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Adding Dog Training to Your Grooming Business with Jen van Garderen

Special Guests

Jennifer van Garderen

Jennifer van Garderen is Kennelwood Pet Resorts' Chief Operating Officer. Jennifer began her career at Kennelwood in 2001. During her time at Kennelwood she has worked with pets in many departments, including DayCamp, Customer Service, Marketing and as General Manager of Pet Training Products and Services. “I love leading a team of such dedicated pet professionals. We are tasked with keeping pets safe and finding new ways to enrich their lives. We do not take these tasks lightly and value each and every pet in our care as if they were our own.” When Jennifer is not working with pets at Kennelwood, she enjoys training and competing with her Labrador Elwood in AKC Obedience.

Joe Zuccarello interviews Jen van Garderen of Kennelwood Pet Resorts about adding dog training to your business. Find out how Jen manages Kennelwood’s services, hires reliable staff, and keeps clients invested!

  • Why would I want to add dog training to my grooming business?
  • How can I make sure client pets receive personal attention?
  • What defines a balanced approach to dog training?
  • Where can I find trainers for my facility?

Tune in to find out.

Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast answering questions asked by our listeners, created by pet professionals for pet professionals. And now, your host, Hey Joe’s very own Joe Zuccarello.

Joe Zuccarello: What’s up, everyone? Joe Zuccarello here. Welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Check out our site at paragonpetschool.com for lot of really cool information on a variety of programs, products, and to connect to educational resources such as webinars, podcasts, current events, special news, certifications, and lot of other helpful information to help you grow yourself, your team, and of course, your business. Let’s get started with this week’s episode.

Joe Zuccarello: Hey there, everyone. This is Joe Zuccarello again, your host of the Hey Joe podcast, a weekly podcast where we give you the Hey Joe listener audience an opportunity to listen in or eavesdrop on a conversation between myself and a subject matter expert. I am super, super excited to bring this new subject matter expert to the Hey Joe podcast for the first time because this person is definitely one of those I consider a friend in the industry, a previous colleague, and leads the team at a company, a facility, that is really near and dear to my heart.

Joe Zuccarello: So today we are joined by Jennifer Van Garderen. Jen is the COO, the Chief Operation Officer, at Kennelwood Pet Resorts in the St. Louis area. Kennelwood has grown now to multiple locations. She’s going to tell us a little bit about that in just a moment. But I’m going to tell you that Kennelwood Pet Resorts will always have a special little place in my heart because I had an opportunity to lead the team myself there for almost 20 years. So really kind of cut my bones in the pet industry and learned about pet services, grooming, boarding, training, daycare. You name it, Kennelwood Pet Resorts are masters at providing that.

Joe Zuccarello: So, Jen, thank you very much for joining the Hey Joe podcast today. I’m so excited to talk to you.

Jen van Garderen: Well, it’s my pleasure to be here, Joe, and thank you so much for that warm introduction and mention of Kennelwood. I do feel really grateful to have you as a mentor as Kennelwood for many year, so thank you very much for having me on. I’m really happy to be here.

Joe Zuccarello: Jen, tell us a little bit about yourself if you don’t mind because you cut your bones at Kennelwood too. Kennelwood has a lot of people that started in the industry there, right? Give us a little bit of a history about Kennelwood and what Kennelwood is about today.

Jen van Garderen: Sure, absolutely. Like you mentioned I’m the Chief Operating Officer for Kennelwood Pet Resorts. I’ve been here for 19 years, which is so crazy to think. I’ve now worked here longer than I was old when I started here.

Joe Zuccarello: That’s [inaudible 00:03:10].

Jen van Garderen: I actually started as a teenager in our doggy day camp department. Through going to college I just wanted to get more experience in the sales and marketing aspect of it, so I joined our customer service department. Learned a ton there. Then through graduating college I joined our marketing department. That was wonderful. That was what my degree was in. But then quickly realized that I wanted to take on a role where I was interacting more and working more directly with the pets. So I was offered the opportunity as our general manager overseeing our pet training products and services division. I did that for many years. Now I’m very fortunate enough to have been promoted to Chief Operation Officer at Kennelwood Pet Resorts. Getting this job has been a complete honor and one of the biggest, I feel, accomplishments in my life. So I’m very happy with the position that I’m in now.

Jen van Garderen: Just on the personal level, not only do I have dogs as my profession but it is my hobby and my passion as well. I’m the Secretary and [inaudible 00:04:26] of the Gateway Working Dog Association, which is a dog training club that focuses on competition training for various different dog sports.

Joe Zuccarello: Wow. So what you’re saying is you’re not quite busy enough?

Jen van Garderen: Yes, yes. Exactly. We always need to be adding more to our plate, right?

Joe Zuccarello: We do.

Jen van Garderen: So at Kennelwood, like you mentioned, we’ve been around for a really long time. We’ve been around for 46 years. We were founded in 1974 by Donald Danforth, Jr. We have grown to eight locations in the St. Louis and surrounding areas. We have a couple of locations just over the bridge in Illinois as well. The services that we offer include grooming, boarding, day camp, and of course, lots and lots of dog training.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, I can tell everybody in the Hey Joe listener audience that every time I have the opportunity to go back as a homecoming visit, if you would, and visit some of my previous colleagues at Kennelwood the place is hopping. It’s always busy and the dogs are happy, and grooming is just … I introduce Kennelwood at the beginning of just about every one of my presentations, not just about everyone of my presentations, just talking about the size of the business, about how well it is operated. Because you can have larger businesses and operate them just as well and have just as much personal attention per pet if that’s what you focus on. And I know, Jen, you’re leading your team to providing that ultimate experience at Kennelwood.

Joe Zuccarello: So what we’re talking about today is specifically dog training. There’s a lot of folks out there, Jen, that think of dog training as the traditional class setting where a group of pet parents get together, sort of like maybe even a social hour than dog training in many cases. They’re in this big training room somewhere there’s one trainer. Sometimes it’s effective and sometimes it’s not. Most of the time who they’re blaming is they say, “My dog failed training class,” when we all know it’s the pet parent in most cases. I guess some dogs don’t make it easy but most of the time it’s the pet parent.

Joe Zuccarello: I remember at Kennelwood when we first started talking about this concept, this thought of personal training. That’s what Jen’s going to talk to you guys about today, and about adding personal training to your pet care service business. Some of you out there are strictly grooming, and some of the audience members out there are full service providers, full service care providers such as lodging or daycare and such. But this element of training, and especially personal training, is one that’s near and dear to my heart because it’s so effective and it’s so, well, it’s so personal.

Joe Zuccarello: So we’re going to talk about some of the challenges and then some of the benefits. So let’s just dive right in, Jen, to some of the challenges. These are questions I get asked a lot. You might as well. One is: What if I don’t have the space? Again, some of our Hey Joe listener audience out there, they are grooming shops. They’re small, right? They don’t have a lot of extra [crosstalk 00:07:48]. So when we think about training, we think about large spaces. Is that necessary? Is it not necessary? What’s your take on that?

Jen van Garderen: Well, actually Joe, believe it or not, large open spaces are not required for successful pet dog training. Pet manners and obedience can be done in really whatever space is available even if it’s on the small side. In fact, Kennelwood does not have any separate training room at any of our eight locations. So we found that our trainers mostly working with pets in our lobbies. Again, I just want to point out that our lobbies at our different eight locations are of varying sizes and some even on the small side.

Jen van Garderen: So really it doesn’t matter. So training in the lobby. Our trainers will also train on the front porch or on the front sidewalks. From time to time they’ll even train in the back of the house. We all have every once in a while a pet that’s learning to walk on a leash that doesn’t quite understand it. Those kind of situations might be better for the pet to learn in a quieter environment. Our lobbies can tend to be filled with clients and dogs coming in and out. That can be a distracting environment, so sometimes we have to teach a dog in a little bit of a quieter environment.

Jen van Garderen: But those distractions that I spoke of that happened in the lobby can also be a really good thing for the dog to learn. Because they’re learning in somewhat similar situations as what a pet parent might experience in a real world situation. For example, going to the veterinarian, taking a neighborhood walk, visiting a dog part. All of those things is when training is most important for the pet parent. So the pet already understanding how to walk nicely on a leash, or sit next to you before you open the door under the distractions of other dogs and people around, is a really good thing for the dog.

Joe Zuccarello: Interesting that you bring up, is okay, you’ve got this small space. You’ve got this trainer working one-on-one with the pet. But you’re mimicking real life situations. The one I really like and I guess I probably forgot over time, was sometime we have to take our pet to the veterinarian. I will tell you, we were just at the veterinarian with our little dog, Benny, about two weeks ago. There was a golden retriever and this poor man with this dog, full grown golden retriever, probably 18, 24 months old, was just taking this man for a walk around that lobby. The dog passed by us and the dog leapt up on my wife. Right? Doesn’t know my wife and I mean just full on golden retriever tackle. My wife, we brushed it off, no big deal. But let’s say that that was an older person, right?, or a person that doesn’t really appreciate that or like that. We got over it pretty quick but it was annoying even though we’re in the industry.

Jen van Garderen: Right. Absolutely.

Joe Zuccarello: So just for the sake of in some cases liability for the pet parent.

Jen van Garderen: Right, liability, safety. We think that we understand our dog’s behavior fully when we’re at home and in our yard. But you have the situation where you take them into the veterinarian’s office and now there’s other dogs around and your dog might all of a sudden become reactive. It’s a new place. They might feel that they need to protect themselves. If you don’t have the control through obedience training that can turn into a really unsafe situation.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, or even a parking lot. I think some people think that their pet is going to behave like it does in their own driveway. But you get into a parking lot and the gloves are off. Right? You and I have personally ran around a parking lot trying to catch a pet parent’s dog that got out of the car because they didn’t have a leash on it. Right?

Jen van Garderen: Right. Exactly.

Joe Zuccarello: Again, another. You could probably rifle through 12 or 15 different reasons why adding a personal trainer to our pet care service business is so important but also we’re going to get into how do we well training. Right? So, well, those are great examples. Does your dog do this? Does your dog do that? And what a captive audience because they’re bringing their pets into the grooming facility or the lodging facility, daycare, whatever, multiple times throughout the year. Sometimes multiple times throughout the week.

Joe Zuccarello: So let’s talk a little bit about that selling training. Behavioralists in our audience out there by and large are mostly probably not trainers. They’re professional groomers or daycare lodging operators. So how do we sell training if we’re not trainers?

Jen van Garderen: Well, exactly. And also not having a dedicated outside room for training actually helps to sell your training because your clients get to see the trainer in action. If your trainer is working in the lobby they get to see everything that’s going on and good dog training is really an impressive thing to watch. I have been in this industry for almost 20 years. I’ve seen lots of dog training. As part of a dog training club I complete in AKC obedience. And I still get so impressed watching people train their dogs and watching that learning happen. For a lay person, like a pet parent, it’s a really, really cool thing to watch and it provides a little entertainment, right?

Jen van Garderen: In addition to working with the dogs in the lobby your trainer will then have to work with the pet parents in the lobby. So those one-on-one lessons where the trainer is providing the education to the pet parent, because we all know that the trainer can’t just work with the dog in the day and then send it home at night and have it be a perfect dog. They’re not computers. We’re not just simply putting a new computer chip into the dog. There has to be follow-up by the pet parent, and that requires education. So the trainer working with the client one-on-one in the lobby is really an impressive thing to watch as well and your pet parents that are waiting for their pets to finish up with their bath or haircut get to witness all of that. What better way to promote and then sell the training service than by having the knowledge of your trainer and those dog training results front and center for all to see.

Joe Zuccarello: So, Jen, I remember and maybe you don’t have these anymore, but I remember having signs in the lobby. I remember seeing these signs. Not only is the training to your point, great point by the way that training and the trainer just by doing his or her work or even the pet’s work sells training sort of on its own. Right? But you had these really cool signs and they were simple little signs. Do you still have those signs in the lobby?

Jen van Garderen: I do. We do. Yes, sir.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. I remember. They say, “Would you like your pet to behave this well?” That sums up everything. Everything. I don’t know about you, but every dog needs training to some degree. And customers get a little envious when they watch a dog that’s being trained and seeing what it can do, and then they just walked in this rocket at the end of a leash.

Jen van Garderen: One of the most common things we hear the pet parents say that are coming in to see us for other services is, “My dog would never do that. My dog would never stay in that sit while all these other things are going on.” That is the dog trainer’s cue to say, “Oh, hi. My name’s Jennifer. Let me tell you all about why your dog absolutely can do this.” So, again, that speaks to having your trainer front and center in the lobby. They get to explain what’s going on to the pet parent and provide that education. The dog trainer in the lobby really starts to help building relationships with your grooming clients. Even though at that first interaction your dog trainer might not sell training, but through small interactions each month. Saying hello. Making a cute comment about the pet. Helping them with the door. All those small things over time can build up to a relationship and make the pet parent feel comfortable and entrust this person training their dog.

Joe Zuccarello: Those are all brilliant. You’re right. I mean it’s not maybe the sale today. It’s those multiple interactions that help them. Because sometimes they might have questions. Is this the right kind of trainer for me? Will he or she treat my pet well? They get a chance to test drive training just through visually seeing it multiple times as they continue to do business with the pet care provider.

Joe Zuccarello: So let’s talk about trainers specifically. Again, most of my audience, behavioralists in our audience out there, they are professional pet care providers, groomers, or lodging operators, daycare operators, if they’re interested in adding training, how do you find trainer? Groomers can grow other groomers, right? Or we can have education to help train daycare attendants or cleaning people in the pet resort. But training, they almost have to come pre-trained. So where do we find them at, Jen? Any words of wisdom?

Jen van Garderen: Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. Well, first I would really encourage for the grooming owner or the facility owner to decide what type of training they want to offer. Do they just want to offer pet obedience and pet manners? Or would they like to get into other specialized training possibly, like service dogs or things like that? Maybe agility? Although once you start getting into agility and other sort of dog’s work, that does sometimes require a little more space. So at Kennelwood we mostly stick with the pet obedience type of training. So deciding what kind of training you want to offer.

Jen van Garderen: Then really thinking about what methods of training you would like your trainer to carry out. By that I mean do you want a positive only trainer? So a trainer that trains only in using treats and food as rewards, or toys as rewards. Or do you want a trainer that can take a balanced approach to dog training? By balanced approach that means that in addition to mostly using those treats and praise and toys as a reward, but they’ll also use a training collar as a tool in their belt to help enforce behaviors that have been taught. Of course, before any training collar will be used pet parents would have to have permission and things like that. But just deciding what type of training do you want to offer? What method do you want your trainer to teach?

Jen van Garderen: Then actually finding the dog trainer. What I would suggest is contacting a reputable dog training school. So do your research. There’s lots of reviews on Google and Yelp about various different dog training schools across the country. Most of those schools have job placement programs for their students and would very much welcome the chance to make a connection between a facility and one of their students. I’m very happy if anybody is interested to help find a trainer for their facility. I’m happy to help with that. We have lots of trainers in our network at Kennelwood, whether that’s local or not local. So please feel free to give me a shout out at the end. I’m sure we can mention my contact information and my email address. I’m happy to help if anybody’s interested.

Joe Zuccarello: Wow. That’s a huge offer. Thank you so much for making yourself available to them. Again, we’re going to talk a little bit about just the revenue and profitability and just the help that training adds to a business. Right? From the business side of things. So being able to find those trainers, that would be a huge resource that you can provide.

Joe Zuccarello: One thing I do know, maybe to set everybody’s mind a little bit even more at ease, is that trainers when they graduate these programs that are spread out around the country, unlike groomers in many cases trainers will relocate for a job opportunity. Do you still see that as very often the case?

Jen van Garderen: Absolutely. That’s really interesting that you brought that up because you’re so right the different between dog trainers and groomers in relocating for jobs. At Kennelwood we have about 18 trainers on staff. Off the top of my head, four of them relocated for this job. So you are absolutely right that they are willing to do that.

Joe Zuccarello: Wow. And that’s only because you’re in the St. Louis area, St. Louis metropolitan area. You have a couple of dog training academies right in your own back yard, otherwise you would even have a larger percentage of dog trainers that would relocate.

Jen van Garderen: Yes. You’re probably absolutely right about that. Yes, we have been very fortunate to have good dog training schools surrounding us for many, many years that we’ve been able to pick from. But, yes, they will absolutely travel. So it doesn’t matter if they’re in Florida or California or Missouri and you’re elsewhere, still reach out and make connections and they will travel.

Joe Zuccarello: So let’s say you go through the interview process. You fall in love with a trainer. You know that they’re going to be the perfect fit for your culture. I do a lot of my episodes and such talking on culture fit because that’s also very important. But let’s talk about managing trainers. When you get into a skilled position like groomers or such, we would not be doing the audience justice if we didn’t talk about any challenges with managing trainers, anything that you can offer? Again, you could probably have a whole episode on managing your skilled talent, these talented people that are a part of your business. But what are some of the things that they need to be looking for when it comes to managing personal trainers?

Jen van Garderen: I would say the biggest thing that I’ve learned in probably the hard ways is with managing trainers you really want to be involved in the decision making process. I really think that that is becoming more and more true with any position these days and any type of employee. But especially with dog trainers, they really own and feel passion about their program. They don’t want to always be told, “Here’s how you’re going to start doing this now. And now we’re going to start offering this. And now we’re going to stop offering that.”

Jen van Garderen: Involve them in the conversation. Of course, we always need to establish that the manager or the owner is in charge and they have the final say. But include them in the process. Let’s say you’re thinking of adding an additional type of training. Bring them in. Have a brainstorming session. Talk about the ways in which that can improve, or the negatives. Just really involve them and you will gain so much more compliancy, and also make them feel a part of it, and make them feel invested in it. You’ll get a lot less opposition doing it that way.

Joe Zuccarello: So when you are hiring your trainers, we’re going to talk a little bit about paying the trainers, because I think that’s also important. There is a push now to pretty much eliminate 1099 type of relationships with talented staff, and pet care service providers like you’re saying, you want to involve them. They don’t want to necessarily be told what to do, like told [inaudible 00:24:16]. They want to be involved. But there are things of just being a good employee and being a good representative of the organization as a whole. Again we’re not accountants, we’re not lawyers, so I’ll put that big asterisk out there right now. But would you recommend that employing trainers follow sort of the same trend of being more of a W2 employee than a 1099 subcontractor?

Jen van Garderen: Yeah, absolutely. We do not contract out any of our trainers. They’re fully employees of Kennelwood. They go through our new hire orientation process and they agree to abide by all of our policies and procedures that we have in place. Really there is something huge to having them being part of our team, and really taking pride in the whole organization. Working with their co-workers. Helping out their co-workers. Helping out their managers. Oftentimes the trainers, although we don’t make them managers, they do kind of take on a leadership role in our organization helping the lower level staff with handling skills and things like that. You’re going to get much more of the camaraderie if they’re one of your official employees and officially part of your team.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. That makes total sense. So once you have them and you’ve got them then as employees not necessarily subcontractors. Again, everybody out there, you guys are welcome to make any decision you want to make, but do it eyes wide open in the same that you might do for your professional groomers as well.

Joe Zuccarello: As far as paying trainers. I don’t know. I could probably rattle off four or five different ways to pay professional groomers out there, and if managed properly all of them work. So it’s how you maybe balance that as a percentage or the weight of how you pay your staff in the financial health of your business. But do you have any brief suggestions or recommendations as far as paying the trainers.

Jen van Garderen: Sure. I recommend paying on commission. So directly related to their sales that they’re bringing in. When we first hire on a trainer at Kennelwood, we do the draw against commission structure, which gives them a little bit of security going in because a new trainer, whether it’s an established location or not, a new trainer coming in has to build up their business a little bit, build those relationships, and get those referrals. So we want our trainers to have some security while they’re doing all that, so we pay them a small draw against commission salary. Basically it works that every week they’re guaranteed the same paycheck amount. At the end of the month we evaluate it and see did they earn over the commission percentage that we agreed upon, or under? If they agreed over then they get that extra amount as what we call a “bonus.” If they earn under then we do nothing, and then the next month that they’ve earned that bonus then we deduct it from that and anything extra is given to the trainer as that bonus.

Jen van Garderen: We do that for about a year. We have seen every single time that that is plenty of time to give them all the tools and resources in relationships and starting to build up their clientele. Then after that, it’s commission. They do very, very well still. Our trainers are very happy. We feel that they’re very well compensated. There are times from time to time when an hourly work might apply. So we’ve asked them to go to a community event and do some demonstrations, and represent our organization and represent our training department. In those cases, we do revert to an hourly rate but other than that it’s mostly commission.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, that’s pretty straightforward. What I like about it, it’s very friendly to them as they ramp up their new book of business as well. So let’s talk a little bit about the benefits of having a personal training service and personal trainers as part of your pet care services business.

Joe Zuccarello: Again, just as a quick reminder, we’re talking to Jennifer Van Garderen, the COO of Kennelwood Pet Resorts. We’re talking specifically about offering personal training as an extension or a new service to your grooming business, your lodging business, daycare business, or what other services you might offer. So when I look in marketability, Jen, are there enough customers out there that would need training? I know the answer to that but I’m looking to get your take on that. Is it needed by all pet parents? You used a word earlier that I want to unpack for a moment. You used the word manners. Manners training. So are there enough pet parents to pay for training? Are there enough dogs out there that need training? What’s all about this manners training?

Jen van Garderen: Sure. Well, manners refers to just really being a good dog, not necessarily that when we refer to obedience as the sit-stay and the down-stay and the place command and the come when called. Manners really is the jumping, the mouthing, the leash walking, dashing out the door, stealing food off your counters, getting into your trashcan. All the things that can be nuisances and really are bad manners. There’s dogs in every household I would imagine that have a variation of these behaviors, or at least at one point did but the pet parent was able to correct it maybe when they were a puppy and nip it in the bud.

Jen van Garderen: But really because of those things training is for every single dog. Even if you feel like those things don’t bother you, or you don’t feel the need for your dog to have a sit-stay, or sit at a door before you open it, training is really enriching for the dog. It gives them mental stimulation. It helps them to really have a fulfilled day or a fulfilled life, because not only is their physical body being taken care of by the qualified skilled groomer, maybe their exercise is being taken care of by the pet parent who walks, or maybe through day camp play. But their mind get stimulated and their mind get enriched when you teach them new behaviors.

Joe Zuccarello: So that’s a perfect answer to my question. It sounds to me like when you focus on just the basics, just being a tolerable family member in the home I think is just so, so important. So when you’re talking about personal trainers then in a smaller space, in active pet care organization and such how much revenue, and I would never ask you to disclose anything confidential so don’t necessarily go there. What I’m looking for is how many dogs maybe can a trainer train in a day? So what does their book look like because it’s going to be different, right? It’s different than grooming. Again, they might not spend hours and hours and hours with one dog. They might do it in small bursts from what I remember. So what’s a workload look like for a personal trainer?

Jen van Garderen: Yeah. It just really varies on their cases that they have and what exactly each dog is looking at. But there are times that one trainer can have 20, maybe 25 dogs, in with them for a day. That is of course with plenty of assistance provided by some support staff that helps potty walk the dogs and gives them their meals if the pet parent has brought a meal for the day, and things like that. Really dog training is not an hour long session. It’s really based off of what the dog needs. Typically a sound dog training session is going to be 15 minutes or under because we don’t want to continuously train a dog, train a dog, train a dog, train a dog until he’s mentally and physically wiped out.

Jen van Garderen: That’s definitely not what you want to do. You want to end your training session when the dog has had a perfect. You told him to sit and he did it on the first try, or he’s really excited about it. Those are the times when you want to say, “Okay, it’s break time.” Because then the next time you get him out for the session that day, he’s going to be like, “All right. Let’s go. I’m really good at this. I’m excited about this. I had a great time at that last session.” That’s really how you build excitement and joy for dog training. So a dog trainer can work with a dog for just a few minutes, several times a day, and really just have extraordinary results with a really happy dog that looks forward to and loves dog training.

Joe Zuccarello: So those sorts of numbers that you’re talking about, this can be a substantial revenue add, if you’re paying properly, paying them out and compensating trainers properly, it can be a substantial profit add to the business.

Jen van Garderen: Oh, absolutely. Within the last five years ago, we’ve really adapted this mentality at Kennelwood where it’s if you offer training they will come. What we’ve seen is that pet parents come to us. Word has spread of the qualified, wonderful dog training that Kennelwood offers. So we have lots of people coming into our doors just specifically for our dog training. Then that’s a great opportunity to provide them and sell them with our other services. So when our dog training booms, our grooming booms, our day camp booms, our boarding booms because they have the opportunity to be exposed to all of our other services.

Jen van Garderen: Another great thing about dog trainers is really whatever they tell a pet parent to do, they will do. Our pet parents see our dog trainers as such experts on pets and animals that they will really do whatever they tell them to do. So if our dog trainer recommends a bath today, or a haircut today, or I think that he would be great in doggy day camp, the pet parent will really do that.

Jen van Garderen: And, of course, we take the approach on education and what’s best for the dog, not just offering it and recommending it for the sake of selling it but really having something at your facility for every single dog even if it’s a treat, or a treat puzzle that they purchase for the pet to have while he’s having his rest and recharge time in his room. So it really leads to not just great training revenue, but increased revenue in other services as well.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s a great handshake type service for the other activities that are offered. So not only as far as activities, but also it’s great to have those trainers on campus to help with, you alluded to this a little bit earlier and I want to camp out on it for just a moment or two, which was assisting other team members with learning how to handle pets. Maybe leash handling pets as they’re walking them from room to room or service to service, or from the tub to the grooming table. Then especially for groomers out there, for that dog that is maybe not so happy or not so comfortable, or could be nervous about grooming and when they’re on the table. Do you see that partnership happening with the trainer and maybe the groomer working together? Or the trainer and other pet handlers?

Jen van Garderen: Well, we see it working with all of our employees. So they will help a day camp employee, and really any employees, with leash walking because that’s one of the biggest things. You know most pet care facilities, and including at Kennelwood, we use slip leads so that can be a little bit challenging sometimes for a dog to walk nicely on that leash. So our trainers help really how to properly teach a dog how to walk nicely in our facilities. Our trainers are in our day camp yards working with new day camp employees or refreshing existing employees on how to safely interact with the pets and how to keep moving properly in the yards, and interacting and having that positive engagement.

Jen van Garderen: But really a great place where our trainers help is our groomers, and really helping with those good manners on the grooming table. That includes knowing when to put a muzzle on a dog. Lots of times that’s the best scenario for the dog and for the groomer, is for the bite option just to be taken away completely. It’s a little bit of a misconception that it’s a good idea to place a muzzle on a dog that has never worn a muzzle and just continue with the grooming process. Muzzle conditioning is really a positive thing that helps associate the muzzle with positives. So a knowledgeable trainer knows how to do that, where they will feed the dog with the muzzle and do just lots of other positive things associated around the muzzle.

Jen van Garderen: Then when the muzzle goes on, it’s not a negative. So if you think about from the dog’s perspective, the first time you have a muzzle put on you then the next thing that happens is the nails which they don’t like maybe. Now they associate the muzzle with something that they dislike and it becomes just a negative association. So that’s one example of where a trainer can really help train your grooming staff to help make it a safer and more positive experience for not just the dog but them as well.

Joe Zuccarello: You know, Jen, you bring up a great point and this is something that I’ve always given credit to. There’s a couple of trainers at Kennelwood, and I won’t name their names, but one that you happen to know really, really well. The trainers would teach me a lot as being an operator of just connecting those dots. Right? Connecting the dots that say, Well, if we do that what the dog is really thinking. You can call it whatever you want to call it. You can market whatever service you want to market. You can make is as playful and everything. But what’s going through the dog’s head is X, Y, Z. I found it intriguing but it’s because that’s their super power. That’s the trainer’s super power to say, “Let me tell you what’s really going on behind the curtain in that dog’s head.” Just like that muzzle. Just like that positive muzzle correlation.

Joe Zuccarello: If my groomer audience out there didn’t just fall off your stools and say, “Oh my gosh, that explains a ton.” Right? I can tell you that personal trainers have a treasure trove of those little dots that they’re going to help you connect up there. So thanks for sharing that. That was an extra little bonus for the Hey Joe listener audience out there.

Joe Zuccarello: So you know what I really like about personal training, Jen? I think it completes the overall experience for the pet parent and for the pet, and really for the team as well. So I’m a big fan of talking about a customer-centric approach to the experiences and the customer experiences that they get to enjoy when they’re with us temporarily, whether it’s the people or the pets themselves. I think personal training just round all of that out.

Joe Zuccarello: So, Jen, you had made a very gracious offer earlier to allow the Hey Joe listener audience out there to reach out to you and maybe get some direction or some recommendations on where they might find trainers. Would you mind sharing how the Hey Joe listener audience members can get in contact with you?

Jen van Garderen: Sure. Absolutely. The best way to reach me is via email. My email is my first initial, last name. So that’s J-V-A-N-G-A-R-D-E-R-E-N @Kennelwood.com. Kennelwood is spelled K-E-N-N-E-L-W-O-O-D. Seriously, really take me up on that offer. I’m really happy to help and reach out. I love helping the industry in general especially when it comes to something that’s really near and dear to my heart, which is dog training. I’m happy to help get skilled, qualified dog trainers started in facilities so that we can really promote and boost training across the industry. So reach out.

Joe Zuccarello: So guys, I can’t tell you how huge that is. That you’ve got somebody who’s a COO of one of the most successful boarding, daycare, grooming, just pet care services companies in the country making herself available to you. So please, take her up on that. I can promise you Jen is like this all the time. I’ve known Jen for many years and had the pleasure of working directly with her for a number of those years while I was at Kennelwood as well.

Joe Zuccarello: Oh, to the listener audience, listen. If you’re in your car or you’re grooming right now and you couldn’t write down that email address, you know we’ve got you covered. No problem. Just go to paragonpetschool.com and we’ll have all of Jen’s contact information on the Hey Joe podcast resources page on our website. So we’ll have her contact information just a click away to reaching out to her.

Joe Zuccarello: Jen, thank you so much. Please tell all of the team there at Kennelwood I miss them. I’m coming back. I want to see everybody again. We do appreciate your time today.

Jen van Garderen: Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’m very happy to be on, and, Joe, of course you’re always welcome at Kennelwood any time.

Joe Zuccarello: All right, Jen. Take care.

Jen van Garderen: Bye-bye.

About Joe

Joe Zuccarello is VP of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, leaders in grooming education on campus and online. He possesses more than three decades of experience in the pet grooming, product development and pet business consulting disciplines.

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