Going to the Dogs…..and Cats!
By Dean DeGood
I have been reading the Old Town Crier for almost 15 years, so I am excited about the opportunity to make my first contribution!
For this article, I am going to discuss how much the pet care industry has changed over the years, and the resulting opportunities from all of these changes. As I await the arrival of my first child this autumn, I am considering all of the pet-related opportunities that this little one will have when he/she grows up and starts a career.
I grew up in Virginia in the 1980s. We lived in a typical suburban house, but somehow we managed to have just about every pet imaginable. This included a dog, cats, guinea pigs, a rat, a snake, & a horse. Surrounded by all of these animals, I never considered the possibility that I would end up spending my life working in a pet-related industry. At the time, the only pet-related opportunity that I was aware of would be working in a veterinary practice. Some of the other options that I’ll mention did exist back then, but most of them are new products, services, and markets that have been created in the last 10-20 years.
In the ’90s, I headed off to college, started a career, traveled the world, and eventually ended up back in graduate school. Throughout this decade, working in the pet industry never entered my mind. While I was in school, I did pet-sit for friends a few times. During my school’s memorable run to an NCAA basketball championship, I spent the weekend watching Sydney, a beautiful Yellow Lab. But, with the amount of time and money I was spending on school, I would never have imagined that I would end up working with cats and dogs for a career.
But here I am in 2015, with 11 years of experience working with pets. This means that I have now spent 50% of my professional career working with dogs and cats. A very lucky turn of events led to this opportunity, as in 2004 I was able to purchase Doggywalker.com from its original founder. Even over this last decade, the amount of pet-related jobs and careers has exploded. Here are some examples:
Dog walker – thousands of people are now employed as dog walkers.
Pet sitter – many people supplement a primary income by doing pet-sitting in the morning, evenings, & weekends.
Retail – from the big box pet stores, to the little mom & pop shop, there are countless numbers of people selling, marketing, and distributing pet-related products.
Corporate – all of the people who work as brand managers, product engineers, purchasers, accountants, lawyers, warehouse managers, truck drivers, etc. for companies manufacturing, selling, transporting, marketing, etc. pet foods and pet-related products.
Dog Day Care – lots of people drop their dog off at a daycare location, and there are lots of workers there to care for them.
Grooming – from mobile groomers, to self-wash doggy shops, to traditional grooming studios.
Pet Taxi – yes, there are services that will transport your pet, both with and without you.
Pet Trainer – With 65% of American households having a pet, you can be sure that there will always be a few that need a little extra behavior modification training from a professional.
Then there is a whole other group of people who include pet related products or services in their portfolio, but it is not their sole focus. This includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, insurance sales people and underwriters, government agency employees, utility providers, retail . . .the list goes on and on.
If you really start to think about it, it’s amazing how many pet-related jobs have developed over the past few decades. There are software engineers writing code for dog walking schedule management. There are city employees assigned to dog park care and maintenance, permit inspectors granting pet businesses occupancy licenses, and state revenue collectors fielding questions from small business owners about how to submit sales tax. There are printers making business cards, t-shirts, car magnets, eco-friendly shopping bags, and printing company logos on just about anything imaginable.
I checked my accounting software, and over the last 11 years Doggywalker.com has paid over 300 unique vendors for a variety of products and services. So, in addition to the hundreds of people that we have employed over that time, there are hundreds of suppliers who have provided or created something that we use.
I am very lucky to have found an industry that allows me to bring my dogs to work, and to meet other people’s pets on a daily basis. I come from a family of traditional occupations (doctor, architect, teacher, etc), so I consider myself very lucky to have found my little niche in the professional world. As I reflect on the explosion of pet-related employment opportunities that have been created over the past few decades, I can’t help but wonder what will be out there for future generations.