With the number of volunteer opportunities at animal shelters, zoos, and other animal care facilities, you can easily gain experience working with animals. You can also apply for a part-time or summer job at a pet shop while still in high school. Talk to pet store workers about their careers. Ask them how they broke into the field and what are the most important skills for success on the job.
The soft barks of the puppies being groomed in the back of the shop; the trills and whistles of the birds in their cages; the bubbling of the fish tanks—these sights and sounds combine to make a visit to the neighborhood pet store unlike any other shopping experience. But running a pet shop calls on the same business skills required for the operation of any retail establishment. Pet shop workers are in the business to sell to customers; many pet stores employ cashiers, sales and marketing people, managers, and bookkeepers. Pet shop owners may also hire pet groomers, animal caretakers, and animal trainers. A pet shop must have a staff that loves animals, is knowledgeable about pets and their care, and is good with customers.
The top priorities for pet shop workers are animal care and customer care. Though the size of the pet shop will determine how many duties are assigned each worker, most pet shop workers take part in preparing the store for opening. They make sure the shop is clean, the shelves are in order, the aisles are clear, and the cash register is ready for sales. Cages and fish tanks are cleaned, and the animals are fed and watered.
The trend for pet shops is moving away from selling cats and dogs, instead many pet shops, such as Petco and Petsmart, collaborate with rescue groups to offer these animals for adoption. In these situations, the care and cleaning of the animals is the responsibility of the rescue group and not the pet shop employee.
Today's pet shops generally specialize in birds, fish, and small animals such as hamsters and mice. Once the animals are taken care of, the pet shop workers see to the needs of the customers. Customers rely on pet shop workers for animal care advice, and expect them to be knowledgeable not only of the pets for sale, but of the food, medicines, and other supplies, as well.
Pet shops may offer a variety of services, including pet grooming, dog training, and animal boarding. They may also offer animal vaccinations. A store manager is often responsible for organizing the various services, interviewing and hiring store employees, meeting and negotiating with distributors, and maintaining records of sales and animal health.