This is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the animal care world. “People care about their pets, and they care where they leave them,” says Susan Briggs, owner of Urban Tails in Houston, Texas. “We board dogs and cats when people go on vacation and while they work. A lot of our clients drop off their dogs early in the morning and pick them up on their way home from work. While they are at work, they want to know that their animals are safe and are having a good time.”
At Urban Tails, dogs are exercised, fed, and played with. There is even a television and daybed in each kennel. Most of Urban Tails' business, like that of other animal daycare centers, comes from dog owners. People do drop off their cats mostly during vacation time.
Before starting Urban Tails in 2000, Briggs worked as a vice president of mortgage at a bank. “While I was working at the bank, I owned a smooth collie and a golden retriever,” she says. “I took both dogs to obedience training classes. I enjoyed the classes so much that I wanted to follow my passion. So I changed careers. I thought it would be wonderful working with dogs.”
She took a few business courses and opened Urban Tails. She started with a small staff and now has twenty-two employees. That includes groomers, trainers, and front desk staff. Briggs looks for enthusiasm and strong animal and people skills. “We have a lot of contact with pet owners,” says Briggs. “They care about their dogs. That is why they send them here. They don't want them at home alone. Here we exercise and interact with the pets.”
The dogs go for runs in the outdoor area. Pets take naps in rooms that measure either nine by ten feet or eight by eight. Each room has a color TV. “We call these our luxury suites,” says Briggs. “The staff reads to the dogs, gives them treats, and even takes them swimming. We have an indoor swimming pool. It's like camp for dogs.
“A lot of large cities are opening daycare centers for dogs,” Briggs adds. “To do this job, you need to have an equally strong understanding of dogs and business. I have a business partner who has a background in dog training. I also attend expos and workshops run by the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA). At a pet services expo they held, I got information on how to get financing for my business and how to manage the business once it was up and running. We also attend Groom Expos, which are organized by Barkleigh Productions (
Briggs also learns from the dogs. “Watching them interact tells you a lot about their personalities, which helps us make their stay here a better one,” she explains. “I also learn about new breeds. The other day someone brought in a Spinone Italiano; it's a hunting dog with origins from northern Italy.”
Running a doggie daycare center means long hours, but life got easier for Briggs because she trusts her staff. “I'm fortunate that my staff is made up of good and dedicated people,” she says. “This allows me to go home and spend time with my family. I don't have to work long hours thanks to my staff. They work different shifts, and we are open on weekends and have evening hours. When I first opened, I worked around the clock.”
Her biggest expense in addition to paying her workers is the mortgage for the daycare center. “It's a big place — a warehouse — and real estate today is costly,” she notes.
Briggs says that doggie daycare owners can earn anywhere between $40,000 and $75,000 annually. She does well because of all of the extra services she provides. “We have overnight boarding, daycare when pet owners are at work, grooming services, training and behavior, and we sell retail items such as food, leashes and collars, and pet toys.”
Staff is paid hourly rates. They can earn anywhere from $7 an hour up to $25 — depending on the position, location, and size of the business.