There is no denying the pandemic brought a rise in pet owners. As people moved to remote-work, leisure switched from travel and nights out to staycations and at-home hobbies. For many, the extra time resulted in becoming a pet owner.
Now, as people switch to part-time remote work or have fully transitioned back to in-person jobs, it is imperative to determine the best course of action for their pets.
“Dog care is undergoing a lot of transformation, as we speak,” says Jim Hannesschlager, owner of Dogtopia locations in Fairfax and Falls Church. “What’s really happened in the last 10 years, I’d say—and really accelerated in the last five—has been kind of the mainstreaming of the doggy daycare facility.”
Different doggy daycares offer different benefits, and overnight offerings range from pet boarding to pet resorts. With a plethora of options for dog-owners, it is important to understand the advantages of each overnight/daycare option.
The most common service a pet-owner may find is boarding, which is an overnight stay for one or multiple nights. Often, places offering overnight boarding likewise offer a daycare option and the option for your pet to experience a spa treatment. Two Falls Church locations which offer these three services are Dogtopia and Dude’s.
“Everyone really in this industry is offering the same set of services, and those are dog daycare, dog boarding, and some version of spa services,” says Jim.
With a baseline of what to expect at dog daycares, finding the right fit for your pet comes down to preference and further offerings or specializations.
“What we specialize in is the daily care of dogs and the intimate knowledge and light training and exercise and socialization that happens in our playrooms,” says Jim. “Dogtopia is all about a dog first mentality and not so much a business first mentality.”
Jim went on to state that Dogtopia conducted and sponsored a third-party study on the benefits of daycare for dogs. The study found those that attended daycares had, on average, a higher step-count (6,000 vs 30,000), and those that regularly attended daycares lived approximately two years longer than dogs who did not attend daycare. Ultimately, the benefits of exercise and social interaction are not exclusive to humans.
“This is something we talk about a lot with pet parents who are trying to determine whether they should do it or how often they should come,” says Jim. “It ends up being a lot like a human going to the gym two to three days a week. You might just prolong their life.”
At Dude’s, owner Andrew McBride aims to emphasize an open atmosphere. Dude’s is cage-free, meaning the dogs are not put into crates or kills. Rather, the dogs openly sleep as a group at night. Furthermore, staff is constantly monitoring the dogs, as staff members spend the night.
“The difference for me is your dog comes to an open environment,” says McBride. “Every hour they get to go outside into our outdoor area and run around.”
For McBride, Dude’s services cater to a wide clientele. His doggy daycare may house pandemic dogs, dogs with separation anxiety and ultimately dogs with owners who desire for them to have fun and interaction.
“There’s a couple of different ways that the clients come to us,” says McBride. “Some people are home, but they really want their dog to get some socialization.”
Ultimately, an open space with socialization and the opportunity for exercise is what every dog needs. Just as we humans desire interaction, fresh air and the ability to roam, so do our furry friends.