In 2005, Karen McCombs left the corporate world. It was a big decision, but she had a simple reason: "I just decided I wanted to play with dogs," she says. Today, two of her sons work at the original All Wags location in Charlotte, and she and another son have headed out to open All Wags Doggie Daycare and Boarding North in Harrisburg. They've painted the 9,000 square feet of indoor play space with colorful canine murals, but there's also plenty of room outdoors for a dog to play ball, leap into kiddie pools, or plant its owner's flag on the peaks of plastic playground equipment.
The staff takes the time to get to know each dog, from their names to what they like and what they're scared of—and Karen says the dogs are excited to come in and play. She makes sure the staff ratio stays at about 10 dogs to 1 staff member during doggy daycare so that pooches get plenty of attention and exercise. Except for a two-hour rest period, the dogs are out and about the entire time, rather than being cooped up alone at home or made to sit in a cage and nibble listlessly on homework. "It's just a fun, exhausting day for [the dogs]," she says. "They go home and they're very tired." Dogs who are staying the night play with daycare dogs during the day, then retire to 4'x8' kennels with heating and cooling. To make sure everyone's safe, all supervisors are certified in pet first aid by the American Red Cross and have been endorsed by multiple doggy-sniff committees.
For Karen, working with her canine customers has been rewarding, and she knows their human owners appreciate the time she and her staff take to get to know their dogs and individuals. "Everybody's just so happy and ready to see you. It's not like that in the corporate world anymore," she says.
Cooper got a rough start in life. At just three months old, the doberman-hound mix was found on the side of the road, a plastic bag over his head. Thankfully, Cooper's owners rescued him soon after, but his experiences left him with separation anxiety, aggression, and resistance to basic commands. Enter Glenn Shue, owner and lead trainer of Dogtastic Dog Training. Glenn's approach begins by first considering each canine's unique personality, which helps him tailor a training program that combines obedience training with proper socialization. Through one-on-one work with Cooper and his family, Glenn saw the pup through many of his behavioral problems, and he continues rehabilitating Cooper with occasional attention at daycare.
A graduate of Highland Canine Training’s school for dog trainers, Glenn and his team apply his teaching principles in each of their training programs. With an indoor training space at All Wags Doggie Daycare & Boarding, they organize group obedience classes and in-kennel training, as well as puppy training that focuses on building healthy social skills. Services further extend to private in-home training, where instructors teach dogs how to sit, stay, and mix martinis. Glenn's team also specializes in behavior modification for pets with aggression problems.
Lessons at Thalia Farm presents a nurturing, safe, and fun environment where students can learn to become well-rounded horseback riders through lessons, summer camps, and after-school programs. Specializing in dressage and three-day eventing from the balanced, versatile seat of English equitation, instructors use riding as a conduit for instilling leadership skills, responsibility, safety, and discipline. Lessons incorporate jumping and basic flatwork, as well as handling and grooming trained lesson horses. Students also learn how to tack and untack their mounts without help from the instructor or the talking horse in the next stall.
At first glance, Fullwood Animal Hospital might look like a hospital for humans. Only diminutive treatment tables and a row of boarding cages hint that its pristine, professional spaces are actually for healing pets. The hospital boasts all equipment necessary to diagnose and treat animals: an X-ray, ECG machine, a surgical suite with anesthesia. There's even a lab on-site, so some basics parasite and urinalysis tests can undergo analysis quickly.
Metro Paws' day-care facility boasts more than 16,000 square feet of air-conditioned indoor play space, more than 25,000 square feet of fenced outdoor space, and an on-staff team of super-smart puppies. Drop off your four-legged friend for two full days of attentive care and fun-filled playtime ($50) at the day care's accommodating digs, sparing yourself the guilt of leaving your pet alone during days when you can't be around the house. Metro Paws is staffed with friendly, experienced employees at all hours, ensuring your pup will always be safe and never feel lonely. Dogs attending day care are assigned to "neighborhoods" of 10-15 other cuddly companions. All indoor amusement areas are outfitted with cushioned, non-skid rubber flooring. For pick-up and drop-off times, see here.