Bark-A-Bout Pet Activity Center & Resort
where pets are unleash’d and luv’d
By Kathy Hosler
When I set out to create the Bark-A-Bout Pet Activity Center and Resort,” says owner and founder, Michelle Nikiforuk “I wanted it to be a place where pets can be mentally and physically stimulated while enjoying a five star luxury resort. And, I wanted it to be where every dog can be unleash’d and luv’d throughout their stay.”
Anyone who visits the magnificent Bark-A-Bout Pet resort, located near Detroit in Shelby Township, Michigan, can tell you that Michelle has succeeded in her goal – and then some. Bark-A-Bout is a two story 30,000 sq. ft. facility that contains indoor and outdoor play spaces, Michigan’s only indoor aquatic fitness and wellness center, hotel rooms for their overnight pet guests, the Café & Viewing Lounge, grooming salon, veterinarian office, and more.
“I want every pet that comes into our facility to have a positive experience,” says Michelle. “And, I want their owners to feel secure in leaving their dog – and know that it is in a clean, safe environment and is well taken care of.”
At Bark-A-Bout they average 120 dogs in their daycare each day and they can accommodate 240 overnight guests. With that many dogs, it is imperative that they all get along. Each dog that wants to stay or play at Bark-A-Bout has to go through a meet-n-greet day and be approved to participate in doggie playgroups.
“After filling out paperwork, we have the owner go upstairs to our viewing lounge where they can observe how their dog reacts to the other dogs,” explains Ms. Nikiforuk. “We assess the dog by itself for about five minutes, then introduce dogs to them. When they pass all this, they are playgroup certified, and they can play in our open play environment. We have found that once the dogs come for daycare and get used to everything, they feel very little stress when they come in to board.”
The overnight guests are not housed in traditional chain link and block runs – they stay in doggie ‘hotel’ rooms. All of the rooms have glass fronts and doors to create a very open feeling. The higher-end rooms, like their penthouse suite, have tiled walls, televisions, chandeliers, and even fireplaces.
Bark-A-Bout has a unique approach that allows daycare and boarding pets to socialize with each other as well as enables them to share many activities with their owners. Throughout the day the dogs are out of their hotel rooms as much as possible. They are in their designated playgroups based on their meet-n-greet status when they were playgroup certified.
“As the dogs interact with each other, our highly trained staff members do fun activities with them for at least fifteen minutes every hour.” says Michelle. “We do things like follow the leader, Frisbee throws, and playing with balls.”
“We also take special needs and geriatric dogs,” says Michelle. “We have a special play room designated for these dogs. It’s a quieter environment with comfortable couches, televisions, calming music, and aromatherapy. There is also a potty grass area with a whole underground filtration system. They have lots of freedom and no stress.”
On the first floor, there is 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor play space and 12,000 sq. ft. of outdoor play space. Password protected webcams throughout the facility enable owners to see what their pets are doing. The first floor also houses their award winning grooming department, boutique and the two cattery areas.
On the second level of the facility are the onsite veterinarian and Bark-A-Bout’s Café and Viewing Lounge. Owners can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee in the lounge which overlooks the first floor play space. It has Wi-Fi and owners have even been known to hold business meetings while watching their pets play or swim.
Swim? Absolutely! Bark-A-Bout has a complete aquatic wellness center. They are the first facility in Michigan to have a 12’ x 25’ indoor heated pet pool. They offer hydrotherapy as well as fitness and fun swims for both the hotel and daycare guests. And, they have Doggie & Me swim classes where the dogs and their owners go in the pool together.
Activities that owners and pets can enjoy together are really popular at Bark-A-Bout. One of the most requested services is the Birthday Pawdy. An owner can rent the facility for a certain time and bring in all of their friends and their dog’s friends. All the party food for the people and the pets can be completely catered by Bark-A-Bout. The people can get together in the Café Lounge while they watch their dogs play. The dogs can have many party themed activities – they can socialize in playgroups, go swimming, get facials, or even have their nails done. Then they all come in with the owners for the gift opening. Every dog gets party favors (a bag of treats) and wears a party hat. The dogs and owners play games and enjoy the cake cutting – it’s a big, big thing! Furkid fun!
Bark-A-Bout has just launched their new outdoor dog park. The park is completely fenced in for safety so the dogs can be off leash inside and it is open to the public. The huge outdoor area features K-9 grass, bone shaped outdoor pool, and fire hydrants that spray water out of their sides.
Winters in Michigan can be really brutal – for man and beast. Bark-A-Bout offers a service called Walk That Dog. It’s an indoor walking area for pets and their owners in a heated environment (like mall walking for people).
Bark-A-Bout also offers onsite group obedience classes and personal training programs. “We train with positive reinforcement,” says Michelle. “We offer everything from Puppy Kindergarten, to Therapy Prep, to the AKC Canine Good Citizen Class. We are linked with the Animal Behavior College and we are one of their mentoring locations.”
Another unique feature that Bark-A-Bout has is their outdoor Dock Diving Pool. It is the only pool sanctioned to hold dock diving events in the state of Michigan. The Bark-A-Bout Air Dog Club is a sanctioned club of Ultimate Air Dogs. Ultimate Air Dogs was started by former Detroit Tigers Pitcher, Milt Wilcox. You have probably seen these ultimate air competitions in the nationally televised Purina Incredible Dog Challenge. These canine athletes launch themselves off of the end of the dock and leap far out into the water. For a long time, Bark-A-Bout held the state record with a distance of 26’2.”
It takes a dedicated and well-trained staff to make a facility as large as Bark-A-Bout run smoothly. Their staff of thirty gets continued education every month. Professional speakers and trainers are brought in to give the seminars. There are classes in CPR and first aid, and seminars are held on behavior and subjects such as heat exhaustion, and other seasonal issues.
The Bark-A-Bout website; www.barkabout.net, offers a wealth of information to potential and existing clients. It tells about all of the programs and services that they offer. The photo gallery allows visitors to take a virtual tour of most of their facility. Facebook and Twitter keep everyone up to date on all the happenings and events at Bark-A-Bout.
Bark-A-Bout has won numerous awards for the best boarding, daycare, and grooming facility in the area. They have also appeared on local television and they have been featured on Animal Planet. “Animal Planet did a segment on our Powerloo dog waste system,” said Michelle. “We save about 30,000 pounds of dog waste per year from going into landfills by using our Powerloo system.”
What’s next for this fabulous innovative facility? “We will be opening more locations,” says Ms. Nikiforuk. “And, we will be franchising.”
With Bark-A-Bout’s expanding future, soon pets from all over will be enjoying the luxury and fun of being unleash’d and luv’d!