Doggy day care center grooms, trains


Photo: Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Several dogs gather and play around a hose and a couple of pools outside Paws Playhouse. The doggy day care is owned by Jolie Shepherd and also offers boarding and grooming services, as well as training sessions.

Ivy Christianson

Day cares are no longer just for children.

Paws Playhouse, Ltd., 923 North 4th St., is a full-service doggy day care facility owned and operated by Jolie Shepherd.

It not only offers day care, but grooming, training and overnight boarding.

Shepherd said doggy day cares were not quite as popular 20 years ago as they are today, and mainly because of how families view their pets.

Nowadays, people are looking at pets as additional family members. Therefore, more money is being invested toward the maintenance of their furry friends. Toys, food and veterinary bills are all necessary costs in pet maintenance. Families can often spend thousands of dollars on these items.

Paws Playhouse has increased its amount of clients every year since opening Oct. 1, 2006, proving its success, Shepherd said.

The process to enlist a dog in the day care is quite rigorous. Applicants must fill out a six-page application that details the animal’s behavior and previous experiences with other animals.

The dogs also need to have updated vaccination records before being allowed in the facility.

Once the dog meets the requirements, it is free to roam with other dogs.

“[The purpose of the day care is] for socialization, especially when they’re puppies and basically, to wear them out,” Shepherd said.

Pet owners find themselves using the day care for various reasons, whether they’re leaving on vacation or just not wanting to leave the dogs at home while at work all day.

Liz Futer, employee for Paws Playhouse, has worked for similar day cares in the Des Moines area, and said paws Playhouse stands out because of the personal relationships with their clients.

“Knowing that their dog is going to be okay for the day and trusting us with that is a huge responsibility,” she said. “It’s not something we take lightly.”

Paws Playhouse has won Best Kennel in Story County four years in a row. They obtained the title in March of 2007 before they had been open for a year.

“We just love animals here. We love dogs, all my staff does,” Shepherd said. “That’s one more reason I hire the people I do, because you have to be able to put up with slobber.”

Dealing with slobber is a definite must when playing with Bosco, a boarder collie that has been attending day care twice a week for three years.

“He has this little trick with a tennis ball,” Shepherd said. “You’ll be standing there, not paying attention, and all of the sudden you’ll get a tennis ball right in between your knees. He will stand there and hang onto it until you close your knees slightly to hold onto it. Then he runs out in front of you and will get down and watch you until you pick it up to throw it for him. He brings it back and sticks it in between your knees again. It doesn’t matter if it’s dry or wet. We’re hoping it’s a swimming pool he dropped it in.”

To keep dogs like Bosco happy, Shepherd said she is looking to upgrade to a larger building that would allow for more play space. Not only that, but she would also like to add in a room just for cats.

Sometimes Paws Playhouse has 50 dogs in the building, which can be quite noisy. With the additional space, they could section off rooms so the noise level wouldn’t be quite so high.

Many owners do like to check in on their pets throughout the day as well, whether via telephone or a personal visit to the day care. She would like to install doggy cameras so the owners could view their dog online.

“The day care I used to work at, there were never enough bodies per dog, so the dogs were never taken care of enough,” Futer said. “Here we have the ability to go back and spend time with dogs that are just boarding. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere, based on keeping the dogs and clients happy.”

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