Kennels or Lodging Facilities

What Do You Own?

By Nancy Ward

What’s the difference between a kennel and a lodging facility or resort? Do you know which one you own? Do you care?

It’s just a name, right? Wrong!

There used to be grooming shops and kennels – period. Not so much now! There are shops, salons, kennels, bed and biscuits, lodging facilities, and resorts. All too often, owners simply pick a name out of thin air – very thin air – with little or no thought to the image it produces in prospective clients’ minds. Then there are those folks who add resort to the business name when it’s anything but a resort.

What’s the difference between a kennel and a lodging facility or resort? Do you know which one you own? Do you care? It’s just a name, right? Wrong! One is really no better than the other, but it depends on your target market as to which one you own or want to own.

Let’s look at kennels first. The word “kennel” generally brings to mind a picture of concrete and chain link. Some kennels have strictly indoor runs due, in large part, to zoning restrictions. Some offer outdoor runs while most have a combination of both indoor and outdoor runs.

I personally have visited some very nice, well-maintained kennels. Unfortunately I’ve seen some that shouldn’t be in operation. Large kennels can be noisy. While kennel owners understand that 40 dogs get excited when a new dog (or person) comes in, that prospective client usually doesn’t.

I visited one 60-dog kennel during a holiday. Some runs had two dogs, and a couple had three; we’re talking a packed house. The sound was deafening at times. No wonder the employees wore earplugs or headsets!

Odor can also be an issue with large kennels. Nothing like wet dog and urine smell to project a less than positive image of your business. I once owned a kennel that had a maximum capacity of 60 dogs and 20 cats. Even with a fresh air exchange system and a great drainage system with its own septic tank – you know, all the latest innovations for the late ‘70s – odors and noise were daily battles!

Kennel owners today have a wide array of new products and options to select from: noise abatement panels, fresh air exchange systems, great flooring options, odor control products that really work, and the list goes on. Kennel owners are seeing the benefits of having employees who are trained in animal behavior and care. I’m seeing those old kennels with negative images fading away quickly and being replaced by wonderful new ones with all the latest bells and whistles.

Kennels outnumber lodging facilities and have a strong market share. Typically folks who own outdoor pets, or those that live outside the majority of the time, choose kennels. Some pet owners view their pets as just that – pets. These folks just want to know that their pet will be fed on time and be safe. A kennel is just what they want.

Price is also a factor. While some owners really love their pets, they live on a tight budget with very limited discretionary funds. Kennels tend, by and large, to be lower in price than a lodging facility.

Then you’ve got the owners – Lord, love their hearts – you wonder why they even have a pet. They look for the lowest priced facility around, period. Quality doesn’t factor in at all.

Kennels fill a need for those who own intact males and need a secure place to board them. I visited a few kennels that were very well thought out and designed. There were separate areas for older dogs, puppies, intact males, females in season, and those that needed special medical attention. Kennels typically accept all dogs that are current on vaccines, providing a place for those owners who can’t remember to make reservations in advance.

Lodging facilities are the trend now and have a much narrower target market. More and more people ascribe human qualities to their pets. The pets are viewed and treated as members of the family. This is evidenced by the explosion in the toy, clothing, and accessory markets for pets. While the market is narrower, it’s growing very quickly.

A lodging facility is typically smaller and more home-like or upscale in appearance. They offer rooms or suites as opposed to runs. As a whole, they tend to be quieter, calmer, and more like “home.”

Unlike kennels, which typically accept all dogs, many lodges/resorts screen guests before they are accepted into the “family.” Our facility charges a flat fee to evaluate the dog before they stay with us overnight. We don’t accept dogs that are vocal (i.e. bark non-stop), not housebroken, or exhibiting aggression in any form.

Often the staff is smaller, and therefore they are better acquainted with the guests (pets). At my lodging facility, we refer to the dogs and cats as “guests.” Several of the lodging facilities that I’ve visited exhibit some of the same qualities. They offer more than just a place for the guest (pet) to sleep. Just like a five-star hotel, personal care and comfort are the norm. Optional services, from nature walks and pool time to gourmet meals and nightly tuck-ins, are available in a large percentage of lodges and resorts.

By comparison, lodges are more expensive. In today’s economy, you have to educate your clients on the advantages of a lodge/resort. Clearly paint a mental picture of the cost-to-worth ratio. By virtue of our screening process, loud or aggressive dogs are limited. The result is a quiet, calmer facility, which is very beneficial for both the guest and the caregivers. A quiet facility is, by itself, a big selling point. With that in mind and with correctly marketed optional services, the price becomes easily justifiable.

Hopefully you now know what separates the two facilities and realize that one is not better than the other; they just serve two different target markets.

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