When Francisco and his wife were looking for a home to call their own, they knew that having lots of outdoor space was more important than the square footage of the actual house. “My wife and I got married and decided to buy a house,” Francisco said, of his Michigan property known as The Farm. “This one came on the market and it was just perfect because we were living on 10 acres and this one was around 20.” With ample room for the couple and their five dogs, the space was also used to conduct Francisco’s dog training and boarding business, although it took a sizable amount of work to make that a reality. “It had a pole barn in the back which was perfect to board dogs and do classes and consults, and we just went for it. Many of the dogs we train are not able to go to regular boarding facilities.”
Using a tractor borrowed from a friend, the pair spent the next two years fencing the entire property, including the expansive wooded area that’s part of it. “We just started building it up from scratch, really because nothing was done,” he said. “We usually work with aggressive dogs so having this big area gives them a lot of opportunities to do things.”
Great minds think alike
Specializing in reactive dogs, Francisco put the room to good use, and even had some to spare.
He came up with an idea to utilize the space during unused hours, simultaneously generating extra income through little additional work while providing a service to dog owners nearby. “We have our Facebook group and I posted that I was renting the field for 20 bucks, and a woman told me about Sniffspot,” he said. “I went online and I signed up for it. That’s how I came across it, actually, through one of my customers.”
Francisco finds that going through Sniffspot provides him with a streamlined system for payments and structured scheduling, allowing him to focus on his primary business. “In terms of operations, the nice thing is that the scheduling is very simple, I just have to check and make sure when people book,” he said. “Sniffspot kind of gives it the order and the structure to make it more smooth.”
A reprieve from the norm
Being a dog trainer who works mostly with dogs who have reactivity issues, hosting with Sniffspot also allows Francisco to enjoy a side of dogs he doesn’t always get to see in his line of work. “People who have dogs with no issues don’t really go to a dog trainer, so watching people having fun with their dogs is something I seldom get to see,” he said. “That’s really, really cool.”
In addition to new guests using his space for hourly visits, some of Francisco’s current clients also rent the area to offer their own dogs some downtime in a large and safely enclosed space, which is hard to make happen at many public parks. “Most of my customers cannot go anywhere with their dogs because they’re reactive, and most of my customers are older, so it can be hard to handle big powerful dogs that react,” he explained. “So this is pretty much their only choice.” The wide open space and stress-free environment, for both the owners and their dogs, often brings out a rarely seen side of reactive or stressed dogs, who don’t often get the chance to be themselves. “People can come here and they can relax. They can enjoy their dogs because when they rent the space, there’s no one there,” he said. “They see their dogs exhibiting behaviors they have never seen before, like the dogs splashing in the water or just running and having fun. They see natural behaviors like pointing and stuff like that. That’s a really fulfilling part of it.”
Managing both businesses
For Francisco, staying on top of Sniffspot visits, dog boarding, and training consults and sessions is made fairly easy thanks to the ample space his property provides. Separate play and boarding areas allow him to keep his client’s dogs completely separate and undisturbed when visiting dogs arrive, avoiding triggers that could cause them to react. For the most part, adding Sniffspot to his existing dog business generally requires only small and manageable tweaks in his schedule. “I sometimes rotate boarding dogs, and sometimes I’ll close Sniffspot for blocks of time if I have consults and things like that,” he said. “It’s nice because it avoids all kinds of issues.”
One thing that is especially helpful in managing his business is the Sniffspot clientele, who he says are respectful of both the space and his process. “The people that come are very respectful of the times, they don’t really show up early or anything, so it’s not very disturbing in terms of the operations we have here,” he said. “That’s been very nice, that people come on time and they leave on time. I haven’t really had to do anything about cleaning either, I just provide a garbage bin.”
Plans for the future
For now, Francisco will continue to do what he’s doing, boarding and training his regular clients, while using the space to earn extra income when it’s not in use for work purposes. The money he earns hosting with Sniffspot generally goes toward improvements to the space, or savings, which he predicts will accumulate to more in a short period of time. “I’m pretty sure if I were able to just have this field for hosting it would be fully booked — the amount of people visiting is increasing now, and the weather is getting better too which helps a lot,” he said.
As the days get longer and his Sniffspot guests continue to show up, Francisco hopes to make some changes to the space to help keep dogs engaged and entertained during their visits. “I’d like to offer more things to do in there,” he said. “We would like to make a really nice agility course for the dogs to play in there, and would like to add more things in the landscape to make things more enriching and so they have more variety of activities to do.”
For anyone considering adding Sniffspot to their own pet care business, Francisco encourages making safety and fun their top priorities. “Safety first,” he said. “Make sure your dogs cannot get out and that everything is secured well.” Other than that, remembering that those hours booked are for the dogs will ensure positive experiences for everyone. “Make it interesting, keep it clean, and have activities for the dogs,” he added. “You don’t have to spend a fortune, just make things fun and safe at the same time.”