More than 65 million households in the U.S. have at least one dog, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association. “The pet space is absolutely exploding,” said John Kanski, founder and CEO of Salty Dawg Pet Salon. By Patty Horansky
More than 65 million households in the U.S. have at least one dog, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association.
“The pet space is absolutely exploding,” said John Kanski, founder and CEO of Salty Dawg Pet Salon. People love and care for their pets as family, but when it comes to grooming quality, professional service often is lacking, Kanski said. He first noticed a disconnect when his wife, Jenni, would take their springer spaniel, Maddie, for grooming.
“The dog we dropped off and the dog we picked up were so different, and it would always take a couple of days for her to recover,” Kanski said.
He noticed that grooming took place behind the scenes. “I always wondered, ‘What is going on back there?’” he said.
Jenni, a seasoned hairstylist, began grooming Maddie herself. “My wife just grabbed some clippers and just started clipping,” he said. Also taking shape was Kanski’s idea for a quality, transparent dog-grooming salon offering a calming, spa-like experience.
Kanski, a Paul Mitchell Schools owner, contacted friend Wynn Claybaugh, founder and co-owner of Paul Mitchell Advanced Education, and proposed training professional stylists to groom dogs in a visible, nurturing environment. In its more than 20 years, Paul Mitchell Schools has graduated over 200,000 hairdressers, which Kanski recognized as part of a pool of groomers and franchisees when he founded Salty Dawg in 2018.
Kanski and Claybaugh designed a curriculum and training for grooming dogs and were producing groomers within weeks. Salty Dawg’s stylists excel at scissor-cutting and clipper-over-comb techniques and are knowledgeable about pet hair texture, skin and nails. Franchised in 2020, Salty Dawg offers employee training and ownership along three tracks: for licensed hairdressers who want to groom dogs, current dog groomers and pet lovers with no grooming experience.
With three salons open, two in construction and nine in agreement as of May, Kanski is focused on creating a solid workforce and workflow built upon the Paul Mitchell “Be Nice” culture.
“When you walk into Salty Dawg, first of all, everything is glass and transparent,” Kanski said. Salons are clean and well-lighted, with their own scent piped in. “It doesn’t smell like wet dog,” he said. “The dog experience is at the forefront, and you can feel that.”
Indoor seating is available, but pet parents sometimes sit in their cars and watch. “It’s challenging,” Kanski said. “You’re on display. You’re holding someone’s child essentially.”
Salty Dawg was built as a franchise-first model and is looking for potential owners to carry out the vision of disrupting the pet-grooming world. The salons also sell dog foods, treats, toys and accessories.
As an emerging brand, Salty Dawg offers comprehensive training, including group and one-on-one meetings. Support is ongoing and the brand provides real estate and architectural guidance, marketing and advertising.
“My success is really determined by these early stores doing well. That’s probably the biggest thing,’’ Kanski said. “I’m looking for nice people to get active, get involved and be in their store.”