People love their dogs. The proof is in the numbers – in 2019, the American Pet Products Association reported that Americans spent nearly $100 billion on their pets. Over $10 billion was spent on services including grooming, washing, training, and more! Dog owners appreciate having a spot to safely clean their pet, even if they have to pay for it. That’s what makes a dog wash a pretty smart decision these days!
You could be the one bringing them that service! We know there are plenty of questions these days for prospective dog wash owners. On top of what might have caused them to pause in the past, a whole new slew of questions have popped up through the unprecedented headaches of 2020. Some folks might be questioning if this is the right time to get into the business… well, we’ve got answers for you!
There are a number of safety concerns to address when it comes to dog washing. Soap, water, and various chemicals can create a slippery environment. This is easy to address with the proper set-up and equipment. Non-slip mats, floor drains to sweep away overspray, and other built-ins can all make a dog wash just as safe as a car or motorcycle wash.
Another concern, particularly in multi-unit locations, is dogs trying to attack one-another. Bath time is rarely easy with dogs, so when you have multiple dogs in an area that can be concerning. Terry McDonald from Weiss Guys in Arizona admits that this was on their mind from the start. “We had some concerns when we first opened them [the dog washes] up that we could potentially have aggressive dogs, but we’ve never encountered any issues with anybody.” He goes on to say “We have signs on the fence that say please keep your dogs on a leash… a lot of people, their dogs are well trained.”
Most operators have resolved this by partitioning off every dog wash unit – either with solid, opaque barriers; using decorative yet effective fencing that gives a playful feeling; or simply having separate rooms for every wash unit. Still, all the dog wash operators have found that most clients have well-behaved, disciplined dogs and stick to posted rules.
Keeping a Dog Wash Clean
One of the major concerns for car wash owners or independent businesses looking to add a dog wash or three is the potential for mess and the need for cleanliness.
Gary Baright, operator of Foam & Wash chain of washes across the Hudson Valley, notes that if you’ve already got an attendant on site, it’s easy to add to the rotation of things to check on. “It just gives him a little bit more to do. If he’s there for eight hours, if he goes to the dog wash and cleans it out four, six times, he’s there already so it’s not really costing you much more.”
Gary does caution against unattended dog washes though. In his experience, he’s found that they can deteriorate, and turn customers away if they aren’t kept up after.
Marla Meyer of Weiss Guys chimed in, in agreement “As far as cleaning them, we have an attendant on site at all of them [the car and dog washes] from 8:30 in the morning to 5:00 at night, and they get over there after a dog has been washed and make sure it is cleaned up.” Overnight – as some of the sites are open 24 hours – they aren’t cleaned regularly, but they get cleaned first thing in the morning.
Jay Montpetit with Downtowner Dog Wash and Car Wash agrees and has attendants at his dog washes. “We have a light on the back of the bay, like a stop light parallel to the ground. When somebody uses the meter, the light in the back of the building lights up. It lets us know that somebody is in there using it and it needs to be cleaned after.”
In his lead-up to building out the dog wash, Jay checked out some existing sites. While he found some great examples of what to do, he also found some that weren’t. “Some we’d just stop in unannounced, they were unattended. There was dog hair on the tub, dog hair on the handle… I’d go in there and look around, I couldn’t get the stink out of my clothes!”
Potential operators can take from this the same thing that Jay took from it – proper cleaning will enhance the customer experience. When it was time for Downtowner to make the decision to move ahead with the car wash, Jay says “We vowed either we’re not going to do this, or they’ll be as well upkept as any you’ll see.”
Still, Gary has found that most dog washers are often very clean, saying “A lot of people are pretty respectable… the people that bring their dogs to them want to keep it clean. I’ve watched videos of people cleaning the whole bay down when they’re done on their own time.”
All of the operators we talked to recognized that poop clean-up was a worry for them at the start. Bath time can be a nervous time for pups. However, they have all also found it to be unfounded. Every owner said that it is a matter of a handful of times per year. Folks like Jay have put in extra effort, offering a dedicated poo stop with a bag station outside of the dog wash. Small touches like this help to make it welcoming to the dogs and owners. It also helps to reduce mess for you or your attendants to clean up.
2020 has thrown an extra curveball at dog wash owners – COVID-19. We know that the coronavirus definitely attacks humans, but we’re beginning to see more and more evidence that animals can contract it as well. They can even be vectors of it, transmitting it from one person, to the animal, to another person. So those cute little licks and drooling can be a concern.
For dog wash owners, this has just meant an extra layer of precaution and sanitization. Most dog wash owners pride themselves in making their washes welcoming to both two- and four-footed customers, and many already keep strict cleaning regimens.
For Jay at Downtowner, they adjusted overnight. “It wasn’t much of a change for us… we’re now just wiping areas with a hospital-grade disinfectant versus just wiping them before.” For many dog washes that already had attendants, the new worries were easy to get by with only minor adjustments.
No Change? No Problem!
We’ve touched elsewhere in this issue on the change shortage that 2020 has thrown at us – just another wrench in the works for the year. The good news is, there are plenty of options for change-free dog wash operation!
All dog wash units from Kleen-Rite can be equipped with bill acceptors, token mechanisms, and credit card acceptance. This can help your business stand out to the modern cashless dog owner that is looking for a variety of payment options, or the germ-conscious owner who doesn’t want to handle cash.
Dog Wash Supply Chain Worries
There are none. Here at Kleen-Rite, everything from veterinary-grade shampoos, to conditioners, fragrances, de-skunkers and oatmeal treatments, have been well-stocked throughout the year. Disinfectants and sanitizing products stole the show early in the year, with many producers converting to manufacture these high-demand products. However, our dog wash chemicals suppliers stayed on course, meaning that the supply chain is as solid as ever.
We checked with our dog wash owners to see if there were any delays or outages, but they all have had no issues. Said Terry, “Your entire organization has been phenomenal… there have been a few extra days here and there for an odd part, but I don’t have issues.” From chemicals to parts, there is a constant flow.
You won’t have to wonder if there will be enough product for resupply next month. We’ve kept on top of that have everything you need ready to ship!
Small Touches Make Big Differences
From branding, to décor and more, the small touches to a dog wash seem to make a big difference. Jay, from Downtowner, provides aprons for customers. “We’ve taken these aprons, and we’ll hang those in there for the customers, we’ll have them hanging on a hook. They put that on, they don’t get wet, they love it.” A reusable rain poncho can also be a great thing to have on offer!
Providing dog treats is another great way to connect with dogs and owners. All the owners we’ve talked to provide some dogs treats – available from Kleen-Rite, along with decals for treat vending – at their washes as a nice touch.
Jay says he gets recognized around town in his Downtowner shirt often. He’s found that people now see the business almost as a dog wash first. “I’ll wear my Downtowner shirt and I’ll go to Starbucks, and people will say ‘Do you work at that dog wash car wash?’… it gets a lot of talk, it’s great marketing.”
All of our dog wash proprietors seem to agree on one major thing – it’s a magnet for people. Says Gary at Foam & Wash, “It’s a great, different marketing thing, where people talk about it a lot where nobody talks about a self-serve car wash.”
Dog Washes Bring in the Revenue
For Weiss Guys, says Terry, “The revenue is phenomenal, and the feedback from the people is phenomenal. They love it, they love the concept, and we do a very nice business out of it.” Marla chimed in “We hesitated for a few years when it first came out… we gave it a try, and we’re pleasantly surprised.”
It’s and absolute no-brainerJay Montpetit
Jay is currently adding them to any new site they open, and feels they are a perfect revenue option at a site where you have employees on the ground already. “Absolutely great return in my opinion. The cost of chemicals is fairly stagnant. The amount of help to clean the bay and maintain it is negligible as you already have the staff here anyway. It’s an absolute no-brainer in my opinion.”
Maybe you are looking to add a dog wash bay to your car wash for diversification of income. Maybe you’re a pet store that feels this added service will bring in more daily customers. Or maybe you think a dedicated dog wash business with 4, 6, or even more dog wash stations is the perfect low-cost investment. No matter the reason, we are confident when we say that 2021 is the perfect time to add a dog wash to your business!
Reach out to our team at Kleen-Rite today! We’ll help walk you through setting up your next great revenue source!