Thirty-five per cent of all Canadian households own dogs, and many are turning to economic pet wash stations that offer clean machines, are easy to use, require no bending and are easy for the pets to get into, when it comes to getting their pets clean, says Evelyn Rutherford, director, Furever Clean Dog Wash Inc.
“Dog owners are tired of dealing with the mess of washing dogs at home,” says Rutherford. “Besides dog hair, water, shampoo, and scratches in the bathtub, there is also a wet dog running around the house and a very wet owner. If you live in a condo or on a boat, it becomes extremely challenging to wash a dog at home because of lack of space.”
Dog owners are quite willing to pay to wash their dog elsewhere so the mess can be someone else’s problem, says Rutherford.
A dog wash station is an excellent add-on for an already established convenience or carwash business, says Rutherford. Wash stations should be capable of easily handling dogs of all sizes and ages and secure so the dogs cannot hurt themselves. Pet owners are interested in a fast and positive experience for both the owner and pet, using natural products that will not harm the pets, as well as providing heated water and dryers, notes Rutherford.
“Think of a dog wash as a boost in advertising,” remarks Rutherford. “It acts as a magnet and draws in a completely new market which, while they are at that business, will be exposed to, and purchase, other products, and services. For existing customers, it provides another service they can use. As grooming can be pricey, dog owners like the less expensive alternative of washing their dogs themselves. The return on investment for the retailer is not only in the cost of the dog washes but the affect the dog wash has on overall revenue.”
For those who are considering expanding their business to include pet wash stations, Rutherford has some advice.
“When considering a dog wash station, don’t compromise on price as you will end up paying more on staff time to monitor wash time, fill up shampoo bottles, keep the dog wash clean, empty blocked drains and replace dog wash parts,” says Rutherford. “Buy a dog wash that is robust, reliable, has many reputable installations, is supported in your country, and is self-sufficient.”
It is also important to be sure that zoning allows for the addition and operation of a pet wash, adds Rutherford.
“Also, make sure the dog wash station is CSA approved,” states Rutherford. “For our dog washes, 240v is required as well as water and a drain. A separate onboard hot water unit is available as an option if the business is not close enough to a hot water source. In colder climates, a business needs to have the dog wash in an area that has an ambient temperature of at least five degrees Celsius. A business can consider getting a container to put the dog washes into if they don’t have space inside.”
A Furever Clean Dog Wash machine can operate 24/7 with no oversight, says Rutherford.
“Our dog wash has a three-part filtration system, so the filter only needs to be emptied after about 20 dogs,” she says. “Customers can make payments at the machine.” There is minimal maintenance involved with these pet washes that includes replacing wash guns and maybe the dryer hose once a year, and wiping down the machine every few days. There is a free disinfect cycle at the end of the dog wash.”
An increase in the number of pet owners living in city centres has influenced the shift of consumers using commercial pet wash facilities, says Dan Findlay, national sales manager, P.D. McLaren Ltd.
“Typically, their homes don’t have the space required to get the job done properly,” says Findlay. “The majority of the customers we deal with want a simple and reliable piece of equipment that is super easy to clean. Recently, we’ve seen a push to incorporate credit acceptance/EMV into the coin boxes, but I think that is just a new normal in the entire carwash industry.”
Expanding business to include a pet wash station opens up an additional revenue stream from an existing customer base, says Findlay.
“Keep in mind, if you are adding pet wash bays or converting a self-serve bay, the customer is going to need to have a place to park and walk across the car wash lot,” comments Findlay. “Easy, safe access to the pet wash can make a big impression on the bottom line.”
A dog wash has its’ complexities, just like any other piece of equipment, notes Findlay, adding that running the dog wash is similar in many ways to operating a self-serve carwash.
“The basic key to success is a dedicated well-lit space with great ventilation, and I really can’t stress the ventilation portion enough,” he says. “The lingering smell of wet dog isn’t the best way to attract new customers. You also need to empty the trash, monitor chemical levels, and keep the wash area clean and inviting. It doesn’t require a dedicated staff member all the time but you should expect to be cleaning the site at least once a day.”
People don’t want to bring their pets to a facility that is dark, dirty or loud, says Findlay.
“The one thing I always ask new dog wash operators to remember is that pets are like family,” states Findlay.
Customers are looking for a safe, clean, and efficient way to wash their pets and, in general, the carwash industry is a shoe-in for the addition of pet washes, says Heather Steines, executive vice president, CCSI International Inc., which manufactures All Paws Pet Wash stations.
“Gas stations, convenience stores, quick lube, and pet washes all marry well with traditional carwashes,” she says. “This is mainly because these additional profit centres, more often than not, require a car. The majority of customers do not venture to the gas station or quick lube without their vehicle. In our experience, even in walkable neighbourhoods, pet wash customers tend to bring their four-legged friends to the pet wash in a vehicle. It is simply a good idea to couple businesses that have similar requirements together.”
Pet washes have evolved over the past half-decade, says Steines.
“More and more, pet washes are less of an addition to and more of an integration,” she states. “With time comes experience and with experience comes optimization. Pet wash manufacturers have learned a thing or two over the past few years. Now, many are offering units that comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) design standards. This design standard is making the process of installing them in local communities much easier. Now, more user-friendly options, such as credit card readers are commonplace. This type of optimization has opened new markets, such as alongside carwashes. Optimization has encouraged refinement, too. As such, pet wash models are now available in all shapes and sizes. The most common though, tend to err on the side of compact and modular.”
Pet washes are a unique and fun way to take care of a pet, says Steines.
“Although they are members of the family, a pet’s hair, dander, etc. is often a nuisance and difficult to take care of at home,” she says. “Pet hair tends to clog drains and often leads to bigger messes within the home. Self-serve pet washes stand in the gap for many families between washes in the bathtub and often more expensive groomers.”
If contemplating setting up a pet wash station, Steines’ advice is to go for it!
“The pet wash industry today is thriving and has found a special niche within the carwash industry as a whole,” says Steines. “Pet washes have been found to be unique and practical add-ons for carwash owners. Because of our general love for pets, the washes generate a different type of public buzz than, for example, a new bank of vacuums. It isn’t to say that vacuums aren’t as practical and useful as pet washes, but they simply do not garner the same attention.”
Pet wash owners rave about the publicity they receive in the form of social media tags of happy customers and their tail wagging friends, notes Steines.
“This type of attention is music to carwash owners’ ears,” comments Steines. “Pet washes grab people’s attention, but the benefits to a carwash owner do not stop there. This type of add-on attracts new pet owning clientele to your location. Suddenly, your carwash location becomes a one stop shop for a car wash, pet wash, gasoline and a gallon of milk. Placing a pet wash at a carwash location can instantly fill a void long left between expensive pet salons and washing in the bathtub.”
It is fun to see happy customers, two legged and four legged alike, notes Steines.
“Something that can so easily garner attention, benefit current patrons, and attract new ones can do nothing but help your bottom line,” she states. “Pet washes are a simple way to facilitate and perpetuate family entertainment in an industry that is not typically known as such. Adding a pet wash is a convenient add-on that is quite simple and rather ingenious for a carwash owner. Times may be changing, but this is one instance where it is certainly for the better.”
Pet Washes Overview
Heather Steines, executive vice president, CCSI International Inc. provides the following overview of the types of pet washes available on the market today:
One of the more original designs for pet washes are self-service kiosk buildings. This type of pet wash is about the size of an average parking space. Essentially, this pet wash design is a small building that is self-supported. Though modular in nature, this type of pet wash is perhaps the most permanent pet wash design available on the market today. Pet washes such as these are often placed adjacent to carwashes. Utilities are then typically run to the pet wash from a carwash owner’s existing infrastructure. Most models on the market today are outfitted with equipment that is both safe for the pet and convenient for the carwash patron. This equipment may include specifically designed tubs and sprayers, as well as pet specific soap integrated much like self-service carwash equipment. This type of unit is unique in the fact that many manufacturers are marketing them as year-round amenities. Advancements in heating and cooling systems within this type of model now allow carwash owners to offer comfortable self-service grooming no matter what Mother Nature throws their way.
A second self-service pet wash design that is gaining popularity is a walk-up unit. This type of unit is integrated into the infrastructure of a carwash. Often, carwash owners will build an awning, much like that of a bank of vacuums, to protect the unit. Other times, carwash owners will integrate the unit directly into a carwash bay. Walk-up pet washes offer many of the same features as a kiosk building with much less infrastructure needed. Industry-wide, these types of units tend to be an economical choice. On average, the costs associated with a walk-up unit are 60 per cent less than a typical kiosk unit.
The trendiest, most compact pet washes lean on one of the newest industry advancements. Leaning on that whole notion that less is more, compact varieties seem to be hitting the market every day. Some of these compact versions fold into place. This type of design ticks the adaptability mark and seems to have been created with self-serve carwash owners in mind. These types of models can be placed virtually anywhere, but the unique design is ideal for use in self-service carwash bays. The trim nature and fold down tub require minimal floor space. Self-service carwash bays can now easily double as pet wash bays too.
Pet wash manufacturers are keeping owners and operators in mind as they continually redefine today’s pet washes.