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How Do Pet Stores Handle Destructive Dogs and Their Owners?

Business owners weigh in on what they would do if a pup destroyed an entire bakery case and the products within.

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THREE WHOLE DAYS off, Emily thought as she added the finishing touches to the last batch of cookies. It had been over three months since Emily had taken a day off due to the expansion of her store. The in-house bakery was a game changer, and bakery sales had skyrocketed!

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

Emily looked over the cookie case one last time. She had made sure it was packed so they were ready for the weekend. Every tray was filled, labeled with ingredient panels and priced to make it easy on her staff. Since the expansion, Emily was in the bakery daily, making sure everything was done just right. This would be the first weekend off in months, but she knew her staff could handle any issues. Plus, extra trays of cookies were ready to replace any sold.

Emily had a quick meeting with the crew working over the weekend before heading out for the night. There was only an hour left until the store closed, and she wanted to get home and pack for her mini-vacay.

As Emily walked in her front door, she got a text from Maty, one of her closers. She looked at the photo sent, and her eyes widened in disbelief. Her bakery case was on the ground, smashed into pieces, and all the cookies that had filled the case were broken along with it. The text that followed read, “It all happened so fast. Quinn jumped up on the case and knocked it to the ground. No one was hurt, but the case is destroyed as are the cookies that were in it.”

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Emily hit call and when Maty picked up said, “Please tell me you’re kidding.” Maty sighed and replied, “I wish I were. Luckily no one was hurt, but I’m a little surprised that Quinn’s mom didn’t even apologize. She had no control and let Quinn jump on the case after we asked her not to several times. Then she walked over to the other bakery case, bought $4 in treats and left. No sorry, no nothing. We are cleaning up and tossing it all in the dumpster.”

Emily shook her head. She added up the total of everything that was destroyed. That was a full day of baking and decorating lost, plus the cost of the case. How could the customer just leave like nothing was wrong? If it were her dog, she would have offered to pay for the damage immediately.

The Big Questions

  • Should Emily reach out to the customer and ask her to pay for the damages?
  • How could her staff have better handled the customer not controlling her dog?
  • How could this situation be avoided in the future?
Lynn K.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA

I had this happen exactly as it did here, except I was in the shop and watched it. The customer did say “sorry,” but no offer to compensate, instead said “you should have a better stand.” I was angry and then moved forward by getting a better stand so it wouldn’t happen again. I find that retractable leashes and long leashes are my biggest issue, therefore when people come in with them, I ask them to lock them or keep them short, which helps prevent them from wrapping around stands. I don’t ever put blame on customers, as one bad review can end up costing much more than the cost of the product. Their version is usually much different than the actual event, but no one listens to both sides on reviews!

Lisa R.
POMONA, CA

She should not reach out to the customer, who may have been too embarrassed to say anything. I would apologize. If the employee knew that the case was in danger of being knocked over, they should have either blocked the dog or prevented the case from falling. In the future, all display cases should be securely fastened. If the dog or customer was hurt, her store would have been liable. Accidents happen, and the case could have been knocked over in any number of ways given because it was not secure. Prevention is key.

Malka N.
SANTA CLARA, CA

In the service business, I always assume the customer is king. Being in the dog business, we know that dogs jump on counters and that we always will have unruly dogs. The case should have been set up so that no dog could knock it over. So Emily has to eat her mistake. How many times do customers knock over displays? They are not expected to pay for their carelessness. It’s the cost of doing business. Which at times is very difficult.

Dawn T.
VERO BEACH, FL

Emily should reach out to the customer to make sure she and her dog are OK. Then she should mention the damage caused by her not being able to control her dog, and ask her if she would split the cost of the damages with her. The staff could have requested to help her with her shopping, while she calmed her dog down, or if they could have held the leash for her, or just ask her to have the dog stand away from the display due to their excitement. This situation can be avoided in the future by purchasing a display that is sturdier and stronger.

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Jennifer Lloyd F.
SHERWOOD AND WILSONVILLE, OR

First, I would call my insurance company and see how it could be covered. Second, staff meeting to put boundaries on customers who shop with their pets and children. I have signs posted that children must be accompanied by an adult and that dogs must be kept within 4 feet of the handler and be in control. We have store cats, and one has been attacked. We “86” dogs if the owner misbehaves. Third, I would call the customer and communicate. Let them know the cost of the damage and that this time my insurance will give me a hand, but that it is classified as vandalism and destruction of personal property and will most likely require me to file a police report.

Johnna D.
RICHMOND, RI

Anything that is fragile or easily broken should be either out of reach or properly secured. While it is unfortunate that the pet owner didn’t have better awareness and offer to at least pay for some part of the damage, the onus is on the store owner here. We should go into everything we do thinking that most pet parents don’t have control over their dogs. This means looking at our store and its layout with a different set of eyes. Taking the time to prevent these situations is not only best for the bottom line, but also for the safety of everyone who enters our store.

Adrian A.
COCONUT CREEK, FL

Destroying an entire case and product, I would have a discussion with the customer. In this case, my goal would be to get the customer to WANT to help. I would contact them and tell them I’m shocked it happened because it never had before, and I would tell them exactly what the loss was in dollars and say I would be more than happy to split the cost. Obviously I would tread lightly in the conversation, especially if it is a good customer. I wouldn’t force the repayment, but the goal would be to pull their emotional strings to prompt them to. The owner should dog-proof her store. She must also instruct staff in better communication and control. A jumping dog threatening a display should prompt a staff member to move in and attempt to get the dogs attention, etc. Either way, the store owner must dog-proof her store and attempt to get the customer to give something, without prompting a bad review.

Trace M.
HOUSTON, TX

This one gives me EXTREME anxiety, just as it would if it were a child. I would be eternally frustrated by the dog owner’s lack of apology or response. Honestly, I’m stumped. Sometimes the staff can only watch in horror and clean up the mess. I know for sure if the customer came back with the dog, I would explain why the dog is no longer welcome and give her a trainer’s contact info. I do not think I would ask her to pay for the damages. She SHOULD, but I wouldn’t chase that.

Comora T.
HENDERSONVILLE, NC

My staff is trained to help owners with unruly dogs. As a trainer, I know we can show pet parents how to help their dogs in this situation. We keep awesome treats behind the counter, and one of us goes out loaded to reward better behavior quickly. We have ramps and platforms for the dogs to station themselves on for a treat! The dogs remember that the next time! Prevention is everything, and everyone has a positive experience. It’s not the dog’s fault. The owner may have not known what the level of excitement being in that environment would be for the dog. The owner may have been flustered herself and not sure of what to do. Emotions, emotions, emotions. Knowing what to do to help them both be successful is key.

Lisa B.
SANTA FE, NM

The tipping point is that the employees asked the customer to keep her dog under control, and she didn’t. I’d call the customer to hear her side of events and give her a chance to offer to pay for damages. If she didn’t, I’d tell her the dollar amount of damages, staff time involved in making the cookies and then ask if she would cover the cost, or at least part. As a small-business owner, it’s about being fair and decent and giving the customer an explanation of the costs to me. If she offers to pay even part, great. If she refuses to pay anything, I would let her know the next time she shops at our store with her dog, who is welcome, that the dog must be on a very short lead at all times. To me, this feels like I’ve given the customer the opportunity to “make things right” without threats, so my conscience is clear. What she does and is willing to live with is totally up to her.

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Paula G.
MUSKEGO, WI

This is a bit of a hard one, reminds me of the customers’ dogs who pee on things and the customer doesn’t offer to clean up or say sorry. If they are regular customers and this type of things doesn’t happen all the time, it’s the cost of doing business. When the customer comes in next time, politely remind her to control her dog because we don’t want another incident like last time. How could her staff have better handled the customer not controlling her dog? You don’t want to insult the customer, but could have said, “I see Quinn is a bit rambunctious. Would you like me to hold Quinn while you look around and finish shopping?” Accidents happen in retail. I just always look at how a dog will see something. If it can be knocked off a shelf it will be, if it can be peed on it will be. Because we are dealing with animals we have to be very aware.

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Nancy Guinn is the founder and president of Dog Krazy Inc., an award-winning natural pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. She helps other small businesses succeed through her contributions to industry magazines, webinars and podcasts. The Guinn household includes Nancy’s husband and business partner, Chris, and their furry and feathered inspirations Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

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