Dog owners pay thousands of dollars to join exclusive dog clubs

When Mariana Lucero’s mini Australian Shepherd Artie was 4 months old, she took him to Tompkins Square Park dog park for the first – and last – time.

“An unsupervised dog lashed out at Artie, biting him so hard he stayed under a shaking bench and refused to come out,” said the dental assistant who lives on the Lower East Side.

From that point on, she relegated her off-leash play to the schoolyard for dogs in the East Village. The canine academy organizes exclusive groupings of six preselected dogs to frolic in complete safety under the supervision of two owners and a trainer.

“I love the safety and the fact that Artie is relearning to trust other dogs,” Lucero said of his now one year old puppy. “School Yard has really changed her life for the better.”

School yard parents, including Mariana Lucero (second from right), pay an annual fee of $ 2,200 for their puppies.
Stefano Giovannini
Stephanie Higgs and her dog, Mu, at school for dogs.
Stephanie Higgs and her dog, Mu, at school for dogs.
Stefano Giovannini

While any old pooch can run off leash in one of the city’s 140 dog enclosures, some pet owners are opting for more upscale member-only facilities that promise to play with well-behaved pets, from cleanliness and surveillance.

“Every dog ​​park would be better off if there was someone in charge, a lifeguard if you will,” said Annie Grossman, owner of the school for the dogs.

Not all dogs can participate in the experiment. Before being accepted, owners take a rules and etiquette quiz, submit a video of their dog interacting off-leash with others, and complete an in-person interview. In the end, 25 percent of applicants are ultimately rejected.

Annie Grossman and Poppy spend a day at the dog school.
Annie Grossman and Poppy spend a day at the dog school.
Stefano Giovannini
Cassondra Bazelow's dog, Sally, frolic with another furry student.
Cassondra Bazelow’s dog Sally (bottom) is having fun with another furry student.
@sallylongdog

“We don’t accept everyone because sometimes it’s clear that this won’t be the right environment for the dog,” Grossman said, adding that when she runs a session she chooses to play The Beatles, The Beach Boys or “music for dogs” on Spotify. “We want this place to have the right vibe for our human customers and their dogs.”

And, while Grossman acknowledged that the $ 2,200 annual fee for an off-leash membership (or $ 200 per month) for five sessions per month is expensive, she noted that it is one of the most valuable ways. for a dog to learn to socialize safely, and that clients greatly appreciate the presence of a trainer.

“We have a kind of client who really wants to be the best dog owner possible and give their dog the best possible life within the constraints of New York City,” she said. “It really is a dog social club and we are promoting it as a way to prepare a dog for success in their spare time.”

Some of the lucky participants of the Acme Dog Run in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Some of the lucky participants of the Acme Dog Run in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Stefano Giovannini
The director of Acme Dog Run, Sara-Sun Cangelosi.
The director of Acme Dog Run, Sara-Sun Cangelosi.
Stefano Giovannini

Close to the Ruff Club, dog owners gather at a century-old converted tavern on Avenue A to sip locally roasted coffee, use free Wi-Fi, and hang out with their four-legged friends in a space that bills itself as a “contemporary pet care hub.” All members must first apply and schedule a temperament assessment before paying $ 149 per year to access the space, with daycare priced at $ 40 per day.

Naturally, Greenwich, Connecticut also has its own exclusive pooch pledging system. In September, Jessica DelGuercio plans to open a boutique-style membership called PAWS of Greenwich Canine Club. Monthly VIP membership starts at $ 1,200 for adults and $ 1,440 for puppies, and includes drop-and-go child care from 7 am to 7 pm seven days a week.

“In some cases the dogs – or their owners – may not be the best suited to the style of our club,” said DelGuercio. The registration process, which starts at $ 125, includes a behavioral assessment and two daycare trials.

A more affordable urban offering can be found at Acme Dog Run, which opened in Gowanus, Brooklyn in late 2019, offering well-behaved puppies that play indoors in a 4,000-square-foot space that was once a factory. of upholstery fabrics. For $ 15 for two hours, the puppies frolic while the owners enjoy free coffee, music from a jukebox, and cozy benches.

Ed Stickradt and his dog, Roxie, attending Acme Dog Run.
Ed Stickradt and his dog, Roxie, attending Acme Dog Run.
Courtesy of Ed Stickradt

For Ed Stickradt, 70, a real estate agent who lives in Park Slope with his 2-year-old Mountain Cur mix, Roxie, Acme was just what the neighborhood needed.

“I was drawn to it because all the dogs were checked so the risk of injury was greatly reduced,” he said. “This is something that is impossible to control during the off-leash hours in the park.”

Back at the school yard, Cassondra Bazelow, an art director who lives in the East Village, said how happy the expensive playgroup had made her and her 4-year-old Bassett dog, Sally. Long.

“I love doing things with Sally and I can see that she is so much more comfortable with other dogs because she has known them for a long time,” said Bazelow, 37. “It’s a safe area for her and it’s important to me.”

Jessica DelGuercio with a client dog, Lily.
Jessica DelGuercio with Lily, a client’s dog.
Courtesy of Jessica DelGuercio


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