Katie McQueary is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton and had a successful career in pharmaceutical sales before founding Clos du Paws, a luxury cage-free boarding and dog daycare in Sonoma, CA located on a 13- acre vineyard estate. She is currently the owner and operator of the facility which has been dubbed “Doggy Disneyland”.
Dogs who attend daycare at Clos du Paws are able to enjoy their own 1/4 acre fenced corral with plenty of trees for shade from the sun. Dog owners who leave their pups for overnight visits are able to rest easy knowing that they’re in an air-conditioned home with beds and couches to relax on.
Katie McQueary has always had a love for animals. Her love affair with dogs started back when she was 10 years old and her family rescued a Shitzu/Terrier mix named Holly. Her love for dogs grew from there, and Katie has enjoyed countless hours of volunteer work at Lilly’s Legacy, a senior dog shelter, as well as at Family Dog Rescue in Sonoma, CA. She currently has two dogs of her own.
Katie has a passion for community and currently volunteers at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and Family Dog Rescue.
We had a chance to sit with Katie McQueary who spoke to us about everything from what inspired her to start her dog daycare business to the biggest challenges she’s faced since Clos du Paws opened its doors.
What inspired you to start a dog daycare business?
I have always had a love for animals, especially dogs. My family has two dogs of our own and while we love to travel, we have never been able to find a place where we felt comfortable leaving our dogs overnight. Our dogs have not been crate trained, so the thought of leaving them in a standard kennel worried us. I know that other people feel the same way, and only want the best accommodations for their furry friends. I decided to create something new and unique; a place that the dogs would enjoy and their owners could travel while feeling reassured that their pups were in the best hands. We turned our guest house into a cage-free space, filled with dog beds, blankets, and tv to stream the dog channel, and Clos du Paws was born.
How did you get your first customer?
I’m proud to say that all of our customers have been referred to us from previous ones. Our first customer was a wonderful couple we met at the Sonoma Dog Park. They wanted to travel but were nervous about taking their dogs to a kennel. We were so happy to be able to offer them peace of mind for their trip.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think people can see that I am truly passionate about dogs and that my love for them is real. When customers come to see our property and the designated dog areas they understand that we’re doing everything possible to make the dogs happy while keeping them safe as well.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
We have a lot of repeat customers who tell us stories about how excited their dogs get when they come back, oftentimes going crazy with joy as they pull into the gates of our property. This warms my heart to hear and makes me feel like we’re doing a good job.
How do you handle difficult clients and customers?
Dogs are important members of our client’s families. If someone seems difficult, I do my best to remind myself that they love their dog and are just trying to do their best to keep them happy and safe.
In your opinion, what skills does one need to successfully work in dog care?
To be successful in dog care, you must have a genuine love for dogs and a lot of patience. You’ll also need to be in good physical health, taking care of a lot of dogs takes strength and an abundance of energy.
What is the most challenging thing that you have had to deal with since you started Clos Du Paws?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far has been how to organize the schedule to meet all of our client’s requests. Since we limit our dog daycare to only 10 dogs a day, it’s been a challenge to figure out a schedule that works for everyone since we cater to big dogs, little dogs, lazy dogs, energetic dogs, and puppies. It’s always a work in progress, but we feel like we’ve established groupings now that work for everyone. We were able to solve a lot of our problems by adding a second designated play area so we could split up the dogs accordingly.
How do you handle unruly dogs? Do you have a specific strategy?
There are a few different strategies we employ. I have found that using a hose or dog whistle is very effective for teaching unruly dogs. We also work closely with dog trainers who can be brought in to help if needed. I always like to use positive reinforcement for good behavior.
What should people know before bringing their dog to a daycare or boarding facility like Clos Du Paws?
Dog owners should understand that most dogs are going to be a little nervous when visiting the facility for the first time, but it doesn’t take long for them to become comfortable. We spoil all the dogs with attention and they are usually very excited when they come back for another visit.
Certain breeds, like Australian Shepards, carry more anxiety than others. In these cases, calming and anti-anxiety supplements or medications are recommended for anxious dogs who are staying with us for the first time.
Why is Sonoma a great place to live and work?
Sonoma offers an unbelievable sense of community. The wine, food, and weather are all amazing but it’s the warm people that make Sonoma so special.
Plus, it has all the perks of living in a small town but also offers quick access to San Francisco, Napa, and Lake Tahoe.
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