When you know that caring pet parents are in search of community, hosting a fun event at your pet retail shop seems like a no-brainer. After all, there are many dogs, but few public places where furry faces and wagging tails are welcome.
Dog-friendly events, whether it’s a breed-specific meetup, a hands-on training workshop, a pet photo booth, or a festival featuring some fun for dogs, hold a deep appeal to pet parents. Given 70% of dog parents say they’d rather spend time with their pets than other people, they’ll love an opportunity to get out and do something enjoyable with their furry friend.
While you’re planning your fun event at your shop, you’ll want to make sure it’s a success. Here’s everything you need to know to plan and execute that memorable day. At the same time, you might be wondering how to handle the furry masses. We have you covered.
What can we expect?
One thing pet parents will be wondering is if the event will be fun and safe for their dogs, as well as for them. When marketing your event, be crystal clear on what’s happening and what people can expect, so they can feel comfortable showing up with their pooch. Include whether it will be held indoors or outside. Should dogs stay on leashes or will they have freedom to move in a corralled area? Is there a sign-up or are walk-ins welcome? Will attendance be capped?
Don’t forget to be specific on the type of dog the event is intended for. Is it geared for specific breeds, puppies, dogs that are learning to behave, or calm, well-behaved pets? Be sure to include these details everywhere your event is marketed: fliers, social media, email blasts and your website.
Lay the ground rules
Let pet parents know that you care about the health and safety of everyone’s pet. If you’re hosting events where dogs will be mixing and mingling, lay some ground rules. Ask pet parents to register their pet, bring proof of vaccination (such as parvovirus, distemper, rabies and bordetella), and leave unaltered dogs at home (if the animal is one year or older).
When you have a gathering with many dogs, consider the element of risk, not only to your employees but to your customers and their beloved pets. For certain events, the best thing to do is ask everyone to check in and sign a liability waiver. It can spell out that the event is intended for well-behaved pets, pets that don’t have a history of aggression with other dogs and humans, and whether children under 18 are permitted to participate.
Most of all, the waiver should ask the pet parent to accept full responsibility for their pet’s behavior. This puts the onus on the pet parent to make that final consideration — and bow out, should they decide this event isn’t right for their dog.
For guidance on drafting a waiver for pet parents to sign, talk to your attorney.
Corral a special area for small dogs
If your event will have dogs mingling in a room, some smaller dogs (and their humans) can become unnerved. Creating a special zone just for dogs that are under 20 pounds can level the playing field and put everyone’s mind at ease.
In any event where dogs will be dogs, schedule a staffer or two to intervene when problems arise. Ideally, choose the “dog whisperers” among your staff. They can give pet parents a hand when dogs are barking excessively. They can also run interference when canines are getting rambunctious and need to be redirected or separated. Most of all, if someone’s dog is spoiling the fun for everyone or showing aggression, they can make the call to pull the pet parent aside and gently but firmly ask them to leave. Doing this can be unpleasant, but it’s important to make sure the event is enjoyable for all.
Keep plenty of cleaning supplies
Accidents are bound to happen. Stock up on paper towels, doggie doo bags, and keep a couple of spray bottles at the ready. Hopefully, pet parents will take it upon themselves to clean up after their pet’s messes so the event can continue without a hitch.
Hosting events at your independently owned pet shop is not only a great way to connect with pet parents, but also will help make your business stand out from the rest. Managing the herd and the barks is half the battle, but the fun and enrichment everyone can have will be well worth the trouble.
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