Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


It astonished us that we never filled to capacity over the holiday last week. We've filled up for every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday since we opened -- even our very first holiday season. This year - not to be apparently. We eventually got to 70% full.

Ginger's family had planned a reunion at her mom's place for Thanksgiving, so of course we'd told her she should absolutely go and we would handle the kennel. Well -- that was hardly a stretch on out part! We'd previously decided to scale back our staffing to only 4 people, instead of the 6 we've traditionally done for our full periods. Given that we never filled up, but still had 4 people working, it ended up being quite the easy week.

We thought alot about why it was so easy. One thing is that we had a good group of dogs and generally had very few messy kennels to clean up. That really throws a wrench into any plans we ever have. Especially if we ARE full -- then there are just no extra kennels to move a dog to temporarily. We did have one dog, whom we absolutely love -- when we aren't trying to kill her, that is. She's an adorable little terrier mix. Tiny little thing - she can't be but 5 pounds. But she is feisty, and scampers around so that you can hardly track her, much less keep up with her. Anyways, being so tiny, she also has a tiny bladder -- and thus pees about every 30 minutes. Dave referred to her once as Miss Thimble Bladder. LOL. There was just nothing we could do to keep up with her schedule, so the mop bucket just stayed close to her kennel.

The second factor that I'm convinced has a lot to do with the ease we had this week WAS the extra empty kennels we have. When we are feeding, or cleaning, or doing whatever it's always conveinent to have a place to stick a dog temporarily. When we're full we don't even have 1 kennel per dog. We have 52 kennels, but can accept up to 60 dogs -- knowing that we'll have a number of family dogs who prefer to room together. But, just because they are rooming together doesn't mean they can dine together, so we're forever trying to figure out ways to split all the dogs at feeding time. That's just not an issue when we had 1-2 kennels every aisle without an occupant.

Finally, we think a factor is just the dog play group sizes. There can be a huge difference in group of 12 and a group of 15 dogs, sometimes. We have 3 play yards, so generally split 60 dogs into groups of 24 / 18 / 18 -- or something of the like. The "Slow" group consisting of small dogs and elderly / laid back dogs typically can be larger without consequence. It is specifically the faster playing dogs that need to be in smaller and smaller groups to manage. So, with only 42 dogs, it was easy to keep the faster groups at 12 or fewer dogs.

In the end the week went extremely smoothly. Pleasant, you could even say!

We just kinda were counting on some of that extra revenue from dogs who didn't come to stay with us... :-/

We have ramped up our marketing efforts -- having quite a limited budget we don't have a lot of options, but we have finally made a concerted effort to get our brochures out to the local vet and pet supply stores. That was probably done too late to make a difference in our Thanksgiving, but we're hopeful to get a few extra Christmas reservations because of that. We've also place a few newspaper ads. But regardless, it seems we've come to a point where we might have to start working harder to attract customers -- when until this point they typically have just found us...



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