This spring PugetPets owner Kelly Viergutz will celebrate her 10-year anniversary with the company. Kelly started out with PugetPets as a dog walker and pet sitter under the company’s original owner, Ruth Zaslow from whom she purchased the company. To mark the occasion of her ten-year anniversary with PugetPets, we’ve asked Kelly to reflect back on PugetPets’ beginnings and tell us about some of the changes she’s seen. Dog walking has become a booming business in Seattle and a lot has changed over the past 10 years!
PugetPets: “Kelly, you’re coming up on a decade with PugetPets. What was the company like when you first started compared to now?”
Kelly: “When I started with PugetPets, it was the biggest dog walking and pet sitting company in the greater Seattle area. There wasn’t as much competition. There were very few other companies and most were individuals who couldn’t offer the range or flexibility of a staffed operation. All our business came through word of mouth, whereas now, there are a lot of companies, and it’s really important to have an online presence.”
PP: “So Seattle’s growth has affected the dog walking scene in a noticeable way?”
Kelly: “That’s right. I’ve heard that there are 167 dog walking companies in Seattle currently! Ruth used to get clients by going to dog parks and handing out business cards or through her contacts as a veterinary CPR trainer. Now, people can search online and find several large companies and a host of one- or two-person operations to choose from.”
PP: “A study by Bloomberg suggests that dog walkers will be more in demand than teachers in the next decade, so your observations seem to be bearing that out! You also bring up the role of the Internet. In what ways has this been a factor?”
Kelly: “Well, the fact that you’re interviewing me for this blog shows how the Internet has changed dog walking! And we definitely have to have a presence on Facebook and Instagram now, which wasn’t true in the past. Another way the web has impacted dog walking in Seattle is the proliferation of apps-based dog walking companies.”
PP: “Can you tell us a little more about that?”
Kelly: “Sure. Rover.com is probably the most recognized of these companies. They use an app so you can track your dog walker’s times, route and even map in real time when and where your dog poops!”
PP: “Is this the wave of the future? Do people really want their phone to notify them when Fido poops, and is that the next step for PugetPets?”
Kelly: “Well, the truth is, I’m kind of on the fence about apps-based dog walking. I understand the peace of mind clients can get from having this type of service, on the one hand. But I also feel that our clients’ pets benefit most when our staffers can be focused on the animals themselves, rather than on their devices. I question whether the kind of one-on-one care that PugetPets is known for providing and the special attention we can give to highly reactive or other “special needs” pets could really happen if our staff were paying that much attention to their phones.”
PP: “So how do you answer clients who want that level of involvement in the dog walking process?”
Kelly: “PugetPets is also known for offering flexible services, and one of the things we can provide is a notification by text, for example at the end or the beginning of a service, with a note and a photo if the client would like that. Most people are happy with a handwritten note, but for those who’d like real-time assurance that their pet is being cared for, we can offer that. So far no-one has asked for a poop map!”
PP: “I’m kind of relieved to hear that, actually. Can you think of any other changes you’ve noticed in Seattle dog walking in the past ten years?”
Kelly: “The traffic! Ten years ago, it was so much easier to get around the city! Now even driving between residential neighborhoods at mid-day involves congestion and traffic jams!”
PP: “You just can’t avoid the Seattle traffic! Well, thank you, Kelly, for sharing your views and experience. The world of Seattle dog walking has seen a lot of changes and we’re excited for the next decade of dog walking and pet sitting with PugetPets!