Wagging Tails: The Real Measure of Success
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by Krista Lofquist and Tao LaBossier
I opened Wagging Tails, LLC in 1995,” says owner, Krista Lofquist. “I started the company as a pet sitting and dog walking service—way back when there was no heading in the Yellow Pages for Pet Sitter, and when people (especially my parents), were absolutely not convinced that anyone could actually make a living walking dogs.”
Krista had a college degree and a career, but she wasn’t happy. The best part of her workday was when she went home at lunchtime to walk her black Lab puppy, Bella. Soon neighbors asked Krista to walk their dogs too. In time, she was making more income walking dogs than she was at her corporate job. That’s when she decided to quit her job and start her own business—Wagging Tails.
In the past 24 years, Krista has expanded her dog walking and pet sitting services to cover about 40 towns in Connecticut with 50 pet sitters. She also added mobile pet grooming services and has 3 grooming vans in operation.
“Although I loved the low overhead I had with the in–home services, in 2017 I decided to add a brick and mortar facility,” Krista said. “I found a kennel in Wolcott, Connecticut located on six beautiful acres that had been vacant for some time.”
After a couple of months of intensive renovations, Wagging Tails Pet Resort & Spaw opened on June 1, 2017. They are open 7 days a week and, in addition to dog and cat boarding, they offer daycare, salon grooming, a self–serve pet wash, training, massage therapy, treadmill ‘Pupercise Sessions’, nature walks, all natural bakery treats and more.
Wagging Tails has 70 runs and most of them are indoor/outdoor. They have a unique cat room that is totally separate from the dogs. It’s quiet and private. There are condos for the cats, but they can also socialize in the room if they desire. They have a beautiful cat tree, wall ledges, a bridge for the felines to run across, observation windows and toys.
In only a year and a half, the resort had nearly 2,000 clients. In the spring of 2018, they added 14,000 sq. ft. of artificial turf to their play yards. Their daycare play area has professional dog play equipment, bone and paw shaped splash pools, bubbles, ball pits and more.
They also installed a 45′ pool with a 40′ dock. They have day and season passes available for their canine members. In addition, they offer swimming lessons, pool rentals, hydrotherapy and dock diving. Wagging Tails has Connecticut’s only Ultimate Air Dogs Dock Diving Club.
“We offer grooming seven days a week,” says Krista. “Our groomers work in both our salon and the mobile vans. We also offer self–serve pet washing. With these three options we can reach every client’s convenience level and also every budget.”
The resort has staff on the premises twenty–four–hours a day. “Our staff is critical to the success of Wagging Tails. I can’t do it all,” says Krista. “My core group is an extension of myself. They allow me to be able to expand and grow, because they are handling the day–to –day functions of the business.”
“We have extensive training for all of our staff,” Krista continues. “We also offer continuing education: Groom Expo for the groomers and Boarding and Pet Sitting Conventions for other staff members. And, I also feel it is important to have fun team–building events. We recently attended a ‘Board and Brush’ painting party. “
There are security cameras throughout the facility. They are an invaluable tool that allows Krista to review and to make sure that procedures are being followed properly. They have a strict rule that cell phones and smart watches cannot be used by staff members while they are on duty. They can be a big distraction to the kennel attendants. Of course they can check their phones when they are on their breaks.
“My goal every day is advertising and marketing,” Krista says. “I’m always thinking of new ways to get more customers into the business, and to get the word out about all the amazing services we provide. After that, customer service is our top priority. Once you get the customer, you’ve got to keep them happy.”
Krista learned the importance of customer service when she was in college and had the opportunity to work for Disney.
“They put you through Disney University, which is priceless,” says Krista. “Their concept is that, many people could spend years saving, just to visit Disney one time. They teach you that your job is to make sure that every visitor has a magical time!”
That is what Wagging Tails Resort & Spaw strives to provide every client; whether it’s a puppy attending its first morning of daycare, a canine guest going on a nature walk, or a dog having the time of its life dock diving. Wagging Tails’ popularity is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, they just opened a second location in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Krista has acquired a 13,000 sq. ft. building in the center of West Hartford’s business district that once housed a dog daycare, and also the 5,000 sq. ft. vacant building adjacent to it. This two–building complex will have it all…
“Our new building offers traditional and cage-free boarding, daycare, training, and grooming,” says Krista. “We are putting in a beautiful grooming salon and self–serve dog wash. We will be able to accommodate around 100 dogs every day for daycare. And, we are adding trans–paw–tation (pickup and delivery) service to make life easier for our busy pet owners.”
Krista also has huge plans for the vacant building. “We are transforming the 5,000 sq. ft. space into Connecticut’s first indoor dog park,” shares Krista excitedly. “We are going to bring the outdoors, indoors and make it as natural as possible. It will be especially great during Connecticut’s long winters.”
They are installing murals painted by a local artist, custom built play structures for the dogs and benches for their owners, and more—all in a climate–controlled, fun place for families to come with their dogs. And, a beautiful indoor pool will also be one of the focal points of the park, which will be open 7 days a week. Admittance will be by membership only.
There will be a dog vending machine where owners can purchase tennis balls, dog treats, portable water bowls and other impulse items for their dogs. And, it will have a coffee station for the owners.
Krista stresses that their website, www.waggingtails.com, and their social media presence—Wagging Tails Pet Resort & Spaw and Wagging Tails Pet Sitting & Mobile Grooming—are crucial to the success of the business.
“Back in the 1990’s we were one of the first pet sitting businesses to have a website,” Krista says. “A professional looking web presence is vital for the little guy. Over the years, we have upgraded and improved our website to make it more informative and user–friendly.”
Their website is inviting and easy to navigate. Visitors can quickly find information about all of the services and can even make online reservations.
“Social media is also very important for advertising, to get news blasts out, and for staying alive in the community,” Krista adds. “But, it can be a double edged sword. If you have a disgruntled employee or an upset client post something negative, you need to know how to monitor it and respond to turn that negative into a positive.”
Over the years, Krista Lofquist has faced and overcome many challenges. From its humble beginning as a one person dog walking service, it has expanded to pet sitting services in forty towns. Add to that, two brick and mortar locations and a fleet of mobile grooming vans. By anyone’s standards, Wagging Tails Pet Resort and Spaw is a real winner.
Just walk through their doors and look at all the happy faces and wagging tails—that’s the real measure of success!