SEATTLE — Little cots, cubbies with names, family photos on the walls and even blueberry-infused facials.
The popularity of doggy day cares in Seattle is on the rise. And some of the perks are so nice for our furry friends that one woman on a recent tour of day care CityDog! Club began to weep.
“She said the doggy day care was nicer than her kid’s day care. She said, ‘I wish my kid’s day care was this nice,'” said Phillip Kasdorf, a co-founder of the luxury pet-sitting center.
People like her are among those who are turning a fairly new type of business into one of hound-hooked Seattle’s most successful enterprises.
The number of business licenses issued by the city to “non-veterinary pet services” — which include doggy day cares, dog walkers and groomers — has more than quadrupled over the past decade.
Last year, there were 328 licenses in Seattle.
Seattle, a city with more dogs than children, was one of the first regions in the country to really embrace the services.
“It used to be a Seattle anomaly,” said Maria French, manager of The Barking Lounge, which opened in 2004 and features two indoor dog parks where denizens are separated by size and temperament.
“I’d travel and tell people what I do and they’d look at me cross-eyed,” said French, a former nuclear engineer for the Navy, “but living here allows us to really push forward on the levels of care we can provide and what we can we do to share our love for dogs.”
The Barking Lounge was among the first in the area to provide overnight care for dogs with a full-time, 24-hour attendant.
Now such service is a standard of care, according to Brad Davis, the owner of Woof! Play & Stay on Taylor Avenue North, where the focus is on fitness and tailored exercise regimes. Overnight guests also have the choice of bedding down in a relatively spacious “luxury suite” or a smaller den.
“The person who thinks of their dog as just a dog is not our target customer,” Davis said.
He opened on Oct. 1 last year and is already turning a profit. Most days, he said, his establishment is near capacity with 40 to 55 guests.
Vivian Konstantakos said her dog, a Leonberger named Takos, pulls on the leash as soon as he realizes he’s close to his friends at Davis’ day care.
“If you have a child and you work all day, you are not going to leave your child home alone,” says Konstantakos. “It is just the same when you are a dog parent. You need to know your dog is having quality time and is relaxed and happy.”
On average, full-time doggy day care in the city costs between $700 and $750 a month before add-ons, like extra walks, baths and other pampering.
“Our most popular add-on is the blueberry facial,” said Kasdorf, of CityDog! Club, which has a downtown location and one in Ballard. “The dogs love it and the humans love it.”
Another favored treatment is the Paw Balm, in which caretakers massage lotion into concrete-calloused feet.
At CityDog! Club, like most all other day cares, dogs are required to be fully vaccinated and must pass a temperament test that shows they can play well with others.
At the downtown location, at Olive Street and Eighth Avenue, passers-by can look in the window and see what looks like a children’s day-care center with rows of little cots and even a fire hydrant.
Watching on webcam
“We want to be totally transparent,” said Kasdorf. “We know that people want to see where their dog is playing, where their dog eats and where they take a bath. We have indoor play parks, a style bar and a webcam that members can log into anytime.”
Some obsessed pet owners even log into the webcam, minimize the screen at their work station and keep an eye on their dog all day long, he said. They find it both reassuring and uplifting.
The Barking Lounge also has a webcam that is accessible to anyone who wants to see the dogs playing.
When French, of The Barking Lounge, leaves her own dog at the center for travel, she’s frequently logged in herself.
“I start to go through pooch withdrawals,” French said. “It’s not something everyone understands, but it is understood by people who know how amazing and unique dogs are.”
Kasdorf said, “The Seattle market is just phenomenal. It’s such a dog-friendly city. Dogs are no longer in a doghouse in the backyard here; they have moved into the house with the humans and are sleeping in the bed.”