Northeast Tarrant

Faces of Doggie Daycare

Taking pooches to paid-for playdates and pampering sessions might have elicited giggles 10 years ago, but today, doggie daycare is a booming business. National trends in the dog boarding industry have produced far more choices than the basics of a traditional kennel or veterinarian’s office — which typically entail a lot of cage time and a few short, on-leash potty breaks.

In Keller, it’s easy to find boarding or grooming services at businesses like Dogs Unleashed Daycare and Pet Hollywood.Many operations combine the services so that a dog owner’s travel time becomes an opportunity for a canine spa weekend. On the glam side of the industry, oh-so-trendy pet hotels equip private “suites” with TVs and webcams — the former, to surround visitors with reassuring human voices; the latter, to give worried owners a glimpse of how their beloved pups are faring.

“All this comes down to the fact that pets have moved from the backyard to the bedroom,” says Rob Hance, owner of Keller’s Creekside Pet Care Center on Davis Boulevard. Hance attributes the higher levels of service and increased choices to a changing relationship between pets and their owners, with animals considered family members “more than ever before.”

“Owners want their pets treated as well as themselves,” he says.

Relaxing and Romping

Owners of local doggie daycare businesses say some of their most frequent patrons are pet owners who work long hours and don’t want to leave their dogs crated and alone for 10 hours or more. Others travel regularly and take comfort in knowing that their dogs aren’t suffering from neglect or boredom while they’re away. And then there’s a third kind of patron, who simply thinks socially engaged dogs are happier dogs, and these dog owners are willing to pay for species-specific “playcare.”

That’s the bread-and-butter of business at Bark ‘N Lounge in Keller, a Monday-Friday canine camp that unapologetically bucks the luxury trend and embraces a dogs-just-want-to-have-fun mindset. Owner Dawn Schrader puts an emphasis on canine-focused romping and interaction, and says her business operates on the theory that a full day of exercise and attention, even just once a week, can relieve animal anxiety and the destructive tendencies that come with canine anxiety.

“Dogs are highly social, and they need other dog companions,” Schrader says. “They come here for that and as an energy outlet, so at the end of the day, when owners are tired and don’t have energy to go on a log walk, the dogs have already gotten all that playful energy out with other dogs.”

The Keller Citizen’s “Best of the Best” winner since 2010, Bark ‘N Lounge divides playcare groups by size and temperament, and dogs are kept on-the-go, traveling between a rubber-matted indoor play yard and two outdoor grassy areas from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., stopping mid-day for a two-hour siesta from noon to 2. Boarders join in all the daycamper fun, sans the extra fee some competitors command, and Schrader says the facility maxes out with 60 dogs, while the normal day brings in 30-40.

A frequent Bark ‘N Lounger is a Goldendoodle named Baya whose owner, Amy Sidebottom of Keller, is a big fan. “I can drop my dog off there either for daycare or boarding and not even think twice or even have to worry,” Sidebottom says, “because I know my dog is getting loved on by the staff and getting exposure and exercise that she otherwise wouldn’t get while I was at work.”

Even pet industry retailers like PetSmart have jumped on the doggie playcare bandwagon, adding Pet Hotel boarding services to many of their stores and enhancing them with seven-day-a-week daycare and boarding operations. PetSmart’s Alliance location on Texas Sage Trail accommodates more than 200 dogs in its PetsHotel and keeps close to 50 spots open for Doggie Daycamp visitors. All accommodations are indoors. Boarders join the campers for a fee, and staff are on premises 24 hours a day.

Pampered Pooches

Competitors like Creekside Pet Care Center and Dogs Rule (a popular spot that’s expected to change its name this month) also embrace the rambunctiousness of a day at the dog park, but additionally provide a complex mix of deluxe boarding and grooming amenities.

Hance says day camp at Creekside is all about social engagement and “sending dogs home worn out from all the fun,” but his offerings cater to those who want pampering, too — as in The Barkstone’s seven private “luxury doggy suites,” attractively housed within an exterior styled as a miniature-sized row of brownstones. Each temperature-controlled suite has a comfy couch or bed, a flat-screen TV — tuned to pet-themed movies, of course — and a private exterior window. Whether staying at The Pet Lodge or The Barkstone, Creekside customers have access to a veterinarian during daytime hours and plenty of patrons take advantage of lap-of-luxury grooming treatments that include baths to soothe itchy skin and gland expression therapies that reportedly leave pets feeling “revitalized.”

“With The Barkstone, I wanted to bring something in that was a little more elite for clients that preferred that,” Hance says. “It made a lot of sense for us because most of our clients really expect a higher level of pet care services.”

Elite Suites in Southlake is firmly positioned on the creature comfort bandwagon, emphasizing design aesthetics strong on human appeal. Deluxe and elite suites feature Posturepedic beds and the ever-popular personal televisions and webcam — both of which come standard in each suite. The grounds span 22,000 square feet and guests are escorted outdoors for play periods five to six times a day — either alone or with five furry friends, depending on their preferences and temperaments. Meanwhile, four full-time groomers offer a plethora of appearance-enhancing treatments. A puppy pedi, includes, of course, a coat of nail polish. And indulgent — or guilty — owners often order room service, paying for yummy extras from the gourmet treat bakery.

And at nearby Paradise 4 Paws, the familiar doggie-fun-plus-luxe theme gets an extra boost from its DFW Airport location. The flat-screen TVs and 24/7 webcams are standard in all rooms, and a Top Dog Suite features chandelier lighting, mirrors, wrought-iron beds and 4-inch-thick lounging cushions. Less posh suites are available, and extra goodies range from frozen treats and peanut butter Kongs to personal cuddle time, private splash lessons, a session with a dog masseuse, laser tag games and outdoor hikes.

Katie Legendre of Keller boards her Old English Sheepdogs, Molly and Dolly, at Paradise 4 Paws because she appreciates that the dogs spend more time out exercising and socializing than sitting in crates. Noting that she’s been impressed by the cleanliness of the large, indoor play space — and the bone-shaped splash pool ups the cuteness factor — she says the convenience of the location seals the deal.

“I think it’s genius,” she says. “You can leave your car here, take the courtesy shuttle and it’s more affordable than airport parking. No matter what time your flight gets in, you know you can always get your dog.”

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