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May / June 2024
vol 14 • ed 3



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Animal Behavior

Safe Handling of Reactive & Aggressive Dogs in the Pet Care Facility

By Chrissy Capacchione

Photos provided by Chrissy Capacchione

While most dogs are friendly and enjoy socializing with people and other dogs, eventually, we will encounter those that are not. Pet care facilities are a stimulating environment. They are loud, full of many barking dogs, lots of smells and strange people.
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that such an environment has the potential to trigger reactive or aggressive behaviors in certain dogs.

Reactivity and aggression can be standard communication for dogs. However, when such displays are directed towards humans or other dogs in a daycare setting or during boarding, this is both undesirable and problematic behavior. Pet care facility owners and employees must be prepared to manage these behaviors in a safe and effective way. Through training, practice and everyday situations, handlers can gain experience and develop necessary skills to successfully work with and care for dogs of all types.

Understanding Reactivity and Aggression

The causes of reactivity and aggression are many. Just like people, each dog has had their own unique life experiences, resulting in both positive and negative outcomes. As a byproduct of their past experiences, dogs can become primed to respond to certain stimuli in a manner that shows how they perceive it.
Causes of Reactivity and Aggression in Dogs styled typography
  • Prey Drive
  • Territory
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Dominance
  • Maternal
  • Disease/Illness/Pain
  • Leash Aggression
  • Trauma
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Resource Guarding
Here are some common types of aggression/reactivity and how they may be displayed:

  • Territorial: This would be directed towards someone or something that enters or approaches the area which the dog considers their territory, such as their owner’s property or even their enclosure at a boarding facility.
  • Possessiveness/Resource Guarding: This behavior is directed towards a person, dog or other animal that causes the dog to feel threatened by the removal of valued articles, such as food or toys.
  • Pain-Related: This would be behavior directed towards someone or something due to the dog being in discomfort or pain.
  • Predatory: This behavior is normally towards another animal the dog views as prey; however, a dog can demonstrate this behavior towards a person. The goal of predatory behavior is to capture, kill and devour the object of prey.
  • Redirection: This is secondary behavior resulting from another source of reactivity or aggression that heightens arousal, which can be caused by any source. When the dog is unable to reach the original source causing its arousal, they become frustrated and their focus shifts to another object, person or animal. They will then redirect their reactive or aggressive behavior to their new focus.
  • Fear/Anxiety: This presents when a dog feels nervous or afraid, causing the dog to be concerned about the potential of experiencing an uncertain or unpleasant outcome and wanting to distance itself from the stimulus, which can result in the display of aggressive or reactive behavior.
While reactivity involves heightened arousal, aggression involves conflict and harm. When a dog engages in reactive behavior, it aims to increase the space between itself and the object or thing it feels threatened by. Dogs who are displaying reactivity respond more intensely and quickly to stimuli compared dogs not behaving reactively. Ultimately, reactivity can become a gateway for aggressive behavior.
There are also other emotions which can provoke reactive behavior, including frustration and excitement. When a dog is being reactive, they are experiencing a heightened emotional state which causes the areas of their brain responsible for reasoning to shut down, leaving the door open for their instinctual behavior to take over. This can be compared to the flight, fight or freeze response in humans.

Safely and effectively handling reactive or aggressive behavior begins through recognizing and being alert to its warning signs. Behaviors and body language to look out for include avoiding eye contact with the perceived threat, lip-licking, flattening of ears, crouching, tail-tucking, stiffening of the body, freezing, growling, snapping and, finally, biting.

When a dog is being reactive, they are experiencing a heightened emotional state which causes the areas of their brain responsible for reasoning to shut down, leaving the door open for their instinctual behavior to take over.
Importance of Evaluations
When considering accepting a new client and their pet to use your services, a behavior evaluation can be helpful to discover how the dog may react to the environment. The purpose of an evaluation is to check the dog’s ability to safely interact with other dogs and people, therefore reducing the risk of injury to themselves and others.

It may be helpful to ask potential clients to fill out a questionnaire in order to divulge any pertinent information about their pet’s past history before scheduling an evaluation in person. It is especially important to discuss if the owner is aware of any past or present behavioral problems their dog may struggle with.

During an intake evaluation, introduce the new dog to others that are calm and interactive. Observe their reactions when engaging with new dogs. Do they seem relaxed and happy interacting with new peers right away, or do they appear a bit unsure at first but soon settle into the routine? Or, do they become reactive and begin showing warning signs pointing to the likelihood of aggressive behavior?

The conclusion of the evaluation may include introducing toys and food to check for resource-guarding behaviors. Recording the outcome of the evaluation and personality traits will alert staff to any potential risks or situations to avoid while also assisting in placing them in the most appropriate playgroups. Creating a play group of dogs whose personalities complement one another not only reduces the potential of incident risks but also gives them the best opportunity for a fun-filled experience.

Conduct the evaluation away from the dog’s owner. If the dog becomes aggressive or displays dangerous behavior when separated from the owner or during any other part of the evaluation, immediately stop the process. Respectfully and clearly inform the owner about the outcome of the evaluation and any reasons why their dog is not a good fit for your facility. While this may not be the answer they want to hear, it is unacceptable to knowingly risk the wellbeing of other clients’ dogs and the safety of employees.

Slip Lead Handling Methods
Slip Leads are an effective tool to have available at all pet care facilities. Usually made from a rope or leather material, a slip lead is a collar and leash in one. When a dog needs to be caught quickly, the design of the slip lead allows the handler to swiftly place a large loop over the dog’s head, then tighten it by pulling it taught to prevent slipping. This provides the user the security to handle reactive and aggressive dogs without running the risk that they will slip out of a potentially ill-fitting collar.
red and blue lead laying on grass
Fig 1) A regular lead can be attached to the part of a slip lead that tightens and loosens to allow the handler to be able to easily release a reactive or aggressive dog without having to be any closer than necessary. The dog handler simply has to pull the regular lead, which will immediately loosen the slip lead so it can be easily removed.

Fig 2) If faced with a dog redirecting its behavior towards a handler, thandler can place both hands on the slip lead and push outwards from their torso while moving their body in the opposite direction of their hands. This will create space between the handler and the dog.

woman holding blue lead above dog's head
By understanding the numerous triggers of reactivity and aggression in dogs—especially those which present in the boarding or daycare environment—canine handlers are better prepared to proactively avoid certain stimuli with reactive or aggressive dogs that could create an unsafe situation. And when faced with a dog actively exhibiting these behaviors, adept handlers are able to competently react to such situations, reducing the likelihood of a negative outcome.
  1. Aggression. ASPCA.
  2. Martin, DVM, Diplomate, ACVB, K., & Buzhardt, DVM, L. Aggression in dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
  3. Reinecker, D. (2014, June 26). Redirected dog aggression explained in simple terms. David Reinecker | Dog Trainer and Behavior expert.
  4. RP, T. (2020, July 8). Dog temperament tests: Best practices for daycares. Revelation Pets.
  5. Gibeault, MsC, CPDT, S. (2024, February 21). Dog Reactivity: Understanding the difference between reactivity and aggression. American Kennel Club.


Designing a
Doggy Daycare Membership typography with a vector illustration of a gray dog
Like A Disney Imagineer

By Dominic Hodgson

When Disney imagineers begin designing a new park attraction, they use a process called “Blue Sky Speculation.” Blue Sky Speculation forces them to start with a simple question: If I was _______, what would I do?

For example, If I was a pirate, what would I do? Where would I go? Who would I encounter? What items would a pirate buy, and what food would they eat?

Then, rather than just sticking up a simple shuggy pirate ship (which is what most theme parks would do), this deeper process enables the imagineers to build an experience from the ground up. Consequently, it’s only Disney who are able to create truly immersive, memorable experiences that fulfil all our innate aspirations.

This Blue Sky Speculation exercise can also be useful to help a pet care business owner design new and exciting services. So, when it comes to your daycare or boarding services, you could ask yourself, If I was a dog, what would I want to do? What would I want to sniff? Who would I want to play with? What would I want to eat? Essentially, what would a dream doggy daycare experience look like for a dog, and the owner?

The trick here is to start with a blank piece of paper and try to discount everything you do already—and what everyone else is doing. Let your imagination run wild and dream big about what an ideal doggy daycare experience could look like.

You can also use this same Blue Sky Speculation technique to design a better pet business model. Because when it comes to delivering maximum, lasting, sustainable success in your business, the model you choose matters, a lot.

Start with a blank piece of paper and try to discount everything you do already—and what everyone else is doing. Let your imagination run wild and dream big about what an ideal doggy daycare experience could look like.
Business Model Rundown
You could adopt a “One-time” sales model, like a car dealership or a retail store. These are typically one-time transactions. However, dog trainers who only sell “one-session solutions” often find themselves with the problem of having to keep finding new clients all the time, which takes time, is expensive and exhausting.

There is a “Fremium” model, where you offer a free, limited version of your service (such as a free day of daycare), which then encourages people to upgrade to take your full, paid offering. These are commonly associated with software and digital services like Spotify, Dropbox or TV services, but they can be used for actual pet services, too.

Then we have “Recurring Revenue” models, like gym memberships, cleaning services or subscriptions such as magazines and dog toy/treat boxes. These are great because you only need to make one sale that brings in steady, predictable income—and it builds a loyal customer base that appreciates the consistent value they receive.

One of the most desirable business models is a “Sunk-Cost Recurring Revenue” model. This would be something like Gillette razors, where people sink an upfront cost into the product (in this case, the handle), then they have to spend money on a recurring basis to get new blades. Another good example would be a country club, where you pay a fee to join, then you pay a monthly fee to be able to use the facilities.

My ideal model for a pet care business—and one I think Disney imagineers would recommend—is the Sunk-Cost Recurring Revenue model. This is also the best way to introduce a membership into your daycare.

Members-Only Daycare typography with a vector illustration of a brown dog
My ideal model for a pet care business—and one I think Disney imagineers would recommend—is the Sunk-Cost Recurring Revenue model. This is also the best way to introduce a membership into your daycare.
Members-Only Daycare
Members only means no one can use your services, unless they are a member. Now, it is possible to switch to a Sunk-Cost Recurring Revenue model without going members only, but if you are maxing out, then going members only is the best option and is worth the extra effort.

Adding a monthly fee to use your daycare is a game-changer for two main reasons:

1. Your business has a recurring subscription income. That means you get a deposit in your bank account of “X” amount of dollars every month before you’ve even turned on a light or leashed a dog. This is money you didn’t have before, meaning better cash flow to pay for more advertising, staffing, CPD, expansion and customer onboarding experience.

It’s worth noting that pet businesses with integrated subscription revenue like this are more appealing to potential buyers, and can command a higher sale price due to the predictable cash flow.

2. The client is paying upfront just for the right to be able to use the daycare, which increases frequency of use. You might think they would use less services if they are paying a membership fee, but you’d be wrong, because they actually buy more services.

Don’t believe me? Then answer me this: Did you spend more or less money with Amazon once you became a Prime customer?

The answer is you spend more! Statista backed this up in 2019 when they reported non-Prime members spend on average $600 a year, and the Prime members spend on average a whopping $1,400 dollars a year.

Client Benefits
Switching to this model also has many benefits for your clients, such as:

  • Payments become easier (on subscription).
  • Provides peace of mind because they know their dog always has a space at your daycare.
  • Promotes an exclusivity factor since only members can use your facility.

You can also offer discounts, but your daycare membership benefits shouldn’t really be about that. Some people will join your membership for the bonus activities, others will join for the member perks and peace of mind, some join for the free “stuff” like the dog’s membership card or the matching member’s-only doggy bandana and human T-shirt, and other people simply join for the recognition that comes with being a VIP member.

Here are some ideas for what you could offer in the different levels of your membership:


  • Mutt’s Membership Card
  • Access to Members-Only Facebook group
  • Use of Scent Space once a month
  • Weekly 7-point health check


  • Bronze Benefits
  • Free bath once a month


  • Silver Benefits
  • Choice of weekly add-on service (e.g., training session, spa service, one-on-one play)
  • VIP Birthday Party

These are just some examples, and you can mix and match depending on what you already offer. The trick to get clients ascending to higher levels is to put some of the most exciting services in the top level of your membership.

I hope this article inspires you to introduce a membership into your daycare that enhances the dog’s experience, makes the client feel like they belong to an exclusive “club” and boosts your profit margins.

Dom Hodgson is Europe’s leading pet business coach, and is known as the Pet Biz Wiz. His mission is to help pet service providers create superior customer service systems that enable them to build an impactful and profitable pet business. Dom has written over nine books, and is a much in-demand speaker. You can instantly download a free copy of his latest book “How to Disnify Your Doggy Daycare Business” by going to

A Guide to Pet Business Insurance (and Why You Need It in 2024!)
By Casey Dorman

With the U.S. pet industry valued at nearly $80 billion in 2022 and expected to rise in the coming years,1 as a pet business owner, it’s key that you continue to look for ways to maximize revenue, adapt to customer demand, and improve efficiency and productivity within your organization as it grows. However, protecting your business from potential harm and financial loss is just as important.

Investing in insurance is a proactive step you can take to prevent and manage the inherent risks of owning a pet business. And, the right insurance can help recession-proof your business, allowing you to get ahead of costly issues. This article will serve as a guide for what you need to know about choosing or upgrading your pet business insurance policy.

  • Pet injuries or illness. A pet is injured or becomes sick while in the care of the business. Insurance can help cover any medical costs or liability claims from the client.
  • Property damage. For pet sitters, accidental damage to a client’s furniture or belongings is a possibility. In this case, business insurance would cover the cost of repairs or replacements.
  • Injury of staff. Pet business insurance can cover medical expenses, liability claims and losses due to staff leave if employees are injured on the job.
  • Theft or vandalism. Unfortunately, theft is an issue many businesses contend with. Insurance can assist you in purchasing new equipment and repairing any damages.

Why Invest In Pet Business Insurance?

Pet business insurance is a specialized type of insurance coverage designed specifically for businesses in the pet care industry. It protects these businesses from financial loss caused by risks and liabilities such as personal injuries, pet injuries, property damage and more. Like any other insurance coverage, it safeguards business assets in the event of an unforeseen accident or dispute.

Consider times when you’ve made a mistake at work, encountered a difficult situation or had a dispute with a client. Here are some scenarios you may have experienced in your business and how insurance helps mitigate them:

Being an insured business can also improve your employee recruitment efforts.2 In addition to providing things like health insurance to your employees, having business insurance shows that your organization is responsible and committed to long-term, sustainable success. Your employees can rest assured that the burden of mistakes or accidents won’t fall on them.
What Should You Consider When Choosing Pet Business Insurance?
There are a few different kinds of pet business insurance. Your business may need more than one depending on the services it offers. Some of the most common policies include:
  • Commercial liability insurance. Protects businesses from claims of injury or property damage as a result of their services or products (e.g., a client slips on spilled water at your facility).
  • Professional liability insurance. Protects businesses from claims of negligence or inadequate work. For example, this policy would cover incidents like an altercation between two dogs.
  • Property insurance. Covers a business’s physical assets when damaged by natural disasters, vandalism, theft or damage from another nearby business (e.g., a fire or leak).

Having business insurance shows that your organization is responsible and committed to long-term, sustainable success.

There are also more specialized policies that apply to the pet care industry. For example, animal floater or bailee insurance provides coverage if a pet passes away while in your care. For pet sitters, lost key insurance covers your business in case the client’s house key gets lost.

Determining your pet business’s coverage needs will help you choose one (or more) of the above policies, but you also need to consider the following key factors:

  • Your budget. Decide how much your business can afford to spend on insurance. Balance affordability with quality to ensure you are buying policies with adequate coverage.
  • Coverage limits. Assess the risks your business could incur and what may need to be covered as a result (e.g., medical and veterinarian costs, repairs and replacements of property, loss of income, and legal fees and settlements). Any policy you choose should cover each of these areas.
  • Legal requirements. Some states require specific types of coverage and minimum liability limits. Check that your insurance provider and policy meet these guidelines before making a purchase.
Make sure to consider the other ways that you can limit liability and risk in the first place. For example, a dog boarding business can leverage their management software to track vaccination records, behavioral issues and signed waivers to protect against illness and injury.
illustration of a pink shield with a white checkmark and plants in the background
What Are The Next Steps?
Once you know what to look for in a pet business insurance policy, it’s time to start searching for a provider that fits your needs. Here are some next steps to take at this stage:
  • Research available providers online and narrow down your list to just a few options.
  • Ask your peers for recommendations or advice about choosing a provider.
  • Request a meeting with your top choices to ask the insurance agents questions and learn about how the policies work.
Additionally, you may need to consult with a legal professional before making a final decision. They can help you understand any complicated jargon in the policy and ensure that the insurance is compliant with local laws.

Pet business insurance will be there to cover any workplace accidents or disputes that occur, protecting you from hefty financial impacts. Additionally, the right policy will help you remain legally compliant, retain employees3 and provide more positive customer experiences. Remember to keep your unique services and offerings in mind when choosing a policy to ensure your business and financials are kept safe.


  1. Pet Care Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis. Fortune Business Insights.
  2. Employee Recruitment: A Guide To Finding the Best Talent. RealHR Solutions.
  3. Employee Retention – Nonprofit Catalog. NXUnite by Nexus Marketing.

Casey Dorman is the Sales Manager at Gingr, the leading software for pet care business owners. Originally from Indianapolis, Casey now lives in Colorado with his wife and dog, Dexter. His hobbies include hiking, skiing, and visiting local breweries.


The Top 4 Economic Challenges Pet Care Companies are Facing & How to Navigate Them for Success

By Laura Laaman

With summer just around the corner, pet care companies are gearing up for another busy season…but this one will be very different from recent years. Inflation, more people working from home and consumer spending habits present new challenges, just to name a few. With an ever-changing business environment, savvy business owners shift with the tides while weaker ones get washed away. Outlined below are four economic challenges faced by today’s pet care business owners and powerful strategies to help you navigate them.

Challenge #1 typography
Economic Inflation
A December 2023 survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found 23% of business owners consider inflation their greatest challenge.1 Pet care is more expensive than ever to deliver thanks to elevated costs. Our brick-and-mortar buildings are especially costly between hiked interest rates, taxes and utility costs. This disadvantages pet care facility owners against some of their fiercest rivals like Rover and private dog sitters who don’t have the same burden of these massive fixed costs.
black outline of a cloud
Solution typography
Increase Revenues Overall
In order to generate and convert enough new customers in the most profitable ways, businesses must first not take any new leads for granted. As the pandemic started to wane and revenge travel raged, it was easy to overlook the value of new customer calls. Some felt their phone’s nonstop ringing was a nuisance and even wished it would stop. Boy, have times changed!

How your company answers new customer phone calls plays a key role in battling this lull. Therefore, employing an adept, well-trained phone team is one of the most beneficial things you can do to boost your revenues, but it doesn’t stop there…

Once your phone team is in place, you need effective marketing to drive leads to your phone lines. Channeling your marketing dollars in the right places can be a challenge, but it’s a critical part of drawing new customers. And once you’ve attracted and converted your customers, they need to be profitable. Most pet care facilities don’t evaluate their prices often enough, especially against inflation. Now is a great time to look closely at your pricing—but be cautious; pricing is a delicate matter that requires the right balance.

icons of messages, money, and expansion

If you’re not already offering dog daycare, consider adding a high-quality version to your services in order to appeal to working pet parents, whether they’re at home or not.

Challenge #2 typography
High Costs Dampening Travel Demand
Unfortunately, increased consumer costs have reduced travel demand—and thus, demand for overnight pet care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than a 5% increase in hospitality costs between December 2023 and January 2024 alone, and an increase of 17% over 2020 prices.2 While flight prices have finally started to decrease in 2024, they’re still high, and travel spending has only recovered to 89% of pre-pandemic levels.3

All this means fewer vacations for pet parents, and fewer times they’ll need overnight pet care. So, what can be done about it?

Solution typography
Maximize Lodging Revenue
When travel is down, it’s important to maximize revenue from the lodging clients you do get—especially during a rush season like summer. But how do you know if you’re priced appropriately? One way is to track your Revenue per Pet per Night (RPN). This calculates the revenue of each pet per night by combining the cost of their accommodations, activities, any bathing/grooming while lodging, special treats and any other add-ons, divided by the total number of pet nights.

Unfortunately, many pet care companies operate with an all-inclusive pricing model, meaning the pet’s activities and enrichment are bundled in their nightly fee under a single price point. Not only does this choke your RPN, but it also caters only to a narrow selection of customers—those with group-friendly dogs who aren’t willing to pay more for a customized experience for their pet. The key is to positively promote a selection of profitable add-on services. Doing so helps increase revenue, but also creates the best experience possible for the pet, which is equally important. If you run an all-inclusive price model, it may be time to consider a switch.

Challenge #3 typography
Pet Owners Working From Home
The pandemic saw a meteoric rise in work-from-home and hybrid positions, and it turns out, many people love it. According to The Wall Street Journal, 20% of U.S. office space was vacant at the end of 2023—the highest since 1979.4 And it seems remote work isn’t going away, even despite return-to-office initiatives: a 2023 Forbes study revealed that 98% of employees want to work at least partially remotely for the rest of their careers.5 Yes, that means more pet parents are at home with their pets…which could be a blessing in disguise for forward-thinking pet care businesses.
Solution typography
Offer Quality Daycare Services
More people may be at home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always available to give their dogs the exercise and attention they need. In fact, pet parents who work from home may have an increased desire to keep their pet entertained during the day. Many owners who work from home with their dogs have a keener awareness of their pet’s needs and wellbeing. This can urge pet parents to invest in quality dog daycare to keep their dogs enriched and exercised while they work.

If you’re not already offering dog daycare, consider adding a high-quality version to your services in order to appeal to working pet parents, whether they’re at home or not. If you already offer dog daycare, assess how it can be improved. This could mean offering solo play options for less social dogs, better daycare promotion, upgraded amenities and other opportunities.

Challenge #4 typography


According to a 2023 study by Barlow Research Associates, 46% of surveyed personal services providers, including pet care providers, rated seasonality as the biggest cash-flow stress for their business. At certain times of the year, like during the summer or winter holidays, most pet care facilities can expect to be at full occupancy (or nearly). But for the rest of the year, lodging demand can be slow or unpredictable. However, other pet care services—like dog daycare, dog spa services and dog training—are increasingly popular.

In January of 2024, Forbes reported that around 33% of pet owners were millennials.6 Millennials are also the age group that spends the most on their pets, with higher humanization of their pets and a desire for higher-quality pet care services. This means many pet owners are ready and eager to spend money on their furry friends, but not necessarily just overnight care.

Solution typography
Offer Multiple High-Performing Revenue Streams
As you know, overnight lodging services are susceptible to seasonal demand swings. To compensate, top-performing pet care companies implement more “evergreen” services to pick up slack in the off season. In addition to dog daycare, consider offering dog training, particularly stay-and-train-type programs which utilize your expensive building and enclosures. Dogs and puppies adopted during the pandemic still need training—especially since more people are working from home and need their dogs to be well-behaved.

Grooming and spa services are another area of opportunity. With the explosive rise of hypoallergenic mixed breeds like doodles, full-service dog spas are even more relevant. Doodles require frequent haircuts, contributing to a sustainable revenue stream in grooming. And with the increasing humanization of pets, luxury dog spa services have risen in popularity. Pet parents are willing and eager to spend money to pamper their dogs with special treatments, even canine massage. Ultimately, customers who use your grooming or training services are very likely to use your other services, too.

As summer approaches, pet care businesses face unprecedented challenges amidst a changing economic landscape. However, opportunities abound for those willing to embrace change and adjust course. By focusing on increased revenues and additional profitable services, your business can weather the storms of uncertainty and emerge stronger than ever.

  1. Small Business Economic Trends. (2024, February). National Federation of Independent Business.
  2. Industries at a Glance: Leisure and Hospitality. (2024, March). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  3. Travel Forecast. (2024, January). U.S. Travel Association.
  4. Offices Around America Hit a New Vacancy Record. (2024, January). The Wall Street Journal.
  5. Leading In The Age Of Remote Work: Key Factors For Corporate Success. (2023, September). Forbes.
  6. Pet Ownership Statistics 2024. (2024, January). Forbes Advisor.

Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, any of the strategies in this article, or any of our other proven and guaranteed services, schedule a consultation by calling 1-888-735-5667 or visiting

vector illustration of business man with magnify glass
Inspecting What You Expect: A Cornerstone of Operational Excellence
Inspecting What You Expect: A Cornerstone of Operational Excellence
By Jennifer Wolf-Pierson

n the landscape of pet care services, pet resort operators face the challenge of maintaining high standards of service that ensure the health, safety, and satisfaction of both pets and their owners. A key principle that underpins success in this industry is the mantra, “Inspect what you expect.” This approach is not just a catchphrase but a crucial strategy that underscores the importance of oversight in delegation, cleanliness and overall service delivery.

The following will cover why pet resort operators must prioritize regular inspections and how this benefits the operation as a whole.

The Bedrock of Trust: Cleanliness
For pet resorts, cleanliness is not just about aesthetics; it’s a fundamental aspect that impacts the health and wellbeing of the pets entrusted in our care. A clean facility is a key indicator that prospective clients look at when selecting a place for their pets. However, maintaining an impeccable standard of cleanliness requires more than just setting expectations; it necessitates regular inspections to ensure those standards are consistently met.
Effective Delegation
involves clear communication of expectations, providing the necessary resources and training, and setting up a system of regular check-ins and feedback.
Inspecting cleanliness involves evaluating not only the visible areas, but also the nooks and crannies that are prone to neglect. This includes examining under beds, in drains, corners, behind doors, under bars and so much more. When issues are found, this gives the operator the opportunity to address the shortfall. Maybe a team member needs retraining, maybe an accountability meeting needs held, or maybe the proper policy or procedure is just not in place. By addressing these issues proactively, you can streamline operations and maintain the level of cleanliness your clients expect.
The Art of Delegation: Empowerment with Accountability
Delegation is an essential management tool that allows you to distribute responsibilities among your staff effectively. You cannot do it all! If you could, why would you have employees? While the first step is delegation, delegation without follow-up is a recipe for inconsistency and oversight. Inspecting what you expect becomes particularly relevant in this context, as it empowers staff while also holding them accountable for their areas of responsibility.
in the pet resort context is not a one-off task but a
cyclical process
that promotes ongoing improvement and adaptation.
Effective delegation involves clear communication of expectations, providing the necessary resources and training, and setting up a system of regular check-ins and feedback. By incorporating inspection into the delegation process, operators can ensure that tasks are completed to the resort’s standards, identify areas for improvement and acknowledge exemplary performance. This not only enhances operational efficiency, but also builds a culture of accountability and continuous improvement among the team.
The Cycle of Inspection: Continuous Improvement
Inspection in the pet resort context is not a one-off task but a cyclical process that promotes ongoing improvement and adaptation. It involves setting benchmarks for cleanliness and service, systematically evaluating performance against these standards and implementing adjustments based on findings. This cycle of inspection ensures that the resort not only maintains its current standards but also evolves to meet changing needs and expectations.

To implement an effective inspection cycle, resort operators should establish regular inspection schedules, use checklists to standardize assessments and involve staff in the process to foster a team approach to quality. Systems to inspect can be built in formats of checklists, daily walk-throughs, or even required communications. Set goals for yourself and schedule an inspection of the activity you choose to implement. Use your calendar! As entrepreneurs and leaders, it can be easy to get distracted by the next new and exciting thing. Be sure you’re making time to get back to the basics.

For pet resorts, the principle of inspecting what you expect is a cornerstone of operational excellence. It underscores the importance of not taking standards for granted but actively ensuring they are met and upheld. Through meticulous attention to cleanliness, strategic delegation with accountability and a robust cycle of inspection, resort operators can cultivate an environment that prioritizes pet health, safety and satisfaction.

In a sector where customer expectations are high, the commitment to regular inspection is what sets apart the exceptional from the mediocre. It is a testament to the dedication of your team to the mission, a demonstration of their professionalism and a reflection of their unwavering commitment to providing the best possible experience for the pets entrusted in your care.

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Jennifer has served since 2016 as General Manager for ABC Pet Resort & Spa, a multi-service pet care center located in North Houston. She also is a consultant and instructor for Pet Care Management Boot Camp, in partnership with Turnkey, Inc., an architectural design/build/operations firm specializing in pet care and veterinary facilities. Jennifer helps both existing and start-up facilities streamline their operations, improve their team management, and understand revenue-generating strategies. Jennifer earned her BS in Agricultural Science at Colorado State University, is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator (CPACO), a PetTech CPR and First Aid Instructor, and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).
Animal Health
Understanding Canine Vaccines as a Pet Care Professional
By Dr. John Beres

s owners and operators of animal enrichment centers like doggy daycares, boarding facilities and training centers, we all require some level of vaccination for the dogs visiting our businesses. For example, all you need for a dog to join your daycare group is proof of rabies, distemper, kennel cough and a temperament test.

Seems pretty simple, right? The pet parent will bring in a printout of vaccines and due dates, and then you can update your software. Well, Mrs. Jones arrives with Rocky and hands you that printout. You scan the proof of vaccines looking for familiar words, but come across something more like this:

vaccine card for dog with multiple different due dates
Unfortunately, veterinarians do not use a standard naming convention for their vaccines. Some will use generic names like “kennel cough” and “distemper vaccine” but that isn’t the most helpful for a pet patient’s medical record. There are many different types of kennel cough and distemper vaccines, and they are not all created equal.
Every facility needs to enforce the rabies vaccine. Rabies presents a public health risk and a risk to your employees, as it is a virus that can pass to people, and it is always fatal for both pets and people.

Some vets will use the specific trade name of the products they carry such as Novibac Intra-trac 3 IN, but that can cause issues when a vaccine is on backorder and alternatives are used. Others will default to a reasonable compromise of names like DA2PP, DHLPP, Intranasal Bordetella and Rabies Vaccine 3-year. So as the vaccine gatekeeper at your facility, you are left with an alphabet soup of names and descriptions.

In this article, I will attempt to explain the important parts and decipher the names you may come across to at least give you the information to ask the right questions. We will cover what I consider to be the “core vaccines” of animal enrichment centers: Rabies, distemper and kennel cough vaccines.


Rabies is generally the easy one. Every facility needs to enforce the rabies vaccine. Rabies presents a public health risk and a risk to your employees, as it is a virus that can pass to people, and it is always fatal for both pets and people. The only acceptable proof of a rabies vaccine should be the rabies certificate—not a receipt from the local pet or feed store or a rabies tag. Also only accept a rabies certificate that is properly filled out and signed. If you are not sure what a real rabies certificate looks like, you can find samples online.

The distemper vaccine is far more confusing. It can go by the names DA2PP, rDAPP, DAPPv, DHPiPv, DHLPP, Distemper 5-way, DAPPv+Cv, Distemper combo and many others. The only “distemper” part of these vaccines is the “D.” Distemper vaccines also typically contain parainfluenza, parvovirus and adenovirus. Adenovirus causes two different diseases, hepatitis and respiratory disease.
there is not a single virus or organism that causes kennel cough. it is more like the common cold with many different viruses and organisms that may be the cause.

At this point, you should start to recognize several letters. Some of those vaccine names contain a “PP” or “PiPv,” which would be parainfluenza and parvovirus. You also can see “A,” “A2” or “H” referring to adenovirus or hepatitis.

If you keep looking at those names you may see a few more letters floating around like “L” and “Cv.” These refer to leptospirosis and coronavirus, respectively. Don’t panic—this coronavirus is not COVID-19. It’s not even respiratory and is not often used by veterinarians. With maybe a few exceptions, leptospirosis and coronavirus are generally not important for the dogs in an animal enrichment center but may be important for other lifestyle factors.

The final letter in that soup is the “r.” That is referring to a specific type of vaccine known as recombinant, which doesn’t change the components of the vaccine so you can ignore that letter, too.

To recap, keep a lookout for the D, A (or H) and two P’s. Anytime you see a reference to a 4-way, 5-way, 6-way and so on, it simply refers to the number of diseases that a particular vaccine is protecting against.

Kennel Cough
This brings us to our final core vaccine for pet enrichment centers, the kennel cough vaccine. You will see names and combinations like KC, Kennel cough vaccine, Bordetella, Bronchicine, 3-way, Intra-Trac 3, Intranasal (IN), Oral, and Injectable.

As you may know, there is not a single virus or organism that causes kennel cough. Kennel cough is scientifically known as the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) and it is more like the common cold with many different viruses and organisms that may be the cause. Unfortunately, there is not a true kennel cough vaccine that will protect dogs from all possible infections. Frustratingly, we all deal with a kennel cough outbreak at some point, but having your canine guests vaccinated correctly will reduce the incidence and severity.
All kennel cough vaccines will contain Bordetella bronchiseptica. The better vaccines will also contain adenovirus and parainfluenza. Hopefully, those two look familiar from the distemper vaccine. A unique characteristic of the kennel cough vaccine is that it can be squirted in the nose (intranasal), mouth (oral) or injected like other vaccines, depending upon the brand and preparation.

The most effective way to give this vaccine is intranasal because it stimulates a local immune response in the nasal passages where respiratory diseases begin. Fortunately, most intranasal vaccines have at least Bordetella and adenovirus, and some have the additional parainfluenza. The least effective way to give this vaccine is injectable, largely because injecting a respiratory disease under the skin misses out on the aforementioned local stimulation of nasal passages. So, ideally, dogs will be vaccinated with an intranasal vaccine that is at least a 2-way, or even better, the 3-way.

Canine Influenza
A good number of facilities consider the canine influenza vaccine to be optional. You will see names and combinations like CIV, Bivalent CIV, H3N2, H3N8 or canine flu. Canine influenza has two virulent strains; H3N2 and H3N8. They can come as individual vaccines or both mixed in one dose. The bivalent CIV contains both strains. The disease is serious and sometimes fatal, but it tends to go away for long periods, only showing up in various hot spots in the U.S.

If it is a requirement at your facility, that is great. If you don’t require it, at least recommend it. And always keep a watchful eye on cases appearing in your community, at which point you will want to start requiring the canine flu vaccine.

It’s important to know your vaccines, or at least the ones that apply to your facility’s protocol. You have a responsibility to the health of the pets in your care. Consider assigning a single employee to be the “Vaccine Czar” so they can develop a deeper knowledge and assist other staff in correctly understanding and recording vaccines. Also, the more knowledge you have, the more your pet parents will trust you—and your entire business is built on trust.

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 pet enrichment centers like doggy daycare and boarding facilities to provide Healthy Pets Healthy Packs solutions, including parasite prevention programs. He can be reached at and found on LinkedIn at

Profile of Success

Wag Days Pet Resort typography
assortment of dogs at a pet resort
Where Tails Are Always Wagging typography
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by Wag Days Philly
In 2019 Nora Rodgers opened a small, independent dog walking and in-home boarding business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. People loved the convenience she offered them and her business really took off. Within a year, she added three additional dog walkers to her team.

It soon became apparent to Nora that her clients and the local dog-loving community needed even more. They needed a place where their dogs could socialize with each other, get exercise during the day and have fun while their owners were at work. So, opening a doggy daycare seemed to be an ideal way to fill these needs.

Nora found a building in her neighborhood that had once been a technical school. She was able to secure the lower section of the building and soon set about transforming it into a doggy daycare. The space is small, only 1,700 sq. ft., but Nora has used every inch to give the dogs and the dog owners of the South Philly area a “doggone” good experience.

empty room at a pet resort
woman with multiple dogs at pet resort; row of leashes and collars at pet resort
“Our opening day was set for March 16th, 2020,” Nora shares. “However, that was the fateful day that the Governor of Pennsylvania shut down almost every business in the state because of COVID.”

Although delayed, Wag Days Philly eventually opened its doors on June 10th, 2020. They started out offering daycare and dog walking services, but as they adapted to their clients’ needs, they dropped the dog walking and added more daycare programs and other services.

two small dogs being walked while wearing leashes; woman with multiple dogs at pet resort
two small dogs being walked while wearing leashes
woman with multiple dogs at pet resort
They started out offering daycare and dog walking services, but as they adapted to their clients’ needs, they dropped the dog walking and added more daycare programs and other services.
“We offer three different daycare programs,” Nora says. “We have our basic daycare, an enrichment-based daycare, and a puppy enrichment daycare. In our current location, daycare is primarily indoors, but the building we are in has a dog park attached to it. That’s an awesome resource in a city like Philly. It’s an older city where there is not much available outdoor space at all.”

With 40-45% of their daycare dogs enrolled in enrichment activities every day, it is their most popular daycare program.

“We heavily promote our enrichment-based daycare,” Nora adds. “We feature it through videos and photos on Facebook and Instagram several times daily. Owners and prospective clients see what we and the dogs are doing all day long. These posts generate a lot of interest in our programs.”

woman sweeping a hallway at a pet resort; woman grooming dog on a table
woman sweeping a hallway at a pet resort
woman grooming dog on a table
Wag Days offers a daycare membership program where the owners can earn discounts on daycare and receive other perks. They have four levels of memberships based on how frequently their dogs attend daycare.

“We have found that our membership program is a great way to get people to commit to coming,” Nora says. “In addition to discounts on daycare, the members receive other perks.

white dog sitting in front of red lockers
two dogs in front of yellow lockers
When it comes to training, Wag Days offers a Puppy Training program, a Play and Train program, and a Stay and Train program.
“In January 2024, we partnered with Fern Dog Training and added training to our list of services,” she continues. “Our members get access to Fern’s in-home training videos and we actually do little webinars for membership clients and answer their dog training questions.”

When it comes to training, Wag Days offers a Puppy Training program, a Play and Train program, and a Stay and Train program. In the Puppy Training program, the pups attend daycare and get one-on-one sessions with a trainer throughout the day where they learn basic commands, manners, leash training, crate training and more. With the Play and Train program, dogs also attend daycare but they receive individualized training sessions throughout the day and go home at night. The Stay and Train program gives each dog one-on-one training sessions and includes socializing, play and rest times. The dogs then board overnight at Wag Days until the completion of their training.

light brown dog sitting on a dog bed
All of the overnight guests attend daycare during the day, then the in home guests go home with Nora or one of her staff members at the end of the day and stay in their homes overnight.
They offer two types of boarding at Wag Days. They have traditional boarding at their facility, but they also offer in-home boarding for an additional fee. All of the overnight guests attend daycare during the day, then the in-home guests go home with Nora or one of her staff members at the end of the day and stay in their homes overnight. Owners love this unique service, as it gives them peace of mind that their dog is being cared for in a home and not just in a kennel.

“I believe in constantly changing to give the community what they want,” says Nora. “We really try to accommodate all the people’s needs and implement new ideas for the best in pet care.”

Wag Days has 10 full- and part-time employees, which Nora says are the “lifeline” of her business, and surely a big part of why Wag Days has all five-star reviews on Google.

“I hire people who are not only dog lovers, but are qualified and reliable,” Nora states. “I try to create an environment where they feel respected and not overworked. I have a very staff-heavy business, and they always pull through for me.”

Their website,, is where people get their first look at the facility and all the services they offer. They get to see what’s included in their training programs, boarding options, daycare and enrichment choices, and client testimonials.

Due to its success, Wag Days is opening their second location at the end of April 2024. It is three times the size of their flagship facility and is located about twenty minutes from it.

woman with multiple dogs at pet resort; dogs running around and playing together at a pet resort
woman with multiple dogs at pet resort
dogs running around and playing together at a pet resort
Wag Days has 10 full- and part-time employees, which Nora says are the “lifeline” of her business, and surely a big part of why Wag Days has all five-star reviews on Google.
“Our new location will have 6,000 sq. ft,” Nora shares. “Over 3,000 sq. ft. of that will be daycare space, and will have a dedicated area for puppies only. We will be able to board up to 45 dogs per night. And, we will have a fully equipped training center in our soundproofed lower level. It’s all so exciting!”

With a very modest beginning in dog walking and in-home boarding, Nora Rodgers, along with her staff, have turned Wag Days Philly into a thriving business during an exceedingly difficult economic period. So much so that the demand for the personalized services and other programs that they offer has prompted them to open a second, much larger, location. Now, that’s something that will get everyone’s tail wagging!

Think Tank

Using Your USP To Elevate Your Business Above The Competition
By Fernando Camacho
I n the increasingly competitive pet industry, distinguishing your business from the crowd is key to long-term success. To do that you need to understand and utilize your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A USP should be the foundation of all your branding and marketing, serving as the definitive reason why your services are better than and/or different from the competition.

Identifying and leveraging a USP is not just about showcasing what you do, but about highlighting the unique value you bring to pet owners and their furry friends.

Identifying Your USP

In a nutshell, your USP is what makes you different and unique from all the other pet businesses out there. It’s a clear statement that describes the distinct benefits of what you do, explains how you solve customers’ needs and communicates how you differ from the competition. It’s what makes your business stand out in a crowded marketplace where customers are bombarded with choices. Here are a few steps you can take to identify your business’s USP:

  1. Know Your Audience. The first step is to understand your target market and who you’re trying to serve. What do your ideal clients look like (both dogs and people)? What are their specific needs, wants and pain points?
  2. Analyze Your Competition. Look at what your competitors are doing and identify areas where you excel or offer something they don’t. This could be anything from unique programs, extended hours, expertise in a specific area (like puppies or enrichment) or even how you engage with your customers.
  3. Highlight Your Strengths. Consider what makes your business unique. It could be your commitment to quality, smaller play groups, that you have trainers on staff, special services or your approach to working with the dogs. Your strengths should align with what your target market values most.
  4. Solve a Problem. A compelling USP often addresses a specific problem that competitors are ignoring. If your business solves a unique problem or addresses a particular need in a way that nobody else does, that should be a part of your USP.

Leveraging Your USP

Once you’ve identified your USP, the next step is to weave it into every aspect of your business—from your marketing materials and online presence to the way you interact with leads and customers. Here are a few ways to leverage your USP:
illustration of a lightbulb in a box with various art tools
Integrate Your USP into Your Branding. Your USP should be a part of your brand’s story. It should be reflected in everything you do. This will help attract those that are a perfect fit for what you do and, at the same time, repel those that are not right.
illustration of a megaphone going off with comment bubbles and lightning bolts projecting
Communicate Your USP Clearly. Whether it’s on your website, in advertising or through social media, make sure your USP is communicated clearly and consistently. It should be easy for potential customers to understand what makes your business different at a glance.
illustration of a hand pointing in the middle of a bullseye with a finished checklist in the background
Get Feedback and Adapt. Listen to customer feedback and be willing to alter your USP as your business and the market evolve. The pet industry is always changing, and staying flexible can help you maintain a competitive edge.
Having and showcasing a Unique Selling Proposition is crucial if you want your business to stand out in this growing pet business market. Remember, your USP is not just what you sell; it’s the story of why you do what you do and why it matters to your customers. If you make it a bit personal and customize it to your individual preferences and skillset, not many businesses will be able to compete with you in that area.

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:

Industry News

How To Prioritize Self-Care In Order To Break The Cycle
By Renee Machel
Self-care is a lever you can pull to prevent overwhelm or stop a stressed-out tailspin. However, over the past year or so, the term self-care has been marketed as superficial or luxury-type habits. Yet, it’s much more important than social media has led you to believe…

For individuals who work one on one with animals, oftentimes there is a personality type or a few types who are drawn to the work—those who may absorb or internalize the stress they encounter from the pets they care for daily. Without a way to neutralize, recalibrate and realign, there comes a tipping point…where you lose yourself.

This is why it is of the utmost importance that animal caregivers routinely “cleanse.” Just as you would shower daily, it’s necessary you tend to your energy and state of being. Emotional intelligence (E.Q.) guides you to change your relationship with yourself, for the better, resulting in:

  • Reduced Levels of Burnout
  • Deeper Sense of Contentment
  • Higher-Quality Relationships
  • Increased Earning Potential

Your E.Q. tunes your awareness to recognize, understand and manage your emotions as well as that of others.

I have worked with animals for over twenty years, so when I think of others, naturally, animals are included in that. By tuning your frequency—kind of like a car radio—you can tap into states of being that serve you in the moment when handling stressed pets and afterward when handling yourself and sorting through all the “input” that occurs on a daily basis.

Self-care is not squandering time, mindless eating, being “mean” or self-indulgence. Instead, it’s consciously creating congruence within yourself.

To determine if you’re living in accordance with your core values1—with what is most important to you—and acting in an intentional way to be the person you want to be, start by asking yourself these questions:

What is it that I need? How can I serve myself; fill my cup? Do I need alone time to connect with myself, clear my mind, to unpack or sift through my thoughts in order to solve problems or take something to the next level? Do I need time with friends to access joy, fun, laughter and a connection with others? What is my body trying to tell me? If I stop ignoring the signals, how can I recalibrate?
What is it that I need? How can I serve myself; fill my cup? Do I need alone time to connect with myself, clear my mind, to unpack or sift through my thoughts in order to solve problems or take something to the next level? Do I need time with friends to access joy, fun, laughter and a connection with others? What is my body trying to tell me? If I stop ignoring the signals, how can I recalibrate?
If you can’t answer those questions, that’s where your work is. You have to take inventory; to know thyself. You have to uncover what’s been buried over the years; to try things and say, “Yes, this for me,” or “No, this is not for me.”

Next you’ll want to evaluate your current stressors. Similar to a mind dump—write out all the things that are causing you annoyance, discontentment or distress. Put it out there for the moment, for your eyes only, freeing up internal bandwidth.

Lastly, get out your calendar and deliberately schedule time for these various action steps. Include your significant other or whomever would need to know that you are carving out time to tend to these things. Plan time to “worry” so that you aren’t doing it at bedtime or at the dinner table with your family so you can remain present.

While it may seem counterintuitive or selfish to prioritize your needs and cultivate a sense of agency or control, once you begin doing so, you and those around you will immediately benefit from the byproducts, which, overall, is you showing up more as your best self.

You become the leader of your life; life is no longer happening to you. This goes back to showering, because the practice of self-care—making the choice daily, throughout the day—is something that you’ll do from now on. It’s not a one-and-done thing.

'you' written in cursive on a pink flower watering can

become the leader of your life; life is no longer happening to you.

Also check in with your boundaries. What needs tending to? Just like a fence, over time, they can get worn. Boundaries are a way to say “Yes” to you; to practice courage, self-acceptance and self-love. Use available tools such a life wheel2 to address boundaries and self-care practices in each area of your life including finances, relationships and more.

When you connect with yourself, you are able to mitigate risks and find creative solutions to your problems or things that bring you stress on a regular basis. You may even be able to implement changes in your workplace to reduce the cycle of stress shared by animals and their human caregivers. This principle and action steps will move you in the right direction to cultivate and continuously prioritize your wellbeing.


  1. Machel, R. Core Values: Start where you are. Get MotiVETed.
  2. Machel, R. A sample of top tools. Get MotiVETed.

New Products

COZYBLUE Always-Open Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box product model image

The COZYBLUE Always-Open Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box is designed to focus on the two most important aspects for feline companions—safety and comfort. The “Always Open” design ensures that your feline friends can access the litter box without the risk of getting caught or stuck by moving parts. The extra-large space provides ample room for larger cat breeds and accommodating multiple cats comfortably. The innovative dual-pattern sifter design is compatible with clumping cat litter of different shapes and sizes, and the 24/7 Activity Log records the machine’s activities to help establish a cat’s behavioral pattern.

Outward Hound Think N' Thrive Plush Treat Puzzles product model image

In collaboration with enrichment pioneer Nina Ottosson, Outward Hound® debuts the latest addition to its Think N’ Thrive® dog toys line—plush treat puzzles. This unprecedented collection offers treat-seeking play in squeaky plush toy form, providing double the incentive and reward. Outward Hound Think N’ Thrive mind enriching dog toys give treat-loving dogs a more fulfilling playtime that is mentally stimulating, physically engaging, and emotionally rewarding. Our toys allow dogs to act on their natural behaviors and use their minds, senses, and instincts to problem-solve and actively relieve stress while they play.

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