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High Maintenance Charge?

asked 2015-10-02 14:44:54 -0500

I'm very fortunate to have really great dogs staying with me the vast majority of the time.
However, our family has been pushed to its limit this last month with one of our boarders. He's been a client for just over a year, and has always been a bit of a handful. He's been with us for 14 nights out of the past 17, and we're feeling it. He counter-surfs, plays keep away, demand barks, and is restless. As a trainer, I've got a pretty good handle on how to deal with all these behaviors, but it can be exhausting nonetheless. I've been boarding for 10 years, and he's one of only a handful of dogs like this that I've encountered.

I don't necessarily want to get rid of him as a client, but I'm wondering about charging extra for these high maintenance dogs. Does anyone else do this? I'm concerned that since this charge would be applied based upon my assessment (and not "facts" like age), owners will give me grief about it.

The other very solid option would be to raise my puppy age to two years.

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4 Answers

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answered 2015-10-04 08:23:59 -0500

That's a tough question and I don't think I have an answer for you. I remember you previously said that you are picky about the dogs you take in, and I remember this comment because I am the same way. I don't take in every dog. I had one dog just as you described and I had to tell the owner I could not stay with him any longer. It really disrupted my whole family and we were pretty miserable the whole week. If you still want to stay with him, charging extra is a great idea but how would the client take it? Clients are very sensitive when it comes to their dog, understandably so. They may get offended by you telling them their dog is a handful. I know my client was offended but even if you say it in the kindest way they still get offended. In my case, the owner previously told me the dog needed to be on Prozac so when I told her I couldn't stay with the dog anymore I did not expect her to get upset because she clearly knew he was beyond high energy. I can't even begin to explain what this dog did. Anyway, my point is, the higher charge is a great idea but how will the owner respond to that, I am curious to know. Sorry I don't have an answer but you posted a great question and I remembered what I went through with a similar dog.

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I completely agree. That's why I suggested if busy enough, raise your rate, and then give custom quotes to dogs that are not way more than a handful. Nobody would complain about a discounted rate, which can be given on an individual basis based on dog behavior, length of stay, availability, etc.

Deb A.'s profile imageDeb A. ( 2015-10-04 11:25:36 -0500 )edit
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answered 2015-10-02 15:31:43 -0500

I've cared for high maintenance canine guests, and understand your exhaustion level. Unlike you, I do not represent myself as a trainer, nor do I want to officially provide those services at this time. So, I would and have referred those guests on. Unless the owner agrees with your assessment and the dog shows them measurable behavioral improvement, I'd expect that they will complain or take issue with it. An easier route might be to raise the puppy age or consider raising your regular rate (I recall you wrote elsewhere that you're fairly busy all the time) and you could then offer a custom rate to your favorite (i.e lower maintenance) guests.

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Thanks for the input, Deb! This dog is not here for training perse as the owner didn't request extra training work, and I'm not doing any dedicated training sessions with him. As you're well aware, simply living with him is the exhausting thing!

Leighann H.'s profile imageLeighann H. ( 2015-10-02 21:28:28 -0500 )edit
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answered 2015-10-02 16:32:06 -0500

I think you could use a "high maintenance" fee so long as you can put into words the extra work required on your part. Dogs that require an extra walk (or longer walks), more/longer play sessions (with a human), more frequent potty breaks, late night or early morning wake ups, etc would be considered higher maintenance. What I might suggest is explaining that you charge based on the dog's personal requirements, so for their first stay you'll charge your regular rate while you assess them, but for future stays that rate may be adjusted for higher or lower energy dogs to reflect the amount of effort you're investing in making sure they're happy and comfortable. It also helps you assess how many guests you can provide for at a time--if you have a couple high energy clients you may want to pass on another, whereas if your guests were pretty low key you could accommodate another client easily. It doesn't really matter if you use the lower maintenance fee, but I think owners will appreciate that you're tailoring your care toward your guests' individual needs, rather than giving cookie cutter care to each.

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Thanks, Laura! You've always got such a great way of wording things!

Leighann H.'s profile imageLeighann H. ( 2015-10-02 21:29:41 -0500 )edit
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answered 2015-10-05 13:33:26 -0500

While I totally understand where you are coming from - It's all about the wording. I think Laura said it most eloquently:

"What I might suggest is explaining that you charge based on the dog's personal requirements, so for their first stay you'll charge your regular rate while you assess them, but for future stays that rate may be adjusted for higher or lower energy dogs to reflect the amount of effort you're investing in making sure they're happy and comfortable. "

I think that this is an extremely tricky situation and may be offensive to a client, unless you explain that you have begun doing this for everyone, not just their dog....

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