AN EXPLOSION in the number of dog-related businesses set up across Scotland has resulted in the past 12 months being dubbed “the year of the dog”.
The number of companies offering services such as dog walking, kennels, dog day care services and shops specialising in canine accessories has rocketed over the past year north of the Border, along with a rise in dog ownership.
There are now 8.5 million households in the UK with at least one registered dog, according to the latest figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.
Andrew Fraser, an associate on the franchising team at Glasgow-based law firm Harper McLeod, said that a growing number of dog-related companies had contacted his firm for franchising advice in the past year, leading to a large network of canine companies across Scotland.
Companies which have looked to franchise their businesses include Wacky Hounds, a dog walking and boarding service based in Ayrshire, while Scottish franchisees have taken on branches of Lancashire-based dog holiday centres Barking Mad and dog boarding service Wagging Tails.
Shirley Macmillan, who opened Safe Paws in Stirling in 2003, last year launched a training course for other people planning to open their own doggy day care centre.
In the past year, she has trained more than 40 people – some of whom have opened facilities as far away as Denmark and Australia.
“I think we’re often about ten to 13 years behind America and that is definitely true with dog day care centres and other dog businesses,” she said.
“I trained in America and launched Safe Paws in 2003, but it was five years ago I expanded into a day care centre.
“It was hard at first as people didn’t really know what it was all about, but the idea of putting your dog somewhere for the day has really taken off, especially in the past year.
“People are starting to realise that they can get a lot out of it.”
Macmillan offers a two-day course, as well as sample business plans and income projection calculators for prospective centre owners.
“It’s not a franchise, but I give them a lot of help to set up their independent business,” she said.
Centres run by people trained by Safe Paws have now been set up in many locations across Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK and overseas.
House of Hound, a retailer of dog-only products, opened in Edinburgh last July after owner Darren Donaldson, a former head of menswear at department store Harvey Nicols, spotted similar high-end pet shops in the United States.
“I think the fact that more dog businesses exist allows for more dog ownership,” said Donaldson, who also runs a dog-walking business with his partner.
“People realise that you can work full-time and still enjoy a doggy lifestyle. These businesses have opened up to fill an existing gap and as they have done so, dog ownership has grown too.”
He added: “I was in New York and saw all these shops with great beds, accessories and treats for dogs and there was nothing like that here.”
Fraser, who has offered legal advice for a number of dog-related franchising businesses in Scotland over the past 12 months, said: “There seems to have been a surge of activity in this sector.
“I would attribute this mainly to the low investment costs and ability of franchisees to work flexibly from home.
He added: “The opportunities range from simple dog-walking services, to impressive dog-boarding facilities. It really is the year of the dog.”