July Cover Story: Pet industry Continues To thrive, But Dogs Remain No. 1

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How joyful it is to be embraced everyday with the unconditional love of a dog. It’s the reality for thousands of residents in Plymouth County and on Cape Cod, and it can be argued life doesn’t get much better than that.

But a dog’s companionship enjoyed by so many also brings financial responsibilities. Owners must provide food, veterinary care, training, toys, treats, grooming, and other canine necessities.

The pet industry is a thriving one. Sales of all pet-related goods and services are expected to reach $`143 billion across the U.S. in 2023, says the American Pet Products Association. That includes animals besides dogs, such as cats, birds, horses and even fish, but canines make up the lion’s share of the total, and are found in 65 million U.S. households.

The abundance of homes where dogs are cherished members of the family continues to inspire the launch of new pet businesses and the expansion of others in the Plymouth/Cape Cod region, as the community’s collective devotion to adopting dogs keeps growing. 

Cape & Plymouth Business reached out to some pet-related business owners in the area to learn about their services and about today’s doggie-centered world.

A New Dog Boutique In Duxbury

Customers visiting The Sandy Dog, a new pet shop in Duxbury, will be greeted by husband-and-wife owners Michael and Samantha Rego, who split their time between running the store and their very active home, where two young children and two Golden Retriever puppies keep them on their toes.

Sandy DogThe store opened in May and carries a wide variety of foods, treats, toys, and assorted gear, like leashes and collars. A nearby pet store recently closed when its owner retired, and the local community has rallied behind the new retail outlet that provides needed supplies, says Samantha Rego.

The boutique, at 35 Depot St., also has a food delivery service, and with the warm temperatures of summer, the shop offers a wide variety of products that help dogs stay cool and safe.

“Popular items for summer are cooling mats that dogs lie on, and for dogs headed out for a boat or paddle board ride we have life jackets. We even have dog towels for the beach,” Rego says.

As is often the case with dog owners, lots of people splurge, paying little attention to the cost of goods if they believe their dog needs them or would enjoy them. However, the shop has price points for every buyer, Rego says.

“There are a lot of people who don’t even look at the price, but there are some cost conscious customers, too,” says Rego, who adds that her shop has something for everyone.

Check out the shop’s offerings in person, or online at thesandydogduxbury.com.

Specialist Trains Dogs And Their Owners, Too

Ken Brady, a certified professional trainer and graduate of the National K9 School for Dog Trainers, started training dogs as a hobby some 15 years ago. It was a side job while he worked for the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, but five years ago he shifted full-time into dog training. 

Ken Bady

With the onset of the pandemic came big spikes in dog adoptions, and Brady’s Kingston-based business, called To The Rescue K9, flourished.

“It’s sad to say but COVID was good for business. A lot of people decided it was a good time to get a dog, but often when they’d get a shelter dog they were confronted with behavior issues. Or they’d get a puppy who didn’t get socialized because people weren’t socializing. That can be tough to overcome,” says Brady.

He adds that the most important lesson he tries to impart to dog owners is that he’s not only training the dog, he’s training the owner as well.

“I say to people, ‘I’m basically teaching you how to train your dog.’ And those who stay consistent with training, their dogs do amazing. It’s no different than training yourself. You don’t  get into great shape and then say ‘OK, I’m done.’” Brady points out.

His biggest training challenge is instilling confidence in his canine clients, and then there are his business tasks to attend to –  trying to find time between training sessions to handle his social media and marketing, make appointments, and deal with other management responsibilities. 

“It’s busy, and I’ve been thinking I really need to bring on another trainer soon,” he says.

To the Rescue K9 is located at 101 Kingston Collection Way. The website is https://totherescuek9.com/

Boarding At Home, With 24/7 Care

In April of 2022, Pamela Hoaglund was asked to dog sit for the siblings of her own Beagle. She did, and loved it, and soon after launched her at-home boarding business, Plymouth-based Buck Teeth Boarding, which she manages while working another home-based job. 

“What I love most is making sure everyone is safe and happy. Safety is No. 1. It’s like having a kid,” says Hoaglund, who offers clients a large, enclosed yard, a doggie door so canine guests can come and go, and the run of the house, or most of it.

“Boarding facilities, like kennels, can be very stressful on dogs. No one is there 24/7, the animals are left alone at night, and I believe dogs need a home environment,” she says.

HoaglundHoaglund says a pre-stay meeting with each dog is always mandatory, so that she can determine whether the pooch will be a good fit in a setting where there might be three or four other guest dogs on the premises at the same time.

At first her boarding business accepted dogs from out of the area, owned by people who were coming to the coast for vacation, for example. But now she focuses solely on local dog clients. New customers learn about her business by word of mouth.

“Business is very good. If there were 30 other at-home boarding options like mine around here, we’d still all have plenty of customers,” says Hoaglund.

The unique name of her business has a story behind it. When she started out, Hoaglund was boarding animals beside dogs, such as rabbits and even guinea pigs. That isn’t the case any longer, but she chose her company name because of her “love for anything with buck teeth.”

Find out more about this at-home boarding option at https://buckteethboarding.com/

Doggie Cookies, Hand-Cut in Provincetown

Four years ago, Suzanne Long started experimenting in her kitchen, making doggie treats from some of her dog’s favorite flavors. Madison, her golden lab, had already crossed the Rainbow Bridge by that time, but Long decided to honor her beloved pup by hand-making doggie cookies she knew would appeal to other dogs.

Cape Cod Dog Cookies, ProvincetownFast-forward to present day and Long has a robust and growing business called Cape Cod Dog Cookies. Her cookie recipe calls for hand-rolled oats she mills into flour, organic peanut butter and pumpkin, and other healthy ingredients that, together, she hand cuts. 

Long, a Provincetown resident, creates doggie treats in iconic Cape Cod shapes, such as whales, sharks, lobsters, star fish, lighthouses, and the quintessential Cape Cod sign often seen on souvenirs.

She creates her cookie cutter shapes using a 3-D printer, and all of the cooking, baking, and packaging tasks are done at her Outer Cape home and studio. With no retail outlet of her own established yet, the cookies are available for order on her website (capecoddogcookies.com) and are for sale at various retail outlets where, surprisingly, the focus is not on canine products. 

For example, Long’s dog cookies are available at Truro Vineyards, on Hyline Cruise vessels, Far Land Provision and East End Market, both in Provincetown, Cape Cod Beer, and Wellfleet Marketplace, among other locations across the Cape.

Long says she plans to keep growing the business during the next few years, and is getting closer to adopting another dog.

The best thing about her treats, she says, is that “dogs just love ‘em.”