DULUTH (AP) -- Now, you can wash the family dog without laying waste to the family bathroom.
Two Northland car washes are offering patrons equipment to spiff up not only their vehicles but their pets, as well.
Hermantown Car & Pet Wash brought the first coin-operated pet wash station to northern Minnesota in late March. Big Dog Car & Pet Wash in Two Harbors recently opened the region's second laundromutt, if you will.
Basically, these are large stainless steel tubs on legs that dogs enter by way of a ramp. Once there, pets can be secured in place with a short leash.
Plug in the machine, and you're good to go.
The routine is similar to using a do-it-yourself car wash. Dial in the type of shampoo you desire, and it begins to dispense from a hand-held sprayer. Besides standard soap, other options include flea and tick soap, conditioner and a deodorizer, billed as an effective way to combat even skunk spray.
Spin the dial to rinse to wash away the shampoo, then switch to a hand-held dryer for the final step.
The cost of washing a dog typically ranges between $5 and $6.
Rob Irving, owner of the Hermantown pet wash, advises customers to bring dog biscuits or other treats to encourage their pets into the tub.
Irving also strongly recommends people consider donning the apron he keeps on the premises.
"You will get wet," he warned. "Dogs are still going to shake. But here's a self-contained place where you can go and make a mess without having to clean the walls afterward."
"Washing the dog has always been a dreaded job in our home," said Cheryl Cooke of Cloquet as she lathered up her English springer spaniel, Louie. "But here, I can wash him, and I don't have to deal with a messy bathroom."
Cooke, whose husband works for Irving at his other business, Hermantown Millwork, has been taking Louie to the pet wash one or two times per month since it opened.
She said she's been keeping the dog cleaner, now that washing him is less of a production. And Cooke also prefers cleaning Louie herself rather than sending him to a salon.
"I think it's a lot less stressful for him than having a stranger do it," Cooke said.
Irving said the pet wash has been well received, but he wasn't sure whether revenue has yet surpassed the $3,500 cost of the equipment and installation.
Mark LeBlanc, who owns Big Dog with his brother, Wade, estimates their investment in a dog-washing station was about $4,500. Like Irving, he expects most of his revenues to come from car wash traffic, but he notes that the pet wash sets his business apart from others.
Roger Searson, a marketing and sales representative for P.D. McClaren, a Canadian company that manufacturers the coin-operated pet wash stations, said LeBlanc and Irving have the right idea.
"The main purpose of installing these units at car washes is not just to generate income," he said. "They're there to support another profit center."
"People remember we're the car wash with the pet wash," Irving said. "It's an added service that really helps with marketing."
While do-it-yourself pet washes are new to northern Minnesota, they're hardly a recent arrival in the state. Sandra Nielson opened Pet Splash in Eagan 13 years ago.
Irving said there are at least six self-service pet washes operating in the Twin Cities area.
Searson said his company has sold about 100 pet wash stations to American customers. Although he lacks concrete figures, he suspects a competing manufacturer in Calgary has sold a similar number of coin-operated tubs into the U.S. market.
"You see these all over the rest of the country," Irving said. "We're probably about seven years behind the curve up here."
LeBlanc expects more Northland pet washes to spring up in the future. But as one of the first pet wash operators in the area, he's had to take some guff.
"One guy told me I had to be the stupidest person he'd ever met. He wanted to know why we would build a pet wash here when just about the biggest, cheapest one in the world is next door. You just go down to Burlington Bay and throw Fido a stick."
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