Kennels Can Increase Income with Add-on Services
By Sally Smith, CKO, LVT
Ninety-nine percent of the boarding facilities in the United States offer at least one other service besides boarding. The industry has expanded to include other profit centers such as grooming (the most common secondary service), training (obedience, puppy classes, agility), day care, pet transportation, and veterinary services. These changes have occurred in part to increase income, but also because our clients want the convenience of several services in one place. Offering more and better services will give your kennel an advantage over the competition. Ultimately, our goal is to add quality to the pet care we offer, in order to add quality to the pet’s life.
By far the most popular add-on service, grooming brings in repeat business. Clients return on a regular basis for your services. Pets are also bathed or groomed on the way home from boarding. Most clients prefer to be greeted by a freshly groomed dog when they pick up their pet from your boarding facility. Once the service is in place, it is easy to offer it. Good, quality groomers will attract customers who want their pets to look their best.
Classes for puppies and obedience training are the most common services a trainer offers. A good trainer can also help work with difficult dogs, and even provide training services for boarding pets. As with groomers, however, there are few laws and no licensure for the training profession. Many trainers are self-taught. Consequently, there are good trainers and poor trainers. A multitude of different training philosophies also exists. Since this service is a reflection on the business, even if run as a separate entity, choose a trainer carefully and check with references.
This is the latest and newest service coming into the pet care industry. By industry standards, day care refers to dogs coming into the facility for a few hours, and leaving without staying overnight. They are involved in community play groups with other dogs, have rest periods, and may be offered a treat time. Thus dog day care mirrors childcare. Since pets are often considered equal to children, it makes sense that day care for dogs has come into being. While many kennels have accepted dogs for a part of the day by boarding them (now referred to as "day boarding"), day care involves total interaction between several dogs and the people caring for them. It requires a staff person knowledgeable in dog behavior, and some training experience is helpful. Not all states will allow day care, since dogs from different families are being placed together.
If your facility is located near a major airport, and if your community is somewhat transient, offering pet shipping services can be a nice add-on. USDA and FAA licensure is required. There are several pet shipping associations, as well as information from ABKA.
Many kennels are now operated in conjunction with a veterinary hospital, but others only hire a veterinarian to visit the kennel once a week for minor checkups or vaccinations. For years, veterinary offices were the major source of referrals to the boarding kennel, and so any special alliances with one particular vet could be detrimental to referrals from others. If your kennel offers space to one particular vet, referrals from other offices will stop. The trade off is the response from clients who like the convenience of both offices in one location. In addition to these major services, a multitude of in-house specialty services can generate additional income. Most of these services are added on to the daily boarding rate for a nominal fee. Some kennels will just charge a premium rate, and include these kinds of programs or services with the boarding at no additional charge. A la carte programs can be mixed and matched to provide customized service for each client.
Exercise programs like walking, swimming and playtime are very popular. Major holidays lend themselves to serving special dinners, having barbecues, or even events such as Easter egg hunts. Anything requiring special attention to a particular pet (giving medications, treating a wound or skin condition, feeding a special diet, etc.) may generate a nominal charge. The kennel may also offer and charge for additional grooming services such as brush outs or nail trims during boarding for example. Community playtime for boarding animals is an option similar to day care. Boarding pets are not usually mixed with the day care only pets, so they would require their own play group.
Add-on services are only limited to your imagination, and capabilities. Whatever you choose to offer, plan the program carefully and make sure enough trained staff will be available to carry the service forward successfully.
Sally Smith, CKO, LVT, graduated as a vet tech from SUNY Delhi, graduated from Nash Academy of Animal Arts for grooming and has worked 22 years in the pet industry. Recently retired as director of the Animal Inn/Golub Animal Hospital, overseeing business operations, she currently devotes her time to Companion Pet Enterprises, her speaking and consulting business, as well as owning and operating Airborne Animals, a pet shipping service.