Every dog is unique, and understanding the specific needs and preferences of each furry client is crucial. By remembering important details about the dogs, such as their favorite toys or playmates, and tailoring their experience accordingly, you can demonstrate your commitment to their well-being.

Turquoise numeral 2 dropcap

Communication.

Maintain open lines of communication with pet owners, updating them on their dog’s activities, behavior and overall well-being during their stay. Sharing a monthly newsletter, sending photos and messages, as well as providing details of how their dog is doing at each visit can reassure owners, fostering trust and putting their mind at ease.

Encourage feedback from customers about their experiences with your services. Listen to their suggestions and concerns and take them seriously.

Turquoise numeral 3 dropcap

Transparency.

Be upfront about your facility’s daily operations, safety measures and protocols, as well as any issues or incidents that a customer’s dog is involved in. Be honest with what’s happening behind the scenes and share appropriate information with customers.
Turquoise numeral 4 dropcap

Customer Feedback.

Encourage feedback from customers about their experiences with your services. Listen to their suggestions and concerns and take them seriously. Demonstrating your willingness to improve and adapt to meet their needs can go a long way.

If done right, social media can help you build an online community of dog lovers, which can enhance your brand’s reputation and strengthen your customer relationships.

Turquoise numeral 5 dropcap

Staff Training.

Staff members who are friendly, empathetic and passionate about their work can also make a significant difference in the overall customer experience. Teach your staff how to speak with customers and how to share information in the right manner.
Turquoise numeral 6 dropcap

Social Media Engagement.

Use social media platforms to interact with customers. Social media is not just for broadcasting; it is supposed to be interactive. Engage in conversations and respond promptly to inquiries and comments. If done right, social media can help you build an online community of dog lovers, which can enhance your brand’s reputation and strengthen your customer relationships.
Turquoise numeral 7 dropcap

Responsive Customer Support.

Make sure you are making it easy for people to contact you, get questions answered and any issues addressed. Quick resolution of issues or concerns can turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one, further strengthening your relationship.

The deeper you connect with your human clients, the more a part of your business they will feel, the happier they will be and will remain long-term customers. You want to strive to move your relationship from a transactional one to an emotional one. If you do that, you’ll have an epic business that no one can compete with!

Fern is the founder of Overdog Digital, a digital marketing & consulting agency that helps dog daycare and boarding facilities attract, convert, and keep more customers by creating winning marketing campaigns and providing the business guidance to build momentum and spark long-term growth. Fern also has programs to train daycare staff, is a dog behavior consultant, and has a dog training business in New Jersey. He is the author of eight books and a popular speaker at national conferences and private events. To join The Dog Daycare Business Think Tank or ask a question, go to: www.facebook.com/groups/dogdaycarethinktank

Animal Health
By Dr. John Beres
ogs get intestinal parasites; it’s a fact of life. Parasites and worms can be contracted from eating grass, drinking from streams, greeting other dogs, playing in a contaminated environment and, most repulsively, eating feces.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, in 2022, the number of adult dogs testing positive for roundworms was one in 50, hookworms was one in 30 and giardia cysts was one in 15.1 At a doggy daycare with 100 dogs in the program, you could easily have two dogs with roundworms, three with hookworms and seven with giardia. One in eight dogs checking in for boarding will have one of these parasites. And, the numbers for dogs under one year of age are even higher.

Every day, these dogs will be contaminating your environment, spreading disease and putting your staff at risk. Dogs with intestinal parasites can often show no symptoms at all, while others can show signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, anemia, weight loss, malnutrition or, in severe cases, sepsis or death.

Parasites are not just bad for the health of the dogs in your care; they present a risk to the pet’s family and your staff. Hookworms, roundworms and giardia are all listed as zoonotic by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).2 A zoonotic disease is a specific type of infectious disease that can be passed from animals to humans. And remember, that means not only are the pet parents at risk, but so is your staff. Zoonoses are an even greater concern during pregnancy and for immunocompromised individuals.

You may be thinking that pet parents routinely have fecal tests performed during their pet’s annual visit. However, there is something that gets in the way—compliance.

Compliance

Let’s discuss compliance. You may be thinking that pet parents routinely have fecal tests performed during their pet’s annual visit. It is what veterinarians want, as testing pets every six months is recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).3 However, there is something that gets in the way—compliance. Compliance is just a “wish,” and unfortunately not all wishes come true.

In my 20 years of practicing, I was amazed at how low the compliance was for fecal testing. My practice ran at about 45% (which I later learned is really good), meaning less than half of my clients were bringing in fecal samples for testing. I tried reminding every pet parent, sending home prepaid cups, doing follow-up calls and providing literature, but I could not significantly increase from 45%. I heard every reason pet parents had for not complying; “My dog goes in the woods,” “I forgot it at home,” “My husband walks the dog” and “My dog doesn’t have worms.” Don’t get me wrong, there are some very diligent pet parents out there that get this done, but many do not. This is where you can advocate for the health of the dogs in your care.

Giardia, coccidia, roundworm eggs and hookworm eggs are all microscopic, so detecting them must be done with a high-powered microscope in a laboratory setting.

Protect Your Pack

You are in the pet care business and you are responsible for the well-being of the pets at your facility. To ensure a healthy and safe environment, you likely require vaccines and temperament testing. However, screening for parasites should also be part of your pre-admittance requirements.

Parasites are spread from dog to dog and through contaminated environments. So why let parasites in when it is so easy to keep them out? Requiring fecal testing is as easy as requiring vaccines. You probably have scripts and intake forms to discuss your policies with new clients, and you can easily add fecal testing to that protocol.

Remember that “fecal testing” means a proper laboratory quality test; it is not good enough for you to look at a fecal pile and decide that you don’t see any worms. It is unusual to see worms in a sample with the naked eye. Giardia, coccidia, roundworm eggs and hookworm eggs are all microscopic, so detecting them must be done with a high-powered microscope in a laboratory setting.

Protecting your pack starts with screening pets in your facility regularly. Make sure you have written protocols for collecting, cleaning and disposing of feces. Staff should be wearing gloves and washing hands frequently. Include posted signs to remind staff of the importance of a clean environment. After all, your staff is part of the pack, so you want to keep them healthy, too!

Be a Part of the Solution

If you require six-month fecal testing as part of your program, congratulations! You are joining a growing group of pet care facilities that are part of the solution. If you require testing annually, consider transitioning to six months. And if you don’t require fecal testing, start now. Discuss testing with your key staff members and develop a plan that fits your facility and clientele. Educate your pet parents on the importance of testing to keep your pack healthy.

I recommend doing a “soft” rollout. If testing adult dogs every six months seems like a lot, start with annual testing. That is better than not testing at all. Consider setting up a parasite monitoring program. Pet parents will be thrilled that you are invested in their pet’s health. 

You are caring for a precious family member, and pet parents trust you and have confidence in you. A “Healthy Pets, Healthy Packs” approach to parasites will put your brand above your competition.

References:

  1. Parasite Prevalence Maps. Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://capcvet.org/maps#/2023/all-year/roundworm/dog/united-states
  2. Diseases That Can Spread Between Animals and People. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/index.html
  3. Parasite Testing and Protection Guided by Veterinarians. (2022, Sept 16). Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/general-guidelines

Dr. John Beres is a veterinarian who owned and operated a boarding and daycare facility along with his general practice for 12 years. He is now the CEO and owner of Canine Lab Testing. Canine Lab Testing partners exclusively with doggy daycare and boarding facilities to provide “Healthy Pets Healthy Packs” solutions, including parasite prevention programs. He can be reached at testyourdog@caninelabtesting.com and found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/johnpberesdvm

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