5 Ideas to Consider When Upgrading Boarding
By John Walczuk
Photos by Shor-Line
Managing a flexible boarding facility that can expand and contract with customer needs presents challenges. Whether you are expanding to add to your footprint or building a new facility, there are ways to build in flexibility.
Planning ahead can help you maximize each of your run openings. These five ideas can help you avoid costly mistakes and take advantage of opportunities.
1. Always Keep Drainage in Mind
Your largest ongoing expenditure will be on staff. Most often, animal contact will be their favorite part of the job and cleaning the least favorite. Planning drainage or fixing the problems that have arisen will make everyone happier.
Most facilities use some form of spray washing for cleaning. This is effective when there is a clear, predictable drainage system. If you are adding to an existing facility, it is ideal to work with the existing drain pattern whenever possible.
Kennel runs are built to sit either on your concrete floor or raised off the floor. Each choice has a couple of basic options:
Kennel Runs on Concrete: These runs can either have a slope or no slope. The preferred situation is a slope because it makes cleaning so much easier.
• Runs manufactured to follow the slope of your floor typically slope down about ¼” per foot. Typically, these systems have a trench or hole drain. The panels seal to the floor to prevent cross-contamination.
• A facility that has no sloped floor and/or drain system can still have run systems. They will need to be individually mopped out, which is time consuming and not as effective as sanitizing. These units are then sealed to the floor to prevent cross-contamination.
Raised Floor Kennel Runs: These are used when you want to keep the pet off the concrete or when you want to bring in your own drain system. There are two styles that keep the animal off the concrete but both of these systems still need a place to drain:
• The elevated floor system has a rail at the bottom where the PVC Coated Floors sit. Liquid waste falls below the unit and a sprayer directs the waste to a trench drain and can spray off the floor. This design elevates the floor above the trench drain so the pet does not come in contact with flowing waste.
• The raised floor system incorporates the drain choice into the raised floor. They are pre–sloped ¼” per foot and can attach to your sewer system via stub out. You then seal the side panels to the floor to prevent cross-contamination. This system is best for existing facilities where you do not want to modify the building. It also is a good choice if you are anticipating relocating your facility or you are leasing in an area with severe restrictions on floor modifications.
2. Balance Cost Savings at the New Build Vs. Ongoing Staff Costs
Whenever possible, let the equipment do the work. Let the staff give attention and affection to the animals because most customers are essentially paying for their pets to be happy and healthy in your care.
For example, feeding systems generally need to be ordered with the initial run component order. A swivel feeder makes it easier, safer and less stressful for staff and boarders. This lowers pet stress and gives staff time for other duties.
Pet sleeping areas aren’t a one-size–fits–all. Not all boarders can handle a cot without turning it into a chew toy. Investing in some runs with durable raised resting benches keeps the pet happy while avoiding an uncomfortable conversation with a pet owner at checkout.
Balancing these built-in conveniences and quality equipment vs. more disposable options will give you your true yearly operating costs.
3. Plan Your Space For Multiple Uses
Flexibility gives you and your customers options. Items such as transfer doors on kennel runs allow you to use a space for multiple uses. When it is open it can be a large suite, housing for a bonded pair or an exercise area for a pet who can’t be with the group. Few people regret investing in large transfer doors.
Double Decker kennels give similar flexibility. A family of small dogs utilize three kennels in a row if transfer doors are properly positioned. For a “high end” boarder, one can have a “luxury suite”, which will command the highest occupancy rate, while other pet parents might opt for a cost–saving single with playtime outside.
A folding kennel can provide extra boarding space at night while folding away during the day. It is great for overflow or open it up for easy “de–stress time” for dogs that get a little too excited during playtime.
It all comes down to openings. You can always close some off if you have transfer doors, but you can’t instantly create more.
4. Invest in Installation
The best kennel systems in the world still need good installation. Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a crew, make sure your facility is installed as it was designed. Interview your installers and ask for references from similar jobs. Do not be afraid to reject the low bidder. If they damage your new runs, it will cost more than you saved.
Many kennel manufacturers provide good installation information. Make sure you read this so you understand at least the basics of what needs to be done. If something is confusing, call before installation day and ask for clarifications. Delays happen when the contractor waits until the install day to ask for help.
Kennels are built to fit into a planned space. There is some tolerance built in because a smaller kennel can fit into a space but one that is too large won’t. The contractor should know how to make the runs fit into the design.
5. Look for Low Stress Options
So much publicity has been given to lowering pet stress. University research suggests that allowing pets to display their natural behavior helps limit stress. So, providing pets a place to rest in comfort, a place to hide and a place to safely eliminate helps reduce stress. Items like the privacy panel for runs let pets relax behind it. Elevated pet beds or benches get them off the floor and make them feel more like they can spring into action if needed.
The study also talked about the importance of animals having a separate area for defecation. Most pets are potty trained, so not being able to eliminate outside of their “den” is stressful. An area with a transfer door is especially helpful to senior pets who might not make it to the morning potty break.
Look for runs and housing designed to limit the number of pets that are looking directly into each other’s housing.
Your initial installation should work hard for you. The more flexibility you build in, the more staff can focus on caring for the pets. So, make sure your cost analysis considers how your staff will use the equipment. Remember, a stress-free pet is a healthier pet.
John Walczuk is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Shor-Line. Shor-Line is one of several equipment companies that offers FREE consultations. All of their representatives have more than 20 years of experience with animal holding facilities, so they likely have seen whatever challenge you are facing. Sometimes some new ideas are just the cost-saving solution you need. www.shor-line.com