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SPOTLIGHT ON SF HOUND LOUNGE

From In Circle Pets, August 27, 2009:

Not so long ago, the term “dog daycare” wasn’t part of our common parlance. In the early 2000s the term often elicited raised eyebrows, baffled looks and snickers. That didn’t stop Ashley from dreaming about opening a dog daycare facility in San Francisco, and thank goodness!

Ashley has loved and had dogs in her life ever since she can remember, and had been volunteering at the SF SPCA when she heard about a dog daycare for sale. She was tempted immediately to buy it, but when she visited the facility, she was shocked. The facility was cramped, overcrowded and loud; some dogs looked terrified; and the odor was off the charts.

Visits to other daycares revealed similar conditions.  A vision began to take shape in Ashley’s mind. Her dream day care would be spacious and super clean. Dog clients would be happy, comfortable and trained to play quietly together.  The staff would be dog-loving, conscientious folk who were properly trained. Health and safety would be top priorities, and to that end, new doggy clients would be screened carefully.  After a year of searching and planning, Ashley found the perfect space and in 2002, she opened the doors of the San Francisco Hound Lounge.  The rest, as they say, is history.  SF Hound Lounge certainly lives up to Ashley dream facility.  My dog Vinnie has been going there a couple of times a week since he was a pup, and like other dog clients, he adores the place.  Within a few blocks of the Hound Lounge, he gets so excited he can barely contain himself, and when he walks through the front doors, his full-on wiggle-wag dance begins.

Hound Lounge dogs get stellar treatment.  There’s no smell at all in the large facility due to daily antibacterial cleaning. The place is so clean it practically sparkles.  The facility is large – at 7,000 square feet there’s plenty of room for dogs to play, and chill out spots and beds for dogs who prefer to rest.  Small dogs have a separate play area from large dogs. There are even indoor potty spots complete with a hydrant and real grass.

Staff members use positive reinforcement techniques and seem to genuinely care about their charges.  Staff members monitor the play closely to avoid any scuffles, clean up promptly after the dogs, and walk them in groups of four or less. If a dog is used to having a midday meal, staff feeds them lunch. At noon there’s doggy rest or nap time and after that, high energy play resumes.

The team takes especially good care of puppies to make sure they’re having positive experiences and aren’t overwhelmed.  Staff introduces puppies to the group slowly, pays special attention to how the pups are playing, and gives them extra breaks and rests so they don’t get overstimluated.

Fights rarely break out because of the watchful staff and the screening process for new clients.  Dog owners fill out a Pet Personality Profile and schedule an interview so they and their dogs can meet Ashley, check out the facility and meet the other dogs.  As a trainer, I can tell you that this makes perfect sense. Daycare isn’t the right fit for all dogs.  As Ashley points out, most of her childhood dogs would have been terrible daycare clients. A dog could be the sweetest guy ever, but may not have good play skills, or may be too afraid of or undersocialized to other dogs to get along well in a group setting.

Ashley continues to be very involved in the daily activities of the Hound Lounge.  Most days you’ll find her there, and like other staff, she greets every dog by name and with a smile.  The whole team pays such close attention to the dogs, they’ll alert owners to possible behavioral or health issues their dogs might be having.

As if all that weren’t enough, SF Hound Lounge offers grooming services and cage-free boarding for daycare clients. Dogs stay overnight in a loft on the premises and are always with a human caretaker.  Hound Lounge was voted Best Cage-Free Boarding Facility by SF Baylist.

Ashley is proud of her years of hard work and rightly so.  She  was on the leading edge of the dog daycare business when they opened and seven years later, have a thriving business that provides an invaluable service to busy humans and urban dogs.  There’s no price tag on the peace of mind that comes from knowing that while you’re at work, your dog is in a safe, clean place where he can romp with other dogs, exercise, go on walks, and be cared for by caring competent people.

Most rewarding of all to Ashley are the dogs themselves who are all so clearly happy to be there.  I’m sure if they could talk, they’d say paws down, the Hound Lounge is one of their favorite places ever!

Author: Lisa-Anne Manolius is the multi- talented owner/trainer of Oh Behave! in San Francisco. A graduate of the S.F. SPCA’s Academy for Dog Trainers and U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, she’s available for dog behavior consultations, private training sessions, and to teach a variety of group classes. She can be reached at lisaohbehave@gmail.com.

About InCirclePets.com: We highlight locally-owned pet businesses, non-profits and organizations as well as pet-friendly activities. We think the Bay Area is an amazing spot in which to have an animal, yet we know that many hidden gems go unnoticed and local spots may not get the attention they deserve. We hope to fill in this gap.

“RISING STARS – A Hound Lounge Hangout and Other Places About Town”

From the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine, Jan. 30, 2005:

In other parts of the country, the word “lounge” usually implies drinks, DJs and a pickup scene, but in San Francisco, try dogs, sewing and art. First came SF Hound Lounge (2825 Mariposa Street; (415) 255-1170), started by Ashley Ziegler.   Doggies get daycare in a 7,000 square-foot indoor canine plaza for $42 per day from an experienced, dog-loving staff.