These days, humans aren’t the only ones getting a workout. What happens when your four-legged friend hasn’t been getting the cardiovascular exercise? Maybe it’s time for a jog at the dog gym.
In Alexandria, VA, one of the nation’s first dog gyms has opened up. For $50 a month, canines of all sizes get unlimited access to the facility, which is air-conditioned, 6,000 square feet, and has a wide range of available training equipment including treadmills, hurdles, balance beams, and tunnels. The gym, called Frolick, has already welcomed several new members eager to test the waters.
It’s no secret that Americans love their pets, and Frolick’s gym is aware of that. Americans spent $56 billion on their cats, dogs, and other animals last year, and the amount owners are willing to spend on their furry friends has only been going up during the last decade — even during the economic recession.
Owners have been bringing their pets to Frolick for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s just too hot in the summer to go on an outdoor run with their dog. Others are older owners who can no longer keep up with younger pets. Still others are like the man who recently had back surgery — instead of having to arrange for a dog walker, his Rhodesian Ridgeback can run a few miles on the treadmill. The gym offers both variety in exercise routines, as well as an opportunity for dogs to socialize with each other.
In many ways, Frolick, if it ends up successful, will be riding on a larger cultural phenomenon America is experiencing. Over the past several decades, dogs have gone from being seen as possessions, to being seen as family members. Studies have indeed shown that many owners interact with their dogs much as they would a small child. About 35% of owners actually refer to their dog as a “son” or daughter,” and almost 80% buy their dogs birthday gifts.
It helps that Frolick is being set up in Alexandria, which is known as one of the most “dog-centric” cities in the U.S. with over 40 local businesses serving canines. “It’s grown even faster than I thought it would,” said Kevin Gilliam, who co-owns the gym along with his wife, Kim. Kevin was a dog trainer for many years before opening the gym; his wife, a businesswoman.
“It’ll be huge,” predicts Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, when told of the doggy-gym concept. “Pets are humanized more than ever. Pet products are marketed more and more as if dogs are furry little babies.”
“I think indoor running tracks for dog are an excellent idea, however I hope there is care taken in the maintenance of the synthetic surface,” says Rob Nelson of Rebound USA. “People have shoes on to exercise on these surfaces, hopefully clean. Cool idea, as long as there is some scheduled daily maintenance into the program.”