Release The Hounds
By ArbutusWest, on Thursday, October 29th, 2015
ArbutusWest: I was going to ask what drove you to open Release The Hounds, but you just told me before we started recording that you took over four years ago. How did that come about?
James Woller: There’s a personal side to the story – I was living in Africa at the time, in Swaziland, and looking at moving to Vancouver. Dogs are very therapeutic, and I had a bit of a broken soul after working at an orphan care village, so the thought of working with dogs was awesome. I was very attracted to it.
There’s that, and then I also love the dog industry, just from a business perspective. It is definitely something that is so much more meaningful to our society and culture as dogs become way more a part of our families. I was interested in Release The Hounds because it is a newer service – there was more of an opportunity to professionalize and standardize, and a lot of opportunity to make a difference.
ArbutusWest: That’s a good angle to approach it from. So you were living in Swaziland and you heard about the opportunity while you were over there?
James Woller: Not exactly – I’m originally from Kansas, then my parents lived in Kelowna for a couple of years, and I went to university in Langley – so while we were living in Swaziland my wife and I decided to move to Vancouver. When we got here, that’s when the opportunity came up.
ArbutusWest: What do you think you brought to Release The Hounds that was not there before?
James Woller: A different vision, and the capacity to offer more services and to take care of our customers. Nikki Perry – one of the former owners who we bought it from – is one of the foremost best trainers in British Columbia. She’s incredible. What she did with Release The Hounds was amazing, it is such a great brand name and reputation, but she was doing it more or less on her own and totally at capacity.
One thing that has made a big difference for us is making a lot of use of pretty cutting edge, progressive technology that has allowed us to improve safety. For example, each walker goes out with a GPS unit that is a collar that they can put on a dog. If there’s a new dog starting, we’ll throw a GPS collar on them. All the vans are leased, so in that sense the vans are safer – they’re not a used Craigslist purchase – and all the vans have GPS units in them. Every sixty seconds we know where that van is – we call it No Dog Left Behind.
ArbutusWest: It’s nice to live in this era with lots of opportunities to leverage technology that is easily accessible to anybody.
James Woller: We’ve done a lot of that, looked at all kinds of different stuff.
ArbutusWest: GPS, you’ve got that in the vans…
James Woller: GPS in the vans, GPS on the hikers…we’ve now got automatic reports, it’s complicated, but basically every pet parent has a GPS GeoFence zone, and if the van enters that zone they get sent an automatic email saying “your dog was just picked up,” and when their dog gets dropped off again they get sent another email. So it’s just more of that peace of mind.
ArbutusWest: What can a client expect when they engage your services?
James Woller: We’ve built everything that we do on the tenets of professionalism, trust and accountability, and safety. In the mixture of all that we actually really have a good time – it’s just the nature of getting to work with dogs. So as far as what to expect, our customer service is top notch. We’re so confident that our service is so good, that if you’re not happy with it we’ll keep giving you that walk for free until we get it right.
VanEastVet: All about the customer.
James Woller: Totally all about the customer. We’re big on finding their expectations. One woman, she just had a baby a month ago – she has a different expectation of why she needs their dog walked versus somebody who just started a new job and whose working hours are different. We’ve got another customer who simply can’t walk her dog in areas that socialize off-leash. So we look at those expectations, and I think we’re really good at being accommodating and matching what they’re expecting.
We get pet parents to fill out an application, and as they’re filling it out everything they type gets created in the dog’s profile, so as a walker I can see Bruno’s profile, and all those expectations are in there to understand what the customer is looking for, what they expect, plus all the notes on the dog from idiosyncrasies to behaviours to you name it. The technology helps us to personalize.
ArbutusWest: So the longer you have the customer, the better you know the animal, and you have a whole history of what you’ve been through with the animal…
James Woller: Totally. I’ve been a pet parent for years, but now being a human parent, I totally get it. That’s why we use the term pet parents – we really view our customers as parents, and we view our dogs as our kids. That personalization, that level of care, that level of safety, it’s expected just the same as if I was running a daycare with children.
James Woller: Yeah!
Release The Hounds is located at Suite 194 – 3381 Cambie Street in Vancouver, BC , and provides a variety of services ranging from dog walking, boarding, sitting, to raw dog food delivery and more. You can contact Release The Hounds through their site, their Facebook page, or at 604-327-3647 from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30.