Canada’s first Dogtopia arrives in Coquitlam

Dogtopia | BCBusiness
Dogs enjoy supervised open play in a Dogtopia playroom.

Century 21 founder Peter Thomas sniffs out a new opportunity with a dog daycare franchise

When Peter Thomas, who founded Century 21 Real Estate Canada, looked at the burgeoning dog daycare industry, he saw a branding and franchising opportunity. He counted more than 80 dog-care facilities in Vancouver alone but only small, independent operations. Then he found Dogtopia, started by Amy Nichols, in Washington, D.C.

“She had created a nice little franchise company with about 20 stores and had developed the systems and the controls necessary to run a franchise, which I had a lot of experience in,” he says. He purchased 50 per cent of the company, started to market franchise regions and liked the company so much that he and a group of investors bought regional rights for Canada. He plans to open 40 locations across Canada in the next seven or eight years. The franchise fee is $42,500, but the total investment is closer to $400,000 to $500,000 depending on the location.

The first Canadian Dogtopia is on Brunette Avenue in Coquitlam and opens this Saturday. Chris Aconley, regional manager for Western Canada, says the location was chosen because of its community feel and proximity to Highway 1 and the Port Mann bridge. A Tri-Cities resident with a background in business development, franchising and IT services, Aconley says, “I’ve had dogs most of my life, but the pet industry is new to me. That’s partly why I joined Dogtopia. You just get so much exposure to the dog training side of things and the dog behaviour, the whole dog side of the business.”

The Coquitlam facility can accommodate 60 dogs. There are two separate playrooms, where the dogs are separated by size and temperament and supervised by an attendant. “They’re like a lifeguard at the swimming pool,” says Aconley. “The dogs’ safety is first and foremost, and they’re overseeing the room to make sure it’s a happy environment for the dogs.” Nap time is from noon to 2 p.m., but dogs who want a break can retreat to a crate.

Dogtopia also has a spa with grooming services and sells frozen raw food. According to the Canadian Pet Market Outlook 2014 Report, annual spending on pets is expected to increase from $6.6 billion in 2013 to as much as $8.3 billion by 2018, including on services such as pet-sitting, dog-walking, daycares, spas and puppy kindergarten classes.

The public grand opening is November 22 from noon to 4 p.m. at 822 Brunette Avenue in Coquitlam. The event will include food trucks, giveaways and educational seminars on first-aid and pet massages. Dogs are welcome.