Speaking about Happy Hounds, Tracey said;
“Obviously I did my homework and there did appear to be a requirement for a good boarding facility in Beverley, but there were no guarantees. The most worrying time was during the building phase – the goal was a modern, high quality establishment and so it was inevitably expensive. Basically I wanted to create somewhere I would be happy to board my own three dogs.”
A life-long dog owner, breeder and experienced dog groomer, Tracey knew exactly what she wanted to build and engaged an architect who understood and shared her vision.
Security, warmth, comfort and hygiene had to be achieved in a state of the art building which was also visually attractive and was in harmony with its setting in rural Beverley.
“We’ve had so many lovely compliments from customers and others regarding the look of the building, but even more than the appearance I’m very proud of how well it works for our guest dogs – we’ve made a few improvements since it first opened but really only minor ‘tweaks’.”
Happy Hounds opened its doors to guests in Spring 2015 and was an immediate success. Indeed, the biggest headache Tracey had to deal with in those early months was staff.
“Obviously I was thrilled that the business was so successful, but I had not really anticipated that it would happen so quickly and it became clear that it was too much for just my husband and me to run.”
“However it is also a tricky business to recruit for – you must be a genuine dog lover but also be able to sustain a hard, physical role and sometimes unsociable working hours. A knock on our door one afternoon answered our prayers.”
“The young man who knocked on the door had recently graduated in Animal Management from Bishop Burton College and he proved an instant hit with everyone but most of all with the dogs.”
“Dylan was a super recruit and we were very sad to see him go when, after almost 2 years with us he found the love of his life – unfortunately for us she lives in Northampton.”
Nevertheless the business went from strength to strength and was often completely full, requiring Tracey to decline lots of requests for boarding places. This was especially uncomfortable when the request came from one of the many regular customers and in early 2017 the decision was made to extend the kennels.
“The core of our activity will always be dogs which require full boarding. However we really did not anticipate the demand for day care – dogs which need looking after during working hours but which are collected and taken home in the evening. This has grown into an important part of the business and is very enjoyable because we build relationships with both the dogs and their owners. It was this development and the numbers involved which prompted us to build the new kennel block in 2017.”
Learning from the original build, this second phase has required almost no ‘tweaking’ and has been a great success from day 1. The regular day care guests have particularly appreciated the fruit trees carefully planted in the new block exercise paddock; since opening in July they have all been thoroughly chewed, snapped and finally uprooted!
However, Tracey is very happy, she said;
“The new block is a great addition to our offering and we now have ample space for 40 dogs, which is quite enough and there will be no further expansion. At our current size we get to know all of our owners, most of whom are regulars, but more importantly we know our guests. We form relationships with the dogs who stay with us and that helps them to have a good experience – they tend to be very happy to come here.”
Tracey has no hesitation when asked to identify the most important element in creating a successful boarding kennel, saying;
“Staff. The people providing the care for the dogs. As the business grew I had to find the right people to work in it, which proved difficult and time consuming but so worthwhile.”
“I would say that our staff are ‘as good as it gets’. All dog lovers/owners, they are caring but also firm when required, which makes for a safe, happy kennels.
My 3 full-timers are my right arm and their part-time colleagues – who are all customers – are equally valued. I’ve been advised that we over-staff for the number of dogs staying, but the upside is that the dogs are stimulated, better cared for content which means that we have a paticularly quiet kennel.”
Having a high quality team who she can trust has allowed trained seamstress Tracey to divert some of her energy into a new project – ‘Dapper Dogs of Beverley’.
“Sewing has always been one of my passions, making clothes, re-covering soft furnishings and so on. Over the years I’ve made lots of dog coats and beds for our own dogs and for the dogs of family and friends. Recently this has extended to customers of the boarding business, growing to the point where I have appointed another seamstress to help meet demand. Once again we have recruited an excellent person who shares my standards regarding quality and value for money. We plan to take our products to country fairs this summer and a web site is being designed as we speak. You may even see a ‘Dapper Dogs of Beverley’ stall in Saturday market quite soon, please come and see us – we don’t bite!”
So what does the future hold for Tracey?
“I want to make Happy hounds the best possible offering it can be from the perspective of the dogs who stay and I’ve got lots of ideas. We’ve acquired most of the equipment needed to build a doggy assault course this summer and I’m considering a ‘water experience’ for the warmer weather. We might also develop a hydrotherapy facility but not until 2019. Some of my other ideas have been called ‘wild’ so I’ll keep them to myself for now!”
“Regarding ‘Dapper Dogs’ my first aim is to become the ‘go to’ coats, beds and bandanna maker for East Yorkshire. My hope is that our emphasis on quality and durability will differentiate us from the big manufacturers and that people will have sufficient confidence in us to commission interesting one-off projects; time will tell.”
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