Gone are the days when people asked “What’s dog daycare?” or “Why would I bring my dog here to play with other dogs?” The dog daycare industry is a couple decades old, and daycare has moved from being viewed as a frivolous activity for a pet to a much needed social outlet for a beloved family member. Pet parents who previously wondered why they would want to have their dog play with other dogs now feel guilty if they don’t offer this service to their pet.
Daycares are popping up everywhere and the competition for daycare dogs (and dollars) has never been higher. How do you compete in this type of market? It’s no longer good enough to simply “do daycare.” It’s time to look at, and work to stay ahead of, the changing trend in dog daycare.
It used to be unique to drop your dog off for a day-long play session with other dogs. Now everyone is doing it. Since this is a non-regulated industry, lots of folks see it as an easy way to make money working with dogs. So they open a daycare, or start one in their home, with little overhead and high expectations. Dogs come in to play all day long and go home too exhausted to do anything with their own families.
Those of us who have been around the industry since it started now see several long-term problems with this model of doing daycare:
- It’s no longer unique. Everyone is doing it so it’s hard to set yourself apart
- Keeping the dogs safe requires a high payroll expense which can significantly reduce the profitability of your program
- It’s not actually healthy for dogs because dogs need more breaks
Day-long daycare has become a commodity to pet parents, and when a service becomes a commodity, people base their decision on price more than anything else. Price shopping for a daycare becomes a common trend.
It’s time to change the mold, be more financially sound, and keep the dogs healthier by looking at a new way to run your daycare. How do you do it? To stay ahead of the trends in the pet industry you just need to look at the trends in society. The pet industry often mirrors society. What people find good for themselves, they find good for their pets.
Some examples of this phenomenon:
- The trend toward luxury hotels resulted in the pet industry trend toward terms such as lodging and resort
- The trend toward spa services resulted in the pet industry trend toward spa days for dogs, massages for dogs
- The trend toward fitness for people resulting in an upswing of fitness programs and core work for dogs
Some current trends that you should be following in America include:
- Concierge services where people can have services catered to their needs and wants
- Uber which offers on demand transportation where you need to go, when you need to get there
- Small, very focused Montessori type school and an upswing in homeschooling. People want very specialized training and education for their children.
- An obvious increase in the use of technology for everything from making appointments to ordering products and services
How does this translate into the dog daycare industry? Day-long daycare will soon be outdated replaced by more high-touch services that cater to individual dogs and families. Facilities that can provide enrichment and education to the family pet will be in higher demand and people will be willing to pay for those outlets. Membership programs will begin to build in popularity among facilities where the higher demand of services require membership access.
If you are interested in staying ahead of the industry trend, here are a few recommendations to get you started:
- Offer smaller playgroups that allow for a higher quality of play for shorter periods of time
- Provide more rest breaks for the dogs which allows them to get the quality rest they need to be emotionally healthy
- Offer individual activities/play sessions based on the dog’s needs and desires
- Create a unique model of daycare that allows you to better market your value to the community (and charge more!)
- Set up a membership based program where people pay to access the services you have to offer.
These changes can actually work to your advantage. With a change in your program you should make a corresponding increase in the prices you charge. Offering a high-touch enrichment program provides a much higher value to your clients. You can increase your revenue while working with fewer dogs! The dogs will have more fun and you’ll set yourself apart as a new and unique dog daycare that is more profitable and different than the day long daycare that has become the norm in our industry.
Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, consultant and expert on dogs. The tools she teaches facility staff and dog owners stem from over 20 years of involvement in the pet care industry. Her book, All About Dog Daycare, is the number one reference on owning a daycare, and her book, Off-Leash Dog Play, co-authored by Susan Briggs, is the key reference on supervising dogs in playgroups. Together with Susan Briggs, Robin has created an interactive staff training program called Knowing Dogs: a two-part training resource designed for pet care center management to train any staff member working in a pet care facility on safe dog interactions and group play. You can find more about Robin and these resources at www.robinkbennett.com. As “The Dog Gurus”, Robin and Susan’s mission is to improve safety in the dog daycare industry. Check out their membership site at www.TheDogGurus.com.