Pa. dog grooming, training, boarding firms thrive
Bella Donna wouldn’t dare board a plane without a fresh haircut. Her name means “beautiful lady,” after all, and the teacup Yorkshire terrier lives up to it.
“We’re leaving for California on Thursday, and I want to make sure she’s groomed before we go,” said owner Mary Cindrich, 64, who lives in Pittsburgh’s downtown. “She has to look good on the plane.”
Bella has an appointment about once a month with Kim Schultz, owner of Vantastic Mobile Grooming in Bellevue. Schultz takes her van to her clients’ homes or offices for in-vehicle pet pampering.
“Although some dogs love the atmosphere of going to the salon, some aren’t as comfortable and so they like the service,” Schultz said. “The biggest thing for me is the convenience factor. I come to your house, and you don’t have to do anything.”
Dog grooming services are gaining popularity. Americans spent $4.41 billion on grooming, training, boarding and other pet services in 2013, up 6.1 percent over 2012 spending, according to a study by the American Pet Products Association, which tracks spending on pets. Overall spending increased from $53.3 billion in 2012 to $55.7 billion in 2013, and is expected to reach $58.5 billion this year.
“The demand is much greater than the providers in the area” for mobile services, said Schultz, who stopped accepting new clients after her first two years of business. “I may get as many as 10 calls a day, people looking for a mobile groomer.”
Dana Wilson, owner of Dirty Dawgs Mobile Salon, which serves clients west of Pittsburgh, said she stopped accepting new customers two years ago and hired a second groomer about six months ago to help keep up with the work.
“It’s just booming,” Wilson said. “I think more people now are busy and working and don’t have children, and so the increasing popularity of grooming and day care is because people do that stuff for their pets just like they would for kids.”
Ann Cipriani opened Woody’s Self-Serve Dog Wash and Pet Boutique in South Park in 2007. Her business – already doing well – doubled in the past year, she said.
“In our case, I think it’s a matter of economics and simplicity. It’s a lot less expensive to wash your own dog than it is to drop your dog off somewhere,” Cipriani said.
Woody’s has four self-serve bath tubs with everything owners need to wash their dogs, and the business sells pet food and other products. Woody’s offers gentle grooming, but Cipriani said the groomer hasn’t taken any new clients in months because she’s booked.
“That drives me crazy, but that’s the way it is,” Cipriani said.
Maureen Clark, the owner of Parkview Kennels in South Park, said she’s already taking reservations for dog boarding for the Fourth of July holiday.
“Last summer was probably one of the busiest summers we’ve had,” said Clark, whose business has been around for 42 years. “There was definitely an increase in 2013. Had we had the room, we could’ve taken more dogs.”
Camp Bow Wow Pittsburgh North, in Ross, was busy last year with training on site and in homes, trainer Kayli Brink said.
“People who work long work hours want to know the dog is having fun even though they can’t be with them,” Brink said. “And no one wants a bad-behaving dog.”
Cindrich said she considers Bella, who is more than 10 years old, a family member. She bikes with the 5 1/2-pound dog in a basket, and when Bella needed an expensive operation last year, Cindrich said she and her attorney-husband Ralph didn’t hesitate.
“Wherever we go in the country or overseas, she comes with us,” Cindrich said. “She went to Europe twice. She’s a well-traveled, well-pampered dog.
“Our children are gone and I’m sure you’ve heard this 100 times, but she really is part of the family.”
The Cindriches spent a summer in Italy with Bella and their daughter’s dog and planned a side-trip to Croatia, but learned they couldn’t take both dogs on the flight.
“We’ll go to Croatia another time,” Cindrich said they decided.