FLORENCE, Ky. -- Dog owners in Northern Kentucky now have an indoor alternative to exercise their four-legged friends during the cold winter months.
Doggie Paddles LLC, which opened in Florence this November, is the only indoor heated swimming pool for dogs in Northern Kentucky and one of only a few in the Tri-State. Pet owners can bring their dogs to private 30- or 60-minute swim sessions in the salt-water pool seven days a week.
Despite having opened only a month ago, pool staff are already scheduling at least two or three appointments every day.
“It’s kind of taking off on its own now,” said Doggie Paddles owner Phillip Roe.
Although it’s one of only two indoor dog swimming pools in the area -- the other is at Red Dog Pet Resort and Spa in Madisonville -- Doggie Paddles is part of a growing trend of specialty services for canines.
“A lot of people are a lot more pampering to their dogs and tend to see them more as family members rather than pets,” said Julia Watkins, a park and day care attendant at WagsPark in Newtown. “They know that they need to run, they know that they need to get out and play.”
WagsPark features three fenced-in acres with two spring-fed lakes. One lake is shallow and geared toward smaller dogs and those who prefer wading. The deeper lake, which has a dock diving board, offers an outlet for dogs who are larger or enjoy swimming and jumping into the water.
For dogs who don’t want to get their coats wet, the park has a dog play set and agility courses.
In addition to park amenities, which are available April through October, WagsPark offers a basic dog obedience class, dog day care and dog grooming services.
“Usually during winter time, doggie day care gets used the most,” Watkins said.
The shift toward pampering and specialty services for dogs may be due in part to a growing number of animal rescues in the area, as well as an increase in people choosing to forgo having children, Watkins said.
“More people are going toward more of a pet-centric life, more than a child-centric life in some cases,” she said.
Emily Kelsch, marketing specialist for Red Dog, added that there are many people who treat their animals “just like their children.”
Day care, play sets, agility courses and swimming pools aren’t just ways for people to spoil their canines, though. Many specialty services present actual benefits for dogs and their owners.
Swimming, for example, provides a low-impact energy outlet for dogs, especially those who are older or have arthritis.
“It’s an excellent way for them to ease up any arthritis pain, develop strength, build up muscles,” Kelsch said.
According to Doggie Paddles’ website, swimming can help loosen tight muscles; increase circulation, range of motion and coordination; and decrease swelling and pain, among other things.
“It’s just, like, the perfect exercise,” Roe said.
Dog day care and dog parks, like those available at WagsPark and Red Dog, also offer energy outlets for canines while giving them opportunities for socialization.
“They benefit the dogs very highly from young pups to older pups because socialization is so important, especially in dogs,” Watkins said.
Exercise and time around other dogs can translate to a better-behaved dog, too.
“That could allow for more relaxed and controlled environment for the dog and for the family,” Kelsch said.