Booming business: Demand for dog services is high, say business owners

When Gina Singh got her Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix two years ago, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she wasn’t working and her family was free to spend lots of time with their new dog, Polar.

But once she got a part-time job as the director of finance for Tourism Richmond in November 2021, she started to look for dog-walking services while she and her husband were at work and the kids were at school.

“I felt bad because we were spending so much time with him and then all of a sudden we were all gone back to the day-to-day [routine]”said Singh.

After a couple of months of trying out different doggy daycares and dog-walkers, Singh said she was able to find a company through a friend’s recommendation that could take Polar out two to three times a week.

“If I didn’t have [them]I don’t know what I would do, “Singh said.

Gina Singh’s Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Polar, plays by the water. Singh says she uses a dog-walking service two to three times a week. (Dogs on the Go! / Facebook)

When it comes to looking for dog services, Singh isn’t alone. As more Canadians begin to return to work and take vacations, the demand for dog services – walking, all-day daycares, pet-sitting and overnight boarding – is high, say some in the industry.

Rover.com, which offers walking, pet-sitting and boarding services around the globe, says it has seen demand increase. The company said total sales in the first quarter of the year, from January to the end of March, were up 137 per cent compared to the same time period last year.

Busier than ever

Singh uses Richmond-based dog walking company, Dogs on the Go!

Owner Kari Hanninen, who spoke with the CBC last year about the demand for dog services, says her business continues to be busy.

Hanninen started the company in 2019 and said she used to walk one or two dogs once a day. Now she takes two groups of six dogs out twice a day, usually to the off-leash area at McDonald Beach Park.

“I often say to my clients, ‘If you know your days, get them in now because they fill up very quickly,'” she said.

Three dogs play near the Fraser River.
Kari Hanninen, owner of Dogs on the Go !, says she has noticed an uptick in overnight boarding requests now that travel restrictions are being lifted. (Dogs on the Go! / Facebook)

Hanninen also offers up to two spots for overnight boarding, where a dog will stay with her while the owner is away.

She said last year she noticed an uptick in demand for boarding services as BC allowed provincewide recreational travel. Now that international travel restrictions, such as testing and vaccine requirements, are being lifted she has noticed the demand increase again.

Renae Warnock is the co-owner and general manager of Coquitlam-based Dogtopia, a company that offers daycare and boarding services for up to 100 dogs.

Warnock says she also noticed an increase in inquiries about overnight stays leading up to summer, and says around 50 per cent of spots for July and August are booked.

Advice for owners

Warnock advises new dog owners who have never used an overnight boarding service try to organize time with the dog-sitter to get the pet familiarized with the environment.

She says many dogs purchased or adopted during the pandemic have not spent time away from their owners, so it can be hard to be away from them for the first time.

“Some dogs, you know, if they’re so stressed out, they won’t eat their food, which is really tough,” she said.

For those struggling to find a dog-walker for their pooch, Hanninen suggests asking family, friends or neighbors for recommendations. She says they can offer honest insight about the dog-walker or sitter.

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