Profile of Success: Camp Run-A-Mutt

Profile of Success: Camp Run-A-Mutt

By Kathy Hosler

Photos By Camp Run-A-Mutt

For years Dennis Quaglia dreamed of creating a Disney–like paradise for his beloved Springer Spaniel, Andy. He pictured a place where Andy could enjoy everything that he loved...water to splash in, wide open spaces with plenty of room to run, places to climb and explore, and lots of balls to fetch.

When Dennis and his friends Mikel Ross, and Severn Crow met at the local dog park after work, the conversation was always about dogs. "Meeting at the park with our dogs was the best part of the day," says Mikel Ross, the Director of Operations at Camp Run–A–Mutt "One day as we were talking, we all agreed that it bothered us when we had to board our dogs and they spent all of their time just sitting in a kennel."

That conversation planted the seed that would grow into Camp Run–A–Mutt and soon, the three friends became business partners. From the beginning, they decided that the camp would offer cage–free boarding and daycare, as well as grooming, training, and other services.

On February 29, 2008 the first Camp Run–A–Mutt opened in San Diego, California and it was exactly what Dennis, the Founder and President, had envisioned building for Andy. Andy was even the inspiration for the Camp Run–A–Mutt logo.

The facility has lots of indoor and outdoor space. The park-like setting has a huge splash pond with a waterfall and sun decks. There are all kinds of structures and play equipment for the dogs to climb on and tunnels for them to explore. There is plenty of shade and misters to keep things cool. There are lots of toys and balls and a super popular bubble machine. And, when they want a little break, there are beds and dog houses to take a nap.

Every dog is temperament tested before it can become a camper. The daycare and overnight campers get to romp and play all day under the supervision of their specially trained staff. The daycare became increasingly popular as working parents told them how taking their dogs to camp was solving problems at home. The dogs were getting plenty of needed exercise and socialization. As a result, neighbor and landlord complaints about things like excessive barking diminished, and stress behaviors such as inappropriate chewing lessened.

The camp is equipped with Muttcams which allow pet parents to watch their dogs play. "It's amazing to see how many people watch their pets," says Mikel. "Because we are in the San Diego area, we have a lot of clients who are in the military. Lots of the service personnel deployed overseas really miss their pets. Now, many of them are able to watch their pets on our Muttcams."

One of the most important features of Camp Run–A–Mutt is their cage-free overnight boarding. "I love the fact that the dogs get to be themselves," says Mikel. "They are not just put away in a corner and forgotten. Cage–free is much more interactive. Most dogs love attention and they surely get it at the camp."

Boarding can be stressful for dogs. The overnight staff stays in the room with the dogs all night long. There are televisions, lounge chairs, and lots of comfy dog beds all around the room. The dogs get to relax in the homelike atmosphere. It's like a big slum-grrr-party. The first time a dog comes in for an overnight stay, it must be checked in by noon. That way, they get used to the staff and the other dogs, and they get to play enough to be tired at the end of the day.

"Our business is so much about trust and compassion and love for the dogs...we don't ever want to lose that," says Mikel. "We became so busy that we had a waiting list of dogs who wanted to get in. We needed to open a second location. That's when we decided to franchise."

In 2010, the first Camp Run–A–Mutt franchise opened, only three miles away. Today they have seven locations in the San Diego area, one in Los Angeles, and the newest franchise just opened in Houston, Texas. Franchisees are required to take two weeks of onsite training, and they get continued support. "We want controlled growth and to make sure that each camp is successful—that's our number one priority," Mikel says. "We want to make dogs happy and make an important impact in the owner's and dog's lives."

Severn Crow, the Vice President of Camp Run–A–Mutt, used to work for USA Today as their web developer. Severn says, "When you do what you love, it's amazing what you can accomplish." Severn designed their awesome website,, and also built all of the Camp Run–A–Mutt software from scratch.

There are iPads throughout the facility, in the yards, and at the feeding stations. They allows the staff to keep notes on everything that the dogs do and give them to the pet parents at the end of the day. The software also enables the camps to keep track of other important information for each dog. For instance, it alerts them 45 days before a dog's vaccinations are due. All registrations can be made online. That's a huge timesaver for the business and a real convenience for the pet parents. The camps like to use as much technology as possible without losing the human touch.

They give pet report cards to every overnight camper and to first–time daycare attendees. Dogs that come in for grooming also get a report card. They find that the owners love receiving the report cards, and, it's a good way to communicate with pet parents. The camps also provide training options for their canine campers. They offer one–on–one and group obedience classes and also manners training using positive reinforcement techniques. And, of course, they have to have snacks, toys, and specialty items for the dogs. Each Camp Run–A–Mutt has a boutique that is fully stocked with safe, unique, and fun products for all of their campers.

They do a lot of fundraising events and each camp works directly with a rescue group. The camps provide free daycare to foster dogs, to help them get socialized and to find forever homes. When they do get adopted, they can continue to come to camp. Even though their home has changed, they still have the continuity of being at camp. It's worked amazingly well and made the transition a real easy one for a lot of people and their new pets.

The adventure land paradise that Dennis Quaglia dreamed of and designed for his little buddy, Andy, has become a do-it-all playground for thousands of lucky pups. They may not wear Mickey Mouse ears, but you can be sure that all the dogs who play and stay at Camp Run–A–Mutt are having a world of fun! 'Cuz every dog should have his day!'

Next Article