Profile of Success: Ruff Housing Dog Daycare & Lodging
By Kathy Hosler
When Kim Vaughn purchased Ruff Housing Dog Daycare & Lodging in August of 2008, it was a very small business. There was one manager and six or seven part-time employees. They only averaged about ten dogs a day at their daycare activities.
“We started with one location in Winston-Salem North Carolina,” says owner, Kim Vaughn. “In the beginning, we were only occupying twenty-five percent of the building that we leased. We quickly outgrew that space. In time, we purchased the entire building, did some renovations, and continued to grow.”
“Then we built a second location only seven miles from our initial facility,” Kim continues. “It was a bit of a risk, but we filled it up pretty quickly. And just a year and a half ago, we opened our new Greensboro, North Carolina location. It is our largest facility.”
Ruff Housing offers daycare, overnight boarding and lodging, and full-service grooming at all three of these locations. The facilities each have from 8,500 to 16,000 sq ft of indoor space, and between 5,000 and 10,000 sq ft of outdoor play space.
Each of the locations can handle over 100 dogs daily in their daycare. And, they can accommodate anywhere from 100 to about 130 overnight guests. The new Greensboro location can house more than 200 dogs.
“That’s a lot of dogs to take care of,” says Kim. “But we have a staff of about 150 now. We have dedicated staff members, a lot of knowledgeable managers, and many great procedures – that’s the key!”
“Our staff training program differentiates us from other facilities,” shares Kim. “We have invested a lot of time and have created very specific in-house education programs where our employees have very organized and structured training for each job. Some of it is basic; like pet first aid, interacting with dogs, and reading a dog’s body language. Other parts are very specific to our operation. A lot of our staff also completes the ‘Knowing Dogs’ training that Susan Briggs and Robin Bennett offer.”
Ruff Housing offers several overnight lodging options for their canine guests. They have regular bedrooms, penthouse suites (which have a television and a webcam that operates 24/7 so that the pet parents can see their dogs), and the unique slumber party option.
The slumber party choice has become a big hit with the Ruff Housing clients. The dogs get to sleep crate-free in a large room on their own bed or cot. They are supervised by a staff member who stays in the room with them overnight. They assign up to ten dogs per staff member, and the large and small dogs sleep in separate groups. It has become extremely popular, especially for dogs that have separation anxiety and for owners who want their pet to be with a person at night.
Most of the dogs that board overnight at Ruff Housing also attend daycare. They have indoor and outdoor activities scheduled throughout the day that give the dogs unleashed freedom and keeps them physically and mentally stimulated. The playgroups have a ratio of one staff member for every ten dogs. For dogs that prefer more privacy, instead of daycare, they can enjoy a ‘private retreat’. They receive four walks a day and get a twenty minute individual playtime with a staff member.
The Spa at Ruff Housing offers full-service grooming at all of the locations. They use organic and all natural products and offer lots of spa services; things like aromatherapy body wraps, full body salt scrubs, and facials.
“One of the challenges we had was to find well-trained groomers to staff all of our locations,” shares Kim. “So we elected to train our own.”
Ruff Housing now has a fourth location in Clemmons, North Carolina that is devoted strictly to grooming and to training groomers – it’s the Ruff Housing Grooming Academy. It has a very structured curriculum with a lot of one-on-one training and great emphasis on hands-on learning. Many who have completed the course have made it their career and become full-time groomer/stylists with Ruff Housing.
Kim shares that their website, www.ruffhousing.com has a wealth of information. “People can find basic information about our prices and all the services that we offer. Photos of the facilities and information about them are absolutely critical – especially for people who are new to the area,” says Kim. “Ninety-nine percent of our advertising is through word of mouth. We keep current with our social media – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook is definitely our primary social media outlet.”
They offer many special services at Ruff Housing, but one of the more popular ones is the Happy Birthday Spa Package. The dog receives a half-day of daycare, and then enjoys a pampering bath, followed by a special treat at the spa. After that, he gets his picture taken (complete with birthday bandana and party hat) and the photo is posted on the Ruff Housing Facebook page. The clients absolutely love it! They share the photos with all of their friends, which brings a ton of free advertising to Ruff Housing.
Kim and her staff give a lot of credit to Susan Briggs and Robin Bennett for all they have learned from them. “They have been great resources to me and to my staff,” says Kim. “And, we go to a lot of national conferences. We attend the Pet Boarding & Daycare Conference every year. They have been tremendously helpful in keeping us current with what is going on in the industry, and in teaching us how to improve our processes.”
Ruff Housing may have started small, but their tremendous growth, and the hundreds of dogs that they care for on a daily basis, is proof that life is more fun when you are ‘Ruff Housing!’