Pet Boarding & Daycare

Is Your Competition “Pretty Much Anybody”?

Is Your Competition “Pretty Much Anybody”?

By Carmen Rustenbeck

How the ‘Airbnb for Pets’ Became a $70 Million Business.

DogVacay is doing away with the need for kennels by matching pet owners with tens of thousands of sitters across North America.

That was the eye-popping headline and subhead for a recent article on

In the article, the founder of DogVacay discussed his negative experience with a pet care facility, the subsequent start of his own boarding facility, and then the launch of – what the article entitles – his “Airbnb for pets”.

The article weighed in on all of the benefits. Cheaper! Easier! Tens of thousands of sitters! It laid out how DogVacay doesn’t really view similar services like as the competition but rather, eyes “the local kennel” as a competitor. Just that “doing away with the need for kennels” article subhead had evoked an immediate negative emotional response for this reader. And then came this quote from the founder:

“We started realizing that if we—who have no real experience—can do this, then pretty much anybody can.”

Really? Pretty much anybody? Plenty of professional pet care providers know that not “pretty much anybody” can safely and appropriately care for pets.

By this point, negative emotional response had progressed to something more akin to anger. But, as Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted, “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one.” Indeed, what was the good reason to be angry when, in fact, this article helped identify the virtues that professional pet care services providers should possess to set them apart from “pretty much anybody.”

Suitably settled down—thank you, Mr. Franklin—these virtuous thoughts came to mind…

Professional pet care services providers should understand the need to improve their pet care services through education. DogVacay has said that they provide on–line education for their pet sitters, but what level of education is the standard for “pretty much anybody” who could do it? What is the source of that education? What standards have been used to develop that education?

Professional pet care services providers should understand and be very familiar with safety, governmental regulations, and emergency planning. In the throes of historic flooding, the owner of a small pet care facility in Texas found herself and staff in a life–or–death situation for themselves and the pets in their care. Even as waters rose around themto ankles, to knees, to waistthey stayed through the night, remaining calm and ultimately ensuring that all pets in their care were kept dry and safe. In a devastating and deadly flood, not a single beinghuman or animalwas lost at that pet care facility.

What safety training have you provided for your staff? Are you prepared for an emergency? Could you trust your employees to stay through any emergency and provide professional care? And what if a governmental body such as OSHA came to your door?  Would you pass the inspection?

Professional pet care services providers should focus on standards of care, quality of personalized care, expertise and training in exotics, special needs, pet behavior, and holistic care. Your knowledge and expertise should be the backbone of conversations with potential customers and the meat to marketing efforts. Crow about the educational programs and certifications that you have participated in and/or achieved. Proudly discuss how your facility is prepared for emergencies and the safety training provided to your staff.

Professional pet care services providers should understand that providing the best care for pets starts with you, your staff, your business. What professional pet care services provider virtues do you possess? Are you taking time to care forand educateyourself? Do your employees understand their part in providing the best care for the animals? Do they feel a valuable part of making your business a success? And, finally, are you ensuring that your business stands apart as the best in pet care? A business instructor friend always starts his classes with “you must become a student of your business”. Part of being a student of your business is finding ways to separate your care from “pretty much anybody”.

As this article was being finished up, another new DogVacay article slid into the inbox. This one, from PC Magazine, was entitled Ditch the Kennel: DogVacay Connects Your Pup With a Sitter. The very first paragraph rounded out with this nugget: “You could try professional kennels, but what pooch wants to go there?”

Staying calm now, Mr. Franklin.

So, why would pet owners and their pooch want to use your professional pet care services? Make sure you have the virtues, and then make sure you let the world know about them. Some professional pet care services are part of the DogVacay network because of its marketing benefits. Successful businesses adapt and take advantage of marketing opportunities. But whether you’re part of it or not, make sure you’re setting yourself apart from “pretty much anybody” with your education, your preparation, and your certification.

Carmen Rustenbeck, Executive Director & Founder of the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA), has been involved in non-profit work for over 20 years and active in the pet care industry since 2004. Carmen is committed to building a member-centered organization that promotes education, best practices, and strategies for helping our industry reach its full potential for the safety of pet clients and staff, and for the financial future of our members. For more information, visit