At daycare facilities across the Rio Grande Valley, kids can be found playing ball, catching Frisbees or splashing in a swimming pool, and then maybe taking a good, long nap. Except these children are of the four-legged variety. Dog daycare is a growing segment for many dog-boarding businesses to meet the demand for short-term canine care.
More and more dog owners are turning to daycare to avoid leaving their pets home alone while they are at work or running errands. At the Texas Pet Resort in Harlingen, a teacher brings her dog Delta in every Monday through Friday throughout the school year. “Anytime she is in class, Delta is here,” said Kamron Fultz, who runs the pet resort with his wife Vicky. They took over the business in 2012 and have offered daycare ever since.
“We do more of an individualized care for the dogs,” he said. “That way we know exactly what is going on with the dog. I think daycare can be as essential as a daily walk for the dogs.” The Fultzes get to know their charges and can tell if they are not feeling well or off their food, information on behavior they can relay to the owners.
Texas Pet Resort offers long-term boarding, as well, along with grooming services. They have indoor/outdoor runs for the dogs and ample fenced-in play space that includes a swimming pool in the shape of a dog bone.
Kamron said he has seen an increase over the years of pet owners who realize their pets need to socialize with other dogs. “Socialization of dogs is something that’s becoming more important to people, and it’s something that is overlooked far too often,” he said.
The Paws and Claws Pet Resort in Edinburg opened for business in 2000, and was purchased by current owners Mike and Susan Bunney six and a half years ago when they relocated to the Valley from Colorado.
“A lot of daycare people we get are nurses and others with crazy schedules,” Mike said, adding that the growth of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has brought new daycare customers. “We also see young people with rescue dogs that bring their dogs for socialization just like they might drop of their children at a daycare. It helps the dogs immensely and makes them better pets.”
With 50 indoor/outdoor climate-controlled kennels, Paws and Claws has separate areas set aside for small, medium and large dogs and a fenced-in outdoor play area for socialization among dogs. The Bunneys also offer long-term boarding and obedience training. Susan is a certified dog trainer through the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior.
“We are like a pet hotel,” Mike said. “Dogs can stay from as short as daycare to overnight stays. Weekends are always pretty full.”
In a rural setting near Los Fresnos John and Liz Patterson opened the Canine Country Club in 2001. Today, the daily operations are overseen by kennel manager Gabriel Palacios, who came onboard three years ago after working with the Harlingen Humane Society and Friends of Animal Rescue on South Padre Island.
“Since I started working here I have I have seen a lot more daycare dogs,” Palacios said. “We see all sorts of people. We have doctors, Border Patrol agents, nurses and Winter Texans who leave their dogs with us while they make day trips around the Valley.”
As with other dog daycare operations, the Canine Country Club prides itself on providing one-on-one attention to the dogs. “It’s the best way,” Palacios said. “We learn their quirks and behaviors so we can put compatible dogs together for outside play. I try to give them all attention when they go outside.”
While their business is primarily dog training, RGV K9 Training Centre owners Marty and Leslie Vielma launched a dog daycare in the summer of 2017 in response to the demand. “We started it because our clients were asking for something besides boarding,” Marty said.
With years of experience as professional dog trainers, the Vielmas put their knowledge to work to help dogs with behavioral issues and socialization at the daycare. “New clients come in wanting to get their dogs trained and more social,” Marty said. “It’s not only to babysit but to give dogs some rehab if they need it.”
Situated on 10 acres in north Edinburg, the RGV K9 Training Centre has climate-controlled indoor kennels, spacious outdoor play areas as well as a swimming pool. Marty said the dog daycare has been so successful that they are considering expanded staff and facilities, including more outdoor agility equipment to keep the dogs engaged. “We know that the dogs need to be mentally challenged as well as physically challenged,” he said.
Marty recalled an early daycare client whose rescue dog had behavioral issues so serious the owner was considering euthanization. “He brought him every day and I had to introduce him to the other dogs,” he said. “The first week he just stayed by himself. But then he started to gain confidence in becoming part of the doggie daycare pack. By the end of the second week he started warming up to humans.”
Numerous other dog daycare facilities can be found in communities throughout the Valley. Daycare cost run between $10 and $25.