Chatting about the dog business with John McManus of Toby’s K-9 Kamp.
Photo by: Amy Tucker
Interview by: Dan Mathers
How long been in the dog business? This December will make 11 years.
What prompted you to get into it? I had spent the better part of 30 years in outside sales in one form or another. When I hit my 50s, I decided, “You know what? I like dogs a lot, and I wish my own dogs could be with me more.” I discovered there was a business called doggy daycare. I visited a lot of places, figured out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and I took the best from all those places and applied it to my business.
What was one of your earliest challenges? It’s hard to find a place that wouldrent to me. Unless you’re able to buy a huge building, you’re going to have find a landlord okay with dozens of dogs. Most landlords have balked at my two dogs. Imagine how they react when you say, “I’ve got 30 or 40.”
How’d you go about starting the business? Initially I did a lot of pounding the pavement, walking around town, handing out brochures to people with dogs. That got me my initial crop of customers. It took me probably six months before I reached double digits, 10 dogs. It was a rough hoe. At six months I brought on my first employee, and by the end of year one we were averaging 15-20 dogs a day.
What services do you offer? We started out just doggie daycare. When we left that first location and moved into our new spot, I wanted to utilize the second floor we have, so we offered full-service dog grooming, which is now busy every day of the week. And, about five times a year we have six-week training sessions, on weekends. It’s everything from puppy school, to basic training, to agility.
What do you pride yourselves on? #1 Pack Size. When I toured other venues, I did not like that there were way too many dogs and not enough humans. We keep our packs down to 12 or 13 dogs per human, and we have temperament evaluations on every dog before we let them in. #2 My Staff. It’s really hard to get a here. I don’t just take on employees who say they like dogs. You have to prove you’re able to lead a dog’s behavior, understand their personality, that you can predict behavior and prevent bad things from happening.
What’s a dog’s typical day? They get dropped off early in the morning by a working mom or dad. We take them out in the yard, then they join the pack and hang out. The dogs know it’s going to be a good day. We see them drag their owners through the door. Some owners say their dogs get excited before they leave the house. The get dropped off and they play and play and play. For some, it’s non-stop from drop off to pickup. For other dogs, it’s more of about just having company.
Any regrets about leaving sales? My only regret is that I didn’t do it 20 years earlier. This is literally my dream job. I kid all the time to people that I hire that they should be paying me to work here