Bad Words Can Bite your Business' Success

Bad Words Can Bite your Business' Success

By Laura Laaman

People communicate in many ways. Primarily, we often break this down into non-verbal (body language) and verbal (our words). Both non-verbal and verbal messages paint pictures—both positive and negative. Why is this so important in our industry?

The pet care industry is highly emotional. If you doubt that, think about all the pet parents that have cried in your lobby. Crying in a lobby isn’t uncommon, but it’s usually reserved for lobbies where terribly sad things happen or where they are feared to happen; hospitals, funeral homes, airports...

The role of the pet has changed significantly over our lifetimes. Dogs used to be much more of a ‘dog’; one that could sleep on the floor, eat scraps and we didn’t worry terribly when they left the yard. Now we think of our pets as furry babies.

Pet Parents Have Serious Fears
Studies show that today’s pet parents do not want their pets to stay at a ‘kennel’. Why? Because they are afraid their dogs will be sad without them, escape, become ill, or worse. That’s a pretty serious list of fears. Therefore the body languåage and the list of words we use needs to be carefully chosen to correctly communicate our company as a quality pet care facility. Careless selections can cause pet parents to run away from one of the best and safest options for their pet; your quality pet care facility. Let’s review some of the most common bad words used in a pet care facility and their better replacements.

Bad Words and Better Replacements: Kennel or Cage
The idea that most people have when they hear ‘kennel’ is a cold, dark warehouse filled with dingy chain link fences, cages with bars, cinder block walls, and neglected, unengaged dogs. We know that cinder block and chain link can provide very secure and safe accommodations for dogs. We also know that our facilities are so much better than ‘kennel’ depicts. Thankfully there are much better words to more accurately communicate our company and the services we provide. Think about human hotels. Instead of an individual ‘kennel’ or ‘cage,’ better words are Accommodations, Sleeping areas, Rooms, or suites if you have areas with plush amenities.

Kennel (Building)
If you’re describing the entire facility, better alternatives include pet care facility, inn, pet lodge, or pet resort.

What do people board? Horses and children in need of structure or discipline. Not what ‘nothing is too good for my baby’ pet parents want to imagine for their furry babies. Better descriptions include overnight care or lodging.

Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough implies that a dog can get sick because of a kennel. Veterinarians wouldn’t like it if there was a ‘Vet Cough’, even though dogs can get sick anywhere including at a Veterinarian office, dog parks, neighborhoods while being walked by their owners, etc. So it’s far better for your company, brand, and our industry to describe this illness as ‘canine cough.’

Well-minded staff members want to provide their pet parents with peace of mind. So when pet parents are apprehensive about leaving their furry best friends for the first time or thereafter, they often innocently say something like “Don’t worry, if we have any problems or troubles, we’ll get a hold of you.” What the staff member unintentionally did was put the thought in these nervous pet parents’ minds that there could be problems or troubles. Far better is to replace ‘problems or troubles’ with ‘questions’.

There are numerous words used in the pet care industry that, although, are casually understood, don’t communicate a professional and trustworthy image. Using more professional descriptions will help elevate your company and brand to match the level of care you provide.

It’s far more professional to refer to shots as vaccinations. Veterinarians and other professional providers use the same description.

Using ‘neutered’ for males and ‘spayed’ for females is more professional. When female dogs are spayed (also called an ovariohysterectomy, which is not a commonly understood word), the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed. Neutering commonly refers to the castration of males and the complete removal of their testicles.

The same logic applies here. You may have a ‘mutt’ yourself and are perfectly comfortable having your pet called a mutt. However some people are not happy with their pet being called a mutt. Better is a ‘mixed breed’ or ‘a great combination’.

How do you get your staff to adopt a better word list?
Most businesses have an informal and formal lexicon; a list of commonly used words and their meanings. Make a list of bad words and better replacements for your company. This will help new hires and veteran staff members alike understand what certain words can mean to your clients.

It takes 21 days to make or break a habit so if you and your staff have been saying these ‘bad words’ for a while, it won’t be easy to change. Having the owner and managers lead by example, catching themselves when they use a bad word, or allowing their staff to inform them when they do will go a long way to let your team know you’re serious about communicating the best message possible.

Taking the time to ensure that you and your team communicate with the most accurate descriptions of your services will help your company be seen as a quality pet care provider and separate you from inferior competition.

Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. OPC helps some of the most successful pet care facilities thrive in highly competitive markets and GUARANTEES THEIR CLIENT’S SUCCESS! If you would like to receive a complementary phone evaluation, contact the OPC team at or call 1-888-735-5667.

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