By Christine Bates | christine@mainstreetmag.com

When did you start Ledgewood Kennel?

My wife Kirby and I started the kennel in 1986 with just a few runs on our lower farm. Gradually we noticed a need for a bigger kennel so we built a larger one in 2000 with the latest construction methods and design approach including radiant floors, central air conditioning, and large runs. We’ve been in business about 33 years.

What’s special about Ledgewood?

Our facility is located on our 50-acre working farm surrounded by hay fields that have never had chemical fertilizers or pesticides applied to them. The kennel is tucked in the woods, 400 feet off a quiet county road on Silver Mountain just outside of Millerton, NY. It has a great setting with plenty of room and spectacular views.

Our business plan was to have a clean, healthy, spacious facility in which pets get plenty of personal care in a country setting. Amanda, our kennel manager, who has been with us for over 12 years, is one reason our kennel is so great. Ledgewood’s success is first and foremost the people working here. All of them really like what they are doing and are true professionals.

From a business perspective one of our most important and valuable assets is a commercial special use permit for our facility, which pertains to the property and allows us to legally operate, including a small and large animal veterinary practice at the facility. This permit is crucial to the business and is now very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.

What is a dog’s day like at Ledgewood?

Every dog has his own private kennel with an inside and outside run. Three times a day the dogs can play in a private outside play area. There is a morning, afternoon, and final check at 10pm. Dogs receive the food their owners specify twice a day and any required meds. Everyone on staff is trained to spot any health issues and we have a 24/7 on-call vet that is ten minutes away. We also have a spring-fed pond where dogs can play in the summer.

We wanted to make our kennel stand out from others and become a full-service fun facility for the area. In addition to boarding, dogs can be groomed, trained and learn how to become a “dock dog.”
Rosie runs Ledgewood’s “doggy spa” which offers grooming, bathing, and nail trimming. Rosie has been here for ten years and she’s the best.

Melissa heads up the training and daycare department located in a separate 1,200 square foot area with rubber floor mats, cathedral ceilings, and lots of windows. Melissa has about every training certificate there is and offers most stages of canine obedience in the spacious camp/daycare where trained professionals keep a close eye on pets as they learn and play up a storm.

What about the jumping dogs?

The dock dog facility has been up and running for over ten years and was actually the first sanctioned site in the country. We were even featured on the CBS Early Show. When we decided to install the facility we really did it right with underground electric, water, and cable designed to meet the requirements of the sport.

In the summer months, dogs train in our 40 foot pool located in a private field on our farm near the kennel. Toby and Nicky are the professionals who offer training and just swimming for your pets.

Do all dogs like to learn to jump? How does the competition work?

Some dogs, like St. Bernards, just don’t like water. Some shepherds don’t like water either but their ability to focus can make them great competitors. Of course, water dogs, like Labrador and Retrievers excel. Dogs compete in their size category and receive scores for longest jump, highest jump, and retrieval speed. The record length jump is 30’ measured by where the tail hits the water. There are regional and even national championships.

The whole sport started when some ESPN guys were partying and watching their dogs play in a pool. They thought it could be a great sport. Now it’s worldwide with clubs in England, Australia, and even Japan. When we have a club competition here there are usually 30 or 40 dogs jumping plus all the owners and friends coming to watch. There’s a food truck – it’s a lot of fun.

How many dogs can you board? How long do they stay? Where do they come from? How much do you charge?

We have had pets who stay for as long as several years for a variety of reasons – for example if their owner is relocated internationally, is ill, or building a house. Most of the time the stay is between two days and a week.

We sometimes have a waiting list on major holidays and the summer months. Spring break is another very busy time when schools are out, families take vacation and the dog can’t go along. At the very slowest time we are still over half full.

Grooming, training, and daycare are always busy. Our clients are from all over and even drive up here from New York City. We charge $29 for a single day and $24 for multiple days, plus charges for any additional services. Our goal has always been to price below the competition. We intend to stay small. We never want to become a factory.

What is your role in running the kennel?

Besides building the facility and maintaining it, I’m the behind-the-scenes guy who takes care of all the paperwork, the insurance, the payroll, marketing, etc. We advertise locally on Robin Hood Radio, and in print in Main Street because I believe in supporting local businesses. Of course, the best kind of advertising is word-of-mouth from happy clients – there are over 2,000 of them. The internet is pretty important to us and we include a lot of information on our website, including our prices.

Is there specialized software used by kennels?

Yes, we use the same software platform that beauty salons and police departments use when checking in people. You enter all the information – boarding, grooming, daycare, training, retail products, etc. When the dog arrives the software keeps track of all of the pet’s information and even finds a kennel number. The software also downloads into QuickBooks. I’m not a budget kind of guy, but I do watch our numbers to make sure we’re on track.

Are there special regulations for operating a kennel?

Once a year we are visited by the Town Fire Marshall and initially the County Health Department approves the facility. Technically any location with five or more dogs needs a special use kennel permit.

Do you ever turn away a dog or send them home?

No, our kennels are set up so if we have a difficult pet we do not need to handle them, so even a vicious dog poses no threat to staff. Oddly enough two of the most ferocious dogs we’ve ever had were a Great Dane and a Chihuahua.

We also know how to take special care of older dogs. We even had a dog that couldn’t walk.

We do insist that all dogs here are current with all recommended inoculations. Sometimes we recommend that they have a flea bath or visit the groomer when they first arrive. All owners must sign a contract with Ledgewood that basically says that if something happens that it’s not our fault and we won’t be held responsible.

What is the most difficult part of running a kennel?

Making sure that the animals are properly taken care of, every day, 24 hours a day is the challenge. I grew up on a horse farm so I understand the constant demands of taking care of animals. Oh, I should mention that we also take care of birds, and other exotic pets. They usually stay in the office.

To learn more about Ledgewood Kennel, you can visit them at 639 Smithfield Rd, Millerton, NY, or call them at (518) 789-6353, or visit them online at www.ledgewoodkennel.com.