We’re Going to the Dogs
Jul 07, 2014 03:11PM
● By Jason Huddle
While families with children still lead the way in pet ownership in the U.S., baby-booming empty-nesters and career-minded individuals without children are close behind.
As pets take the place of children in the home, there’s more being spent on their care. Bob Vetere, president and CEO of American Pet Products Association (APPA), says, “Few generations have been as enthusiastic about their pets as the baby-boomers, and their love of furry friends has only increased as their human children have aged out of the nest. They were helicopter parents hovering over their kids, and now they’re hovering over their pets.”
According to a 2013-‘14 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by APPA, 68 percent – or 82.5 million – of U.S. homes own a pet. APPA also projects that $58.51 billion will be spent on pets this year, up from $55.72 billion in 2013. This number is broken down into the cost of the pet itself, food expenditures, supplies and over-the-counter medications, veterinary care, and grooming and boarding.
These costs – which continue to rise – can amass quickly, so it’s important for potential pet owners to realize that a dog or cat, especially, could conceivably live 15 to 20 years. Medical costs rival those of a child’s, to the point that pet insurance is now widely available. One explanation regarding cost is that new veterinary technology and medications are regularly being introduced, meaning passing along the cost to the pet owner. Another is that today’s pet owner is more than willing to pay.
An annual vet exam typically runs $50 to $60 per pet in Cabarrus County and that doesn’t include vaccinations. Routine shots, heartworm tests and preventative (for dogs), worming, flea prevention, dental cleanings…they add up to hundreds of dollars yearly for a young, healthy pet. Still, the cost of prevention outweighs that of treatment for illness.
While dogs are categorized as the most popular pet – 56.7 million households – the actual number of cats owned exceeds dogs: 95.6 million cats vs. 83.3 million dogs nationally. Fish, horses, birds, reptiles and “other” small animals also figure into the mix. Smaller pets are attractive to the active and traveling family that wants a lower-maintenance pet. They’re also cheaper to care for.
As the U.S. working demographic has changed, so have its needs. That even extends to daytime care for their dogs, especially large breeds. Dog owners don’t want to crate their dogs during the workday, coming home to a frenzied pet that demands an immediate walk at the very least. Insufficient exercise leads to negative behavior and destruction in the home as well as to a weary owner.
Working breeds like Shepherds, Hounds and Terriers are prime examples of dogs that would benefit from socialization and extended periods of exercise. As a response, facilities often termed “doggie day cares” have sprung up. Two larger ones are located in Cabarrus County: Camp Bow Wow and Camp Happy Hound.
Camp Bow Wow
Camp Bow Wow, located off Odell School Road in Concord, opened in June of 2009. There were no facilities of its size and scope when Cassie Scofield researched the company, area and physical site before buying a franchise. Besides day care, Camp Bow Wow offers boarding, grooming and training.
The camp currently averages about 80 to 100 dogs a day at its facility, with “roughly one certified camp counselor per 10 campers,” Scofield says. “Owners have a variety of reasons for using day camp: traveling, working long hours or simply wanting their dog to get exercise and attention throughout the day.”
Amenities include four indoor/outdoor play yards, pup pools, webcams and “cabins,” where the dogs eat and sleep. “Just last year, we installed state-of-the-art antimicrobial turf in our outdoor yards, expanded 2,000 square feet to offer dog training services and installed 20 additional overnight cabins,” Scofield adds. “Boarding has always been our bread and butter. Boarding is a necessity for a lot of owners, and they want to ensure their pups are well-cared for and are getting to exercise and socialize, as opposed to sitting in a cage all day.”
So, how does a day camp maintain peace and harmony in a play environment occupied by pack animals? Camp Bow Wow’s employees are certified in Pet First-Aid and CPR and are trained by what Scofield considers some of the top dog trainers in the country.
“Counselors go through rigorous corporate training with videos, shadowing and hands-on work with our certified trainers before they are permitted to be in the yards by themselves,” she says. “Safety is our number one priority at camp. We have a very strategic way of separating the dogs and staffing the yards. Our play yards are separated by dog size and temperament. Plus, there is always a certified camp counselor supervising each yard.”
Having certified dog trainers on staff has also made a difference with the shyer, less confident dogs. Besides requiring that a dog be at least four months old, spayed or neutered and current on their Rabies, Distemper and Bordetella vaccines, each also has to pass an interview/trial day to be able to attend camp. “Dogs that typically would have failed the initial interview now are taking sessions with our trainers, and we have so many dogs now in the play yards who are thriving and enjoying themselves who never were able to be around dogs prior to that. It’s really satisfying to see dogs come out of their shells and enjoy the company and interaction of others,” Scofield says.
Having a staff that she feels comfort-able with handling the day-to-day management of the facility has allowed Scofield to concentrate on growing her business as well as leasing the rest of the building, which she recently purchased. “I am a very active owner and work 365 days a year because I love my business and because we are open to the public 365 days a year,” she says.
One of Scofield’s roles involves The Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, a nonprofit formed by Camp Bow Wow’s corporate offices. Its focus is on all aspects of the dog: health and welfare; rehoming unwanted dogs; humane education and treatment; and research and treatment in canine diseases.
“At our Concord location, we carry out that mission on a local level by fostering dogs from local rescues and doing ongoing fundraisers like our annual Santa Paws pictures, supply drives, Bow WOW Basket raffles and more to benefit local groups,” Scofield explains. “Everybody can do something to help pets in need! Reach out to a local rescue or shelter to volunteer, foster or ask about other ways you can help.”
Camp Happy Hound
Camp Happy Hound, located on Warren C. Coleman Boulevard in Concord, opened its doors in September of last year. Not a franchise, this facility is a family endeavor that started from the ground up, converting a former church complex.
Andi Cooper is operations manager and daughter to two of the camp’s owners: Tony and Becky Cooper. Mike Mason is the third owner.
Cooper opens the facility each morning, taking in 40 to 50 daytime campers on weekdays and 30 to 40 boarders on any given weekend.
Camp Happy Hound amenities include 43 climate-controlled kennels that range in size from four-foot square to six-foot by eight-foot.
“Each kennel is lined with FRP (fiberglass-reinforced plastic), which means there is no chance of cross-contamination or your dog coming home smelling like urine,” Cooper explains.
The camp sits on nearly six acres with a 10,000-plus square-foot building containing three rubber-floored play areas. Outside, there are five fenced-in play areas covering two acres.
While day care is currently the camp’s most successful business segment, having a staffed third shift makes it different than most boarding facilities.
“We hired a third shift to not only clean what we cannot get to during the busy day, but to also keep watch of the pups and take them out for potty breaks during the night,” Cooper says.
Like Camp Bow Wow, Camp Happy Hound requires all guests be up-to-date on Rabies, Distemper and Bordetella vaccinations. And while dogs must be spayed or neutered to participate in day camp, there is an area to board those that are not altered. They also employ certified Pet CPR and First-Aid crew members. Camper interviews are required to assess temperament and personality.
Camp Happy Hound offers dog training by Wally Wimmer, owner of Last Straw Dog Training. Future projects include fencing in about three more acres of their property. The owners would like to transform it into a dog park open to the public on weekends.
“Come spring of 2015, we plan to add in-ground pools for our pups to play and splash around in while outside on hot summer days,” Cooper adds. They currently utilize kiddie pools.
Like other camps, Camp Happy Hound has built relationships with local shelters and rescues. “We work very closely with several rescues around our area, such as HS Cabarrus Animal Rescue, Cabarrus County Humane Society, Ruth’s Memorial, etc. We also help other rescues outside of our county by networking and sharing information about pets needing ‘furever’ homes.”
Cooper is referring to dogs they foster at the facility that are looking to get adopted. Posting these animals on a Facebook page allows national networking to make an adoption happen. In the meantime, they’re getting more exercise than they would at a shelter.
This facet of the pet business continues to grow, so do some research and you’re sure to find the perfect place for your “best friend.”