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.
Along the main promenade in Sam's Town, a row of lush lawns borders one another, cordoned off from the pavement by a white picket fence lined with potted mums. When a hand pushes open the front door of a gable-roof ranch house or cottage, it's attached not to the body of Donna Reed but to that of a yelping canine, one of the overnight guests staying in each of The Dog Knowledge's miniature homes. When pooches aren't watching G-rated films on flat-screen TVs or lounging beneath ceiling fans in their private or bunk-bed abodes, they can venture out to play in a 2-acre facility or relax in a homey lounge filled with couches, tables, and framed photos of Roosevelt's scottish terrier signing The New Deal into law. The Dog Knowledge also grooms dogs' unkempt coats and chips away at unruly behaviors with one-on-one behavioral training, boot camps, and a therapy dog-training program.
At Club K-9 of Charlotte’s two locations, more than 30,000 square feet of space sprawls out for pups to tucker themselves out while their families work or travel out of town. Owner J.P. Brewer and her first-aid- and CPR-certified staff maintain a safe, clean environment where four-legged friends can have fun, exercise, and improve their social skills with little to no anxiety. During doggie daycare, the staff separates dogs by age, size, and temperament and supervises the centers’ indoor and outdoor play areas. Overnight boarding guests enjoy some of the same amenities found in hotels for humans, such as climate-controlled suites with elevated beds, quiet music, and dimmed lights. The Club K-9 team also pet-sits and performs dog-grooming services.
The crew at Pet Paradise coddles both overnight and daytime critter clients in a resort-like enclave with private quarters, sumptuous bedding and toys, and plenty of amenities. Canines revel in the sun-baked lawn surrounding a doggie-bone-shaped swimming pool before cooling humid hides with a refreshing dip. Supervised group playtime gives dogs a chance to find an alto for their moon-serenading choir, and outdoor walks allow for sightseeing and exercise. Pooped pooches relish alone time in indoor/outdoor suites, and kitties retire to a felines-only wing of the resort where soft-playing music relieves the stresses of a long day of napping, stretching, and napping.
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.