Working from home for many means having co-workers of the furry varietal. And with not much else to do or places to be, dogs can get more attention than ever while owners are social distancing. But for Tails Up Dog Training owner Kori Bevis, the spread of COVID-19 meant making the difficult decision to postpone all of the business’ group classes.
Tails Up has been teaching dogs how to sit since 1995, and Bevis, who took over in 2011 when she purchased it from the previous owner, has continued to provide all levels of obedience training.
Now with the spread of coronavirus, Bevis is balancing her human clientele’s safety and their dogs’ education. As a partial solution, she is looking to develop online videos to help keep up with training remotely.
TCB: How has your work changed or been disrupted by coronavirus?
Bevis: Our business has been severely disrupted due to the coronavirus. There isn’t really a definite category for “dog training,” but we felt that we fit within the Governor’s order to close businesses for two weeks, starting March 17th. So all of our group classes have been postponed.
So that affects the 250 students currently taking classes, plus it will affect the future as the classes that we have scheduled for the next session will have to be pushed out. Hopefully those students will choose to be patient and will not decide to cancel their enrollments.
Q: Is there anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or create new streams of revenue?
A | During these two weeks of closure, I have increased my availability for private lessons with my students who compete with their dogs in obedience. We are easily able to maintain appropriate “social distance” in our large 8600-sqaure-foot facility. Unfortunately this work doesn’t even come close to financially making up for the revenue from group classes. We have also been working hard to develop online videos of the things we typically demonstrate in person during our classes. We plan to send these to current students to keep them going, and potentially to create a new online offering in the future. This is something totally new for us - we have been completely in person up to this point.
Q: Do you anticipate work bouncing back quickly or are you bracing for the worst?
A | That’s one of the most difficult things with this whole situation: all the uncertainty. For us, it all depends on how long we need to be shut down. If we need to shut down for an extended amount of time, it could potentially be very hard for us to ever recover from that. It also depends upon how people feel about attending group classes once our business is allowed to reopen. I’m hopeful that because of our large space, our ability to “socially distance,” and the fact that you don’t need to touch anything other than your belongings and your dog, that our students will feel comfortable continuing to train their dogs in a group environment. Things that worked from a dog-centric position before, now also apply to humans. We always encouraged our students to keep their dogs close by and not let them interact closely with the other dogs - that’s canine social distancing. We have also always maintained a commitment to cleanliness to avoid passing canine viruses like kennel cough; this now applies to human viruses as well.
Q: Are you doing anything to keep up morale for yourself, employees, and clients in the midst of the pandemic?
A | I try to stay focused on the idea that our dogs don’t know anything about a pandemic - they still need activity and need to be trained. I’m emphasizing that we can use this “down time” at home to do more work with our dogs. For myself, I am trying to just take it one day at a time.
Q: Do you see any bright spots in this crisis?
A | I have been so very touched to receive emotional and financial support from some of my regular clients. Many have wanted to buy classes in advance that they can use later, to help Tails Up through this period of no income. I have had several clients email to ask me how I am doing, and to express sympathy for me as a small business owner. I was very nervous that I would receive negative emails due to the two week closure, but everyone has been so nice and supportive.
Q: Best advice for being stuck at home ?
A | Stay in communication with people via email and phone calls to get that human connection. Make time to have a casual conversation and just ask someone how it’s all going for them.