This was never the plan.
To be the owner of a cutting-edge, full-service, self-designed, 7,000-square-foot pet care facility in Bailey’s Crossroads with some 50 employees was not what Ryan Fochler envisioned when he started out simply walking other people’s dogs as a part-time job.
But now the dog walking job has grown to become Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws Pet Care, offering a full range of pet care services 365 days a year and accumulating reams of kudos from satisfied pet owners, many who have been returning for a dozen years or more.
“It’s pretty cool to have great customers for as long as I have,” said Fochler, who took over the business in 2004 (it was established in 1999).
To make sure his clients and their pets get the best treatment, Fochler stays current on best practices in pet behavior and management through regular consults with his wife, Katie Holloran, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
He has found that this knowledge helps many dogs that have had trouble in other daycare settings. He designed the Dog Paws Bailey’s Crossroads facility to ensure that all dogs could be successful through more efficient and supportive processes and logistics.
And while that important service has made a significant impression, the bulk of the business is dedicated to those already domesticated dogs that just need walking, grooming, boarding, day-care and in-home pet sitting. Adoption services are also available.
The convenience factor of in-home pet sitting for dogs and cats cannot be understated in the D.C. metro area, a region in which residents often have to leave town for short periods, very often with short notice. And for those clients who require boarding for extended stays, Fochler said that’s where his and his staff’s training comes into play.
“In general, when you give a pet what it needs in a happy healthy environment, it will be more likely to be successful.” Playtime, regular walks, socialization, feeding, medications (if needed) and personalized attention from skilled staff are all included services in the daycare and boarding fees at Dog Paws, not specialty add-ons.
Despite the longevity of the business, Fochler said they’re continually improving their services, responding to changing needs organically. “A lot of great systems we have in place now around here happened by chance,” he said with a laugh.
He is most proud of his daylong evaluation process, which came about due to a dog that was having trouble socializing with other dogs. Fochler’s daycare manager, John, who is always in-tune with dogs’ needs, decided to provide a daylong opportunity for this dog to be gradually introduced to the other dogs at the facility that day.
What transpired was truly unexpected — the dog with a history of difficulty in a group of dogs ended the day happily wagging his tail alongside his new doggie friends, and spent years as a favorite of dogs and staff alike, coming back to Dog Paws regularly.
All of this research and purposeful design means that most dogs are happy and successful for long weekends, even up to a week, while their owners are away on business or personal trips. Fochler even has a few (unique) dogs who have stayed for up to six to eight weeks at a time — and these furry friends are only too happy to come back for the next extended visit.
(Dog Paws’n Cat Claws also loves the feline set, of course. “We have found that cats are largely best in their home environment,” Fochler said. “So we do in-home cat sitting and that’s worked out really well.” The same research and attention goes into caring for cats in their homes, and staff is adept at meeting cats’ needs in their home environment.)
Because of his love of rescue animals–his personal dog is a cumbersome handful of “not-so-adoptable lab-hound mix” named Booker (“he’s actually been an awesome dog for us”) — Fochler developed relationships with regional nonprofits that assist rescue animals, particularly Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, which houses its home office at the Dog Paws Bailey’s Crossroads location.
Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws’ opens its doors to those creatures in need of a safe harbor. A portion of proceeds from all products and services of the business goes to help those organizations like Homeward Trails and Operation Paws for Homes.
Fochler’s goodwill doesn’t end there: “Even if you don’t use our service, you can call us for free advice at anytime if you are having trouble,” he said, and he means it.
Dog Paws ‘n Cat Claws Pet Care is at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads. Call 703-931-5057 or email at [email protected]
The preceding was a sponsored business profile written by Buzz McClain
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