Shirley Macmillan, Owner/Founder of Safe Paws
I started a pet caring company in 2002, prior to this I worked for Central Scotland Police. I grew Safe Paws into a very popular, well respected business and I gradually built up a fantastic network of over 50 members of staff. Mainly retired or early retired professionals who would provide dog walking, dog training, dog day care and cat visiting services. There were also a number of dog home boarders who would welcome dogs into their homes while the dogs owners were away on trips or holidays or provide dog day care during the working week.
The idea for a Doggy Day Care Centre came from conversations with an American couple who were living in Scotland and using our services. They extolled the benefits of day care which they used back home in Chicago, and bemoaned the lack of a similar facilities over here. I began researching the industry and discovered it was very popular in the USA where there were over 1500 centres.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to day care centres in Chicago and Denver where I received training in dog “pack” dynamics and how to manage them safely. I also learned a great deal about how to operate a centre, and came back to the UK confident that the concept would be embraced by many dog owners over here. I firmly believe in professional development and have completed my advanced residential dog trainers course with APDT (UK), affiliate member of APDT (professional) attended 6 day trainers course with IMDT, numerous lectures and online courses (Dr Ian Dunbar) being one of many.
My day care centre opened in 2010 and was one of the first of its kind in the UK, offering a luxury day care complete with live camera feeds, sealed rubber flooring, heated water bed, leather sofas, paddling pools, a puppy nursery and a tv/nap room.
As a new concept there were many challenges along the way, not least dealing with issues such as planning permission, licensing, noise etc. However I managed to get over these hurdles and acquire a lot of valuable experience in the process. Since then I have been delighted at the way the business has built up and the clear benefits the service provides for dogs and their owners.
Over many years I have screened and trained thousands of dogs, and taught numerous dog handlers and trainers how to properly read the body language of dogs in a large dynamic and manage them safely in a day care environment. I am also a contributing member of the Scottish Councils’ Working Group on Dog Day Care Standards and Best Practice.
I felt there was a need to offer training to budding dog day care entrepreneurs to give them a good understanding on best practice and policy in this new exciting industry. So our dog day care consultancy courses have been running for a number of years now, during which time I have trained well over 140 prospective day care owners. People planning and opening centres as far afield as Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine and of course from all over the UK.
I find it very rewarding to help people out at the beginning of this exciting new industry, and am passionate about encouraging high quality standards that ensure dogs and their owners love the service.