Four By Two Interview

This article originally featured at on May 26, 2016.


Featured Business: Canine Cuddles

What does it take to open and start your own pet care business?  Sarah Goldberg is about to take her years of experience in managing and running childcare centers and start her own dog day care center in Balcatta, Western Australia. The location will have an indoor and outdoor area, with spaces for puppies, a rest area, different sizes dogs and interlocking fences to ensure everything is planned and safe. Meet Sarah, from Canine Cuddles.

Why start your own dog day care business?

When I made the decision the get a puppy, I also chose to quit my fulltime job so that I would have time to bond with Bentley.

I didn’t know much about dog daycare until I had my own dog and started looking into it for Bentley. In my mind, dogs are pack animals and companionship is an important need for them. So many are living at home alone, until the owners come home for a walk after work and they can miss out on socialization opportunities.

Day cares are becoming more widely used by dog owners. Do you find that most come to a daycare facility to help solve a problem at home?

Yes, a lot of owners look to dog daycare as a solution to various behavior issues, which in reality come down to the dog being bored. They’re home alone, for 8-10 hours, only sleeping a couple of hours at a time, they wake up and get up to mischief and go back to sleep. 2-3 days per week is often enough to help those dogs get additional socialization on top of their walks and bonding time with their family at home.

My intended niche is those younger professional couples, who have a dog that they adore, and are waiting to have children later on in life. So for now, their dog is very important part of their family. And they can’t exercise their dogs as much as they would like to, purely because they are so time poor.

“More people are realizing that a lot of us find our animals to be as important to us as children.”

Why is a day care environment preferably to off lead play at the local park?

Many behavioral dog trainers do not like off lead dog parks, because a lot of owners will not be actively involved and working with their dog once they get there. They see it as a chance for the dog to exercise himself, and sometimes problems occur when people aren’t focused on their dogs and watching for signs of trouble or nervousness within the group.

Day care offers supervised play, with experienced staff watching and keeping an eye on interactions and managing those relations between the dogs so that it’s safe and welcoming. I will be implementing temperament testing and each dog will be individually assessed, with spaces in the premise to suit small dogs, medium dogs, and larger more boisterous dogs to suit all sizes and personalities.

What was the process you went through from idea to opening this week?

It took 6 months for approval and working with the council, for no particular reason or problem, just because of their planning meeting schedules. I started the process in October, and we’re now opening our doors May 23rd 2016.

I went to the council with a premise in mind, after doing some research into finding a council that was pro-dog, and pro pet ownership. I found that Stirling City Council had great percentage of how many dogs were lost to how many dogs were returned to their owners through the pound system, and they have a large number of off lead parks.

A landlord’s perception of what a dog cay care is basically dogs barking all day and rolling around with faeces and urine puddles all over the floor- which is not how it really is at all! In their minds, they think of barking and odour. So it took a bit of effort to find someone who understood the reality of what a well run daycare would look, smell and sound like.

Where have you found the support and advice when you needed it?

I was very lucky because the owner of the daycare Bentley goes to now, Pawpals located in Bassendean, has been very supportive and helpful with advice, and information and every day we would have a little conversation about where I am at and what I’m up to with the council, so she’s been incredibly helpful.

I’m a member of facebook group which is exclusively for dog daycare centers worldwide, and through that a couple of local Perth day care center owners have reached out, and said welcome and asked if I had any questions. We’ve been chatting some nights until midnight about boring things like paint and flooring, and I was shocked at how friendly and welcoming the community is within the dog daycare world.

What were your biggest challenges up till now? Was it to do with getting approval sorted?

With a day care center, or even a groomers, noise will always be a concern when seeking approval from council and neighbouring businesses, but I’m in an industrial area and a whole bunch of dogs barking would measure less than the DB level you’re allowed to have in an industrial setting.

The hardest part was once the owners were on board and I signed the lease, the council required me to advertise my intent to open the dog daycare, and any questions to contact the council. I got 21 complaints in total- covering comments related to noise, smell, hygiene and parking.

I worked with the council to address each of these complaints and show what processes I had planned to deal with those- like separate waste management policy and so on. Once those were addressed, the council were on board and we were good to go.

Where do you think the industry needs to improve right now?

At the moment, there are no regulations in WA that cover the industry, no minimum requirements, which made it easier for me, but is a bit scary for the industry as a whole long term.

In terms of general management, policies and procedures, I’m falling back on my experience of managing childcare centers and transferring a lot of that over to this business. I have my animal first aid qualifications, and am working through dog psychology and behavior and Cert III in companion animal care.

I look to what the regulations are around the world as well as interstate in terms of minimum size, space requirements, care etc, and implement those within my business.


There is nothing to say here at the moment that you require a certificate or to meet certain standards to open a day care, which is a concern, and I do find scary. I hope this will change in the future, for the betterment of the industry and the pets and owners.

Running a daycare sounds like hours and hours playing with puppies…

I plan to be an owner operator, and find suitable staff as the business grows and the numbers require it- vet nurses, groomers, people with animal experience professionally rather than just pet owners. The reality is its not just playing with puppies all day, it’s work. It’s automatically having spacial awareness, looking around, keeping an eye on the dynamics and the group, rather than just one individual animal.

It’s not just playing with the puppy group- its being on your feet all day, its moving from group to group, changing the dynamics until you find what works best.

What do you think a dog owner should be looking for when they consider sending their dog to a dog daycare center?

If an owner is looking and considering a day care center for their pet, I think it’s important that you get a good face to face with the staff or the manager, or who is going to be there with the animals. And it’s kind of about the vibe you get from them! You want to know that they treat the animals as they are important, not just another number on the board- you should expect a certain degree of quality of care- not necessarily having the dogs trained or taught, but happy and socializing well. It’s not something you can always prove to someone, but as an owner you will get that gut feel. If it looks comfortable and cosy and clean and tidy, if the owners take pride in the care of their premises then to me it suggests they will take pride in the care of your dog.

“It’s about trust and honesty. It’s about transparency, and knowing that the staff care for the safety and wellbeing of your dog as much as you do.”

Posted by
Sarah @ Canine Cuddles