Monday, September 26, 2016

Need a dog walker? There’s an app for that. And plenty more for your pooch

It’s been said there’s an app for anything we humans want.
Now there’s an app for man’s best friend. More than a few of them, actually.
Dog owners today can book their pups a sitter, find personal walkers, and set up doggie play dates, all with a few taps on their phones.
As the number of pets in this country has increased, so too has the demand for related services.
“In the last couple of years, the [pet] app world has exploded,” said Leslie May, founder of Pawsible Marketing, a marketing firm that specializes in pet businesses.
The American Pet Products Association reported that 65 percent of US households owned a pet between 2015 and 2016, up from 56 percent in 1988. And Americans are spending more on their pets. The association estimates that owners will spend $2.47 billion more on their pets this year than in 2015.
Those numbers have made the pet industry an appealing one for the startup world.

“It was a natural move for technology companies to look at the pet market as an opportunity,” May said. “It’s a growing industry; it’s been growing steadily for years.”
Aaron Easterly started his Seattle-based dog services company, Rover, in 2011 as an overnight pet-sitting business that was marketed as a better option than the kennel. It later added doggy day care, drop-in visits, and daily dog-walking services for busy dog “parents.’’ The company now boasts a network of 40,000 dog owners and sitters in Boston alone, with owners able to access the service through its website and mobile app.
“There’s this desire to be as good of a parent as possible to your pet or your dog,” Easterly said. “And that increases the demand for products that can help you be a better pet parent.”
But to best serve pet parents, you don’t just need to know technology, you need to know what they want, said Michelle Fournier, the founder of Durty Harry’s, a popular boutique and dog wash business in Charlestown and Brookline.
Fournier never imagined leaving the company that she had built. But when her customers would not stop asking if she knew of dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and parks where they could bring their pups, she saw the need for a service in 2013 that did not yet exist. So she closed her boutiques in 2015 and went into the pet tech industry.
Last month, she launched an app called Slobbr that gives users the same advice she used to dole out for free in her shops: where to find pet-friendly establishments. Slobbr raised $65,000 on Kickstarter. As she continues to build the business, Fournier saids she believes what will set some pet companies apart is a keen understanding of the client — in her case, dogs.
“I look at the folks who put out pet apps. They have great tech experience, but they don’t have dog knowledge. You have to be able to understand what pet owners are looking for,” she said. “And when you’re not in that space, you can be the smartest business person in the world, but you’ll miss your mark.”
The American Pet Products Association estimates that the pet industry now tops $63 billion and there are no signs of slowing. The more people continue to cater to their dogs and cats, the more they are demanding streamlined technology that puts more services in one place. And the pet tech world is responding.
“Apps are [now] more sophisticated, making things easier for the pet parent,” said May.
The key, of course, is predicting what pet owners will want next from technology.
“It’s critical to latch on now for the next big wave,” she said.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Harry Paw-tter? This dog might be off to Hogwarts

The moment Poncho the chihuahua saw the apartment under the stairs, he knew this would be his bachelor pad. "You gotta see this place," he bragged to his friends. "It's prime real estate. Sure, it's a studio, but you know what they say when it comes to house hunting: location, location, location!" The housing market had been totally insane these past few years, so he knew he lucked out when he finally found a place he could afford on his modest dog salary of $0.
He became fast friends with his roommate and landlord, Betty McCall of Pitts, Georgia. The sweet lady even went so far as to decorate his digs for him, with little touches like a sombrero hanging from decorative antlers on the wall, and an oil painting that reminded him of his brothers back home.
chihuahuaWill Rigdon
She was respectful of his space, too. Poncho had a strong, tall door, so he could enjoy his privacy when felt the urge to noodle on the piano or think about the heavier stuff. McCall told him not to croon after midnight, but whatever. His room, his rules.
chihuahuaWill Rigdon
Still, he didn't want to be too disrespectful. After all, she did get a carpenter to install an outlet in his room so he could have an electric blanket in there for the lonely winters. She was good to him. And the place — well, even he could admit, when his friends weren't in earshot, that it wasn't much. But at least it was his.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Can you guess the dog that is stealing hearts in Beijing?

Of the 950,000 dogs in Beijing last year, more than 13 percent, or about 125,000, were brown toy poodles, according to the Beijing Kennel Club.