- How to Hire a Kennel Technician for Your Dog Boarding Facility
The American Pet Product Association estimates that pet owners will spend 9.7 billion on pet boarding, grooming, dog walking, and pet insurance in 2021. That's up from 8.1 billion in 2020.
If you run a dog boarding facility, you know the pet industry is booming. You may be scrambling to meet demand like the pet resort owners I spoke with in recent weeks. They're evaluating kennel technicians to help them care for their furry guests.
It seems the "pandemic puppy" trend combined with the pent-up travel demand has a lot of people looking for dog boarding, training, and dog enrichment.
That's excellent news. Yet, being fully booked or nearly so comes with its own challenges. One of those is hiring kennel technicians or assistants.
Hire the wrong person, and you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars in training costs - not to mention the potential for lost clients.
Finding the right kennel assistants can be challenging.
This article will offer a few questions to ask your next potential hire to make sure they're a good fit. But first, we'll define the term kennel technician as you may use a different name.
Known by different names, kennel technician, kennel attendant, or kennel assistant, they're interchangeable. There's no real difference between the titles. You may even call them something completely different that's specific to your brand.
Titles aside, the role attracts animal lovers, of course. That's the first requirement. Yet, it requires more than a love of animals to be successful. It's a physical job that requires people to have good animal management skills (or be willing to learn.) They also need to be responsible and have a good attitude.
You can always train a willing person to clean kennels and learn canine body language. Additionally, kennel assistants need to have physical stamina and be open to learning everything from canine communication to customer service.
Yet, these roles require different skills.
As you probably know, many people want to work with animals because they prefer animals to people, yet, a dog boarding facility is a people business. Like every pet-related business, it's people who pay the bills.
If you're new to hiring kennel assistants, it's a little tricky sometimes. You may have a stack of applications and look at them, wondering which person will have that unique blend of skills that makes them a great employee for your facility.
1. Comfort Level
Let's assume your potential new hires love animals and are comfortable with them. After all, they are applying for a job with a dog boarding facility.
Yet, how much animal experience have they had? Having a pet or two is no guarantee they'll be comfortable with dogs and cats of all sizes and temperaments.
If they have some experience volunteering at the animal shelter or working with animals in some other way, those can be good fits. Yet, that also means they may have learned methods you disagree with, so you'll have to consider if you want to re-train them.
A positive attitude beats a Negative Nelly every day of the week. A negative mindset can bring down the most upbeat staff. You can tell a lot by someone's body language. Good posture, a smiling face, and confident high contact are good signals.
3. Work Ethic
The basics like show up on time and do your work apply here. Yet, we've all run into those people who seem unable to accomplish these basics. Suppose your potential employee has a good past work history/good references. That's a good sign. Other indicators are a history of extracurricular activities where coaches or teachers can provide a reference.
4. Physical Stamina
Bending, lifting, squatting, caring for dogs is a physical activity. Depending on your needs, your dog kennel assistants need to be able to put leashes on dogs, walk large ones (and maintain control) of them they decide to lunge or run.
Then there's the clean-up duties and dog washing if you offer grooming services.
You know it's demanding work, and they need to be for it.
5. Flexible Schedules
Caring for dogs goes round the clock. While every dog boarding facility is different, you may have the last potty break around 11:00 or midnight. Then the early one starts around 6 a.m. To maintain that type of coverage, you need reliable staff who can work unconventional hours, including early mornings, nights, and weekends.
If you've hired in the past or managed others, you'll probably lean on your experience and a "gut check." However, here are a few questions you can ask your potential kennel assistants to see if they'll be a good fit for your business.
1. Tell Me About Your Experience Working with Animals?
You want your future employee to be comfortable around a range of animals. While sometimes they have the right spirit and you can train them from the outset without much experience, others will apply with dog sitting or pet grooming or some other related experience.
Besides asking about their experience, you can look for a positive and confident attitude around some of your furry clients.
2. What are their future career goals?
If you're interviewing a teen, they may be considering a future in some type of animal-related career. For example, maybe they're considering veterinary school or a career as a vet tech or a dog trainer.
These can be good matches. Also, people who love animals and physical work are good candidates.
3. How Do You Imagine a Typical Day?
This question could be enlightening. What do your potential new hires think they'll do as a kennel attendant?
4. Ask them some situational-based questions
As you know, while you do your best to screen your four-legged customers with a temperament test, sometimes things happen.
You know your needs best, so maybe you present different questions tailored to your situation and their level of experience, but you get the idea.
5. Will They Give Updates?
If you're running a doggie daycare or specialized dog boarding center, one of the perks is being able to offer Facetime with the dog or a daily "report card" of sorts. Even just a snap of a picture of the dog having fun and sending it to the dog parent can make a huge difference in how the person feels about leaving their dog with you.
Every dog boarding facility has different policies for this. Still, if you expect your kennel assistants to be proactive with communicating with the pet parents in this way, you want to make sure you hire people who will do this.
Generally, being a kennel assistant is an hourly role. Some dog boarding facilities pay $8-9 an hour, while others offer a higher rate along with paid time off and insurance. The latter is less common. Yet, those who pay better attract a more committed type of employee. For example, a much higher rate and benefits will attract an older and more skilled workforce with greater loyalty and less employee turnover.
However, how much you pay may also vary on people's experience. It makes sense to hire an inexperienced yet enthusiastic kennel attendant at a lower rate knowing you'll train them than someone bringing several years of experience.
There you are, five questions to ask your potential kennel technicians and skills to look for. The dog boarding boom is going strong and shows little signs of abating.
Here's to hiring wisely! 🥂
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