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In Pictures: Pooches have a spa day at Dogtopia

U.S.-based company plans a big expansion into Canada

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CEO Amy Nichols founded Dogtopia in 2002 when she opened the first location in Tysons Corner, Va. Clients drop off their dogs for care that includes exercise, gourmet treats, shampoos and even pedicures. When owners leave for vacation, Dogtopia provides overnight stays in accommodations far more comfortable than a kennel. Last year, sales from the company’s 29 U.S. locations amounted to more than $14-million (U.S.).


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Now Dogtopia is planning a rapid expansion into Canada. But where should it establish the planned 35 franchises? Ms. Nichols senses a big opportunity. Dogs can be found in one-third of Canadian households, according to Ipsos Reid, and Canadians spent $6.5-billion in 2012 on their beloved animals, according to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada.


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Though dog lovers share similar qualities wherever they live, Ms. Nichols knows that Canadian regional and cultural differences must be respected. “It’s always very different when you go into another region, and Canada is even more unique because it is another country,” she says, adding that Dogtopia is aiming to find a local owner for each franchise.


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The lobby of a Dogtopia location in the U.S. The company aims to spend less than 18 per cent of the projected revenue in each location on a commercial lease; that figure has proven to be key to the financial success of Dogtopia's U.S. operations. Finding Canadian sites that match that criteria and also meet the demographic profile has been difficult, however. In the U.S., most of the Dogtopia locations are in the suburbs. With Canada’s population based around its major cities and its distinct cultural differences, the company is carefully scrutinizing the locations during its expansion plans.


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Dogtopia has held fundraisers to create awareness and generate support for U.S. military dogs and their handlers stationed overseas.


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A pup gets a wash in an event that benefits Veterans Moving Forward Inc. and America's VetDogs. (Correction: An earlier version of this slideshow mis-attributed the statistic about dog ownership in Canada. It came from Ipsos Reid, not Statistics Canada.)


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