Metro Detroit pet resorts pamper pooches

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Gunner Messana jumps into the heated, indoor pool for his afternoon swim. Autumn Merrifield arrives to have her hair dyed pink. Jango Ponton finds his spot near the fireplace and television in his suite.

These dogs are all frequenters to the Bark-A-Bout Pet Activity Center and Resort in Shelby Township. Gunner, a yellow Lab; Autumn, a poodle; and Jango, a whippet, are just three of the many dogs throughout Metro Detroit experiencing expanding amenities offered through pet daycare and boarding facilities.

From pools and water parks to massages and blueberry facials, pet resorts for dogs are offering more extravagant experiences for pet parents to pamper their pooches and, in doing so, changing the definition of what it means to live a dog’s life.

Michelle Nikiforuk, owner of Bark-A-Bout, said she has seen a change in the animal care industry away from the traditional kennel-style boarding of animals where they stay in cages most of the time.

“It’s definitely shifting,” Nikiforuk said, who opened Bark-A-Bout in 2009. “The industry has evolved. … I feel dogs should be socially, mentally and physically stimulated. They need to have that outlet, just like us. We wouldn’t want to be cooped up in a room all day.”

Since 2011, pet grooming and boarding has increased 6.6 percent annually, according to IBISWorld’s 2016 Pet Grooming & Boarding market research report. In 2015, $5.41 billion was spent on grooming and boarding pets, the American Pet Products Association reported. Its 2015-16 National Pet Owners Survey showed households spend $333 on average on boarding dogs in one year.

Bark-A-Bout has expanded its building twice and now is at maximum capacity 90 percent of the time with around 100 dogs every day. Nikiforuk said she is looking into expanding to other locations.

Carrie Krausmann — owner of Lil’ Dogs Resort in St. Clair Shores, which serves only miniature, small and medium-sized dogs — said her business has seen gradual growth in its seven years as well, and regularly has 20 dogs for daycare with a varying number of dogs who are boarded.

Liz Blondy owns Canine to Five, which began in Detroit’s Midtown 11 years ago and opened a Ferndale location three years ago. Canine to Five regularly has 100 dogs in daycare and 12-50 being boarded, depending on the time of year at each location. This year, it opened Tiny Town, a space specifically for dogs under 20 pounds, at its Ferndale space.

Most pet resorts offer daycare and overnight service. Daycare starts around $25 per day and overnight around $30, though most places offer packages for new customers and regulars. Many of the special services require an additional fee.

Extras include individual playtime, swim training, weight loss management, birthday parties, hot tub therapy, special treats, gourmet meals and pedicures. Some places offer “tuck-ins” for dogs complete with a bedtime story and a belly rub, for some bonus one-on-one time. Bark-A-Bout has a dock diving pool, installed with the help of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox, in which fans of the sport can train.

Blondy said many dog owners see their dogs as children, and by providing the opportunity for them to take advantage of these bonus services, pet resorts can widen the breadth of their clientele.

“We have to accommodate all sorts of dog parents,” Blondy said. “Some people really spoil their dogs. Some say, ‘We’re about the basics.’ ”

Allison Mourad owns Artemis Pet Care and Massage and does dog massages based on the Swedish style at Lil’ Dogs Resort. She said dog massages are becoming more mainstream as people turn away from medications for the health of their pets.

“It has the same benefits it has for people,” Mourad said. “A lot of people look at it as a luxury, but ... it increases circulation, decreases stress and can improve mobility and flexibility.”

Nikiforuk said at Bark-A-Bout, people do not typically order the extra amenities offered. She said overnight dogs more often get extra, and the amenities can refresh a routine for frequent daycare pups.

Susan King, of Grosse Pointe Farms, takes her Cavachon, Lola, to Lil’ Dogs Resort three times a week. She also has her groomed there, getting a bath, shampoo, her nails done and a one-on-one pet.

“Did you know they have birthday parties, Halloween parties for dogs?” said King, noting she was surprised to learn about all that pet resorts do. “Grooming there is convenient. She can get her bath and then run off to daycare.”

Krausmann of Lil’ Dogs Resort said she offers special amenities because it’s how she treats her pets at home. Boarding rooms are designed like a home with televisions, a fireplace, soft furniture and a chandelier hanging from the ceiling to cast soothing light.

“I’m not just going to offer four walls and a floor,” Krausmann said. “I watch TV with my dogs, listen to music with my dogs. I dance with my dogs at home; I dance with them here.”

Penny Simpson — who has taken Penelope Rose, a beagle and Chihuahua mix that goes by Rosie, to Lil’ Dogs Resort since September — said the atmosphere calmed her nerves about bringing her shy dog to the resort for daycare.

The St. Clair Shores resident said Rosie would growl at family members and wouldn’t go near any other dog. She said she didn’t know if her dog would be able to get along with the other dogs at the resort, but after a few visits, Rosie began to warm up to some of the others and became less afraid at home, too.

“Now when I walk her, Rosie pulls me over so she can socialize,” Simpson said. “She sits very nicely when I’m speaking with someone. It brings tears to my eyes.”

Moving toward bringing about a “better dog,” Blondy said many pet resorts also provide information to pet owners on their dogs’ behavior, habits and body to ensure the best care.

Many facilities also have web cams that pet owners can log into online to watch their dogs play or sleep in their suites.

Suzanne Beaudette, of Harrison Township, takes her Maltese, Pierre, to Lil’ Dogs Resort twice a week. She said he gets so excited about going, he’ll jump into his Louis Vuitton carrying bag an hour before they leave.

“I work so much,” Beaudette said. “I don’t feel so guilty that I’m at work, when he’s there.”

Nikiforuk added thata sending dogs to a pet resort to exercise and play all day can help to further the relationship between owner and dog.

“Owners are going and going,” the Bark-A-Bout owner said. “They want pets to love on them. It gives them that bond because both are exhausted at the end of the day. They’re ready to cuddle and snuggle with one another.”

Linda Pratt of Macomb Township — owner of Arthur, the Boston terrier and mountain feist mix — has taken her dog to Bark-A-Bout since he was a puppy seven years ago. She said the resort allows Arthur to exhaust his energy.

“His temper has become calm,” Pratt said. “I don’t know what I would do without them. It’s worth every dollar I spend there.”

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Using your pennies to pamper your pooch

Pet resorts offer a variety of amenities. Here are some and what they cost:

■Canine to Five offers a dedicated staff member overnight, Peanut Butter and Honey Pooch Pop, cuddle and brush session, daily dog massage and nighttime fetch for dogs in its Premier Overnight Care package for $65.

■Bedtime story, vacation photo and tuck-in are $5 each at Bark-A-Bout.

■A blueberry facial at Bark-A-Bout is $8.

■Swim time or a treadmill run is $10 at Bark-A-Bout.

■Paw Print Inn Pet Resort and Spa in Novi makes chicken pot pie or braised beef stew for dinner for $4.

■Artemis Pet Care and Massage offers 30-minute massages for $40.