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The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

New York's Ruff Club Caters to Both Pooch and Owner

Are you the only person involved in your dog’s daily care? Alternatively, does it take a village to ensure that the feeding, watering, bathroom habits, exercise, socialization, dispensation of medication/supplements, and other needs of your canine companion are appropriately met?

My point in this is that there are some dogs (and their owners) living very low maintenance lives, while others need frequent and continuous care by a team of responsible individuals.

City dogs typically require a higher level of day-to-day care than their suburban canine counterparts, as the environmental constraints of apartment living typically necessitate frequent trips to the sidewalk or park so that urine and feces can be appropriately eliminated. Additionally, most city-dwelling professionals work long hours requiring precise planning to ensure their dogs are well cared for. That’s where having a reliable service to walk your dog or provide daycare is an essential part of proper pet caretaking in the modern age.

I recently visited a unique business offering premium canine care during my annual trip to New York City to cover the Westminster Kennel Club dog show (see: Cosmetic 'Doping' in the Dog Show World). It's called the Ruff Club and is touted as “a dog-friendly social club. Our members and their dogs repurpose a century-old tavern space at 34 Avenue A (Lower East Side).”

Upon opening in early 2013, the Ruff Club got some major press coverage, including the New York Times, in part from the fact that it’s a membership-only, fee-based club with an application process that not all dogs are suited to pass.

Why require membership instead of simply having one-off daycare visits? To foster a sense of community among dog owners and their pooches, Ruff Club encourages owners to spend time with or without their pooch on-site. Ruff Club believes that “people join Ruff Club for different reasons. Some are looking to meet other dog people. Others like to get work done in a convivial, dog-friendly establishment with Wi-Fi and locally-roasted coffee. Many just dig the ease and reliability of a contemporary pet care hub.”

Personally, I love the idea of occasionally having a neighborhood spot where I can grab a cup of coffee, get some work done on a high-speed connection, and escape from New York City's seasonal weather extremes. In fact, the day of my visit found a major winter storm system dumping inches of snow. Therefore, I was grateful to trod across the flake-free sidewalk (thanks to pet-friendly ice melter), escape the harsh weather, and settle down in the Flavor Paper Chinatown Toile wallpapered lounge with Ruff Club proprietor Alexia Simon Frost for a brief interview about the club’s origins and mission to provide top-notch care.

What Was the Inspiration Behind Ruff Club?

Having lived in New York for many years, Frost found herself dissatisfied with the experience of taking her dog (Leo, a miniature Austrian Shepherd) to day care at the facilities that were in close proximity to her residence in the East Village. Inspired by her desire for a day care that provided the high level of service expected by other like-minded dog owners, Frost gave up her career working with high-profile chefs in the hospitality business and partnered with her husband to create the Ruff Club concept.

Frost then spent a year searching for a place with a welcoming and unique feel until she finally found a converted bar that had lost its liquor license. The bar’s loss equaled Ruff Club’s gain.

What’s the Admission Process in Attaining Membership to Ruff Club?

The admission process involves a series of observations about the dog’s behavior to ensure that positive socialization experiences will occur during the days spent at Ruff Club. By accepting dogs that are well socialized, the safety of other Ruff Club members (the dogs, that is) is better ensured.

What Unique Services Does Ruff Club Provide?

To settle the minds of separation anxiety-prone owners, they can “live-stream the action in high definition on RuffClub.com and learn about the other Club dogs that are checked in.” If there’s ever a medical emergency, Ruff Club partners with local veterinarians and can even provide pet-ambulance services.

To promote better canine behavior, Ruff Club provides a six-week basic training course with Garrett Rosso (Village Dog Works). Additionally, Mighty Mutt's Ruff Love is holding fundraiser/adoption event on-site, which is open to the public. There’s also the members brunch where dog owners can meet and socialize with other members and their pooches.

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Although I likely won’t be bringing my dog, Cardiff, to New York City with me next year, I’d definitely feel comfortable having him spend the day at the Ruff Club (provided he passed the admission process).

Do you take your pets to daycare? Are you satisfied with the service that you and your pets received? Have you ever considered opening your own day care facility so that your pet gets the high level of care and observation you demand and that meets your high expectations?

Looking out Ruff Club's window onto the snowy East Village streets

 Ruff Club proprietor Alexia Simon Frost

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Notes on Ruff Club:

Dogs only

Ruff Club membership annual fee $149; Coffee, WiFi

Hourly day care for up to 2 hrs @ $10 and $29/day

Overnight care if needed

Drop off only; Ruff Club does not offer home pick-up

Vaccination requirements: UTD bV, rabies, Dp. Neuter > 6 mo.

Owners welcome to come spend time at Ruff Club with or without pet

An average of 15 dog can be found at the Ruff Club each day

Image: A.C. Gobin / via Shutterstock

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Social Time
    04/23/2013 05:30pm

    What a great way for the critters AND humans to socialize! The members brunch sounds like a lot of fun.

    Do they have a boarded behaviorist on staff? Do they ever have a "full house" and no more dogs/humans can be admitted? (Should members make an appointment as opposed to just showing up?) What is the ratio of staff to unaccompanied dogs?

    If the dog is left for the day, what activities are planned?

    What plans are in place in the event of an emergency?

    If only cats were more social with each other - I think joining a "cat club" like this would be tremendous fun! Heck, it sounds like it would be fun for any critter lover to be a part of something like this.


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