BY CRAIG COLEY
To a dog, The Dog House probably seems a lot more like home than a kennel. That’s because The Dog House is Bloomington’s first and only cage-free doggy day care and boarding facility.
Here, dogs are free to play together, both inside and in the yard. When they are tired, they can rest on a couch. At night, they can sleep in bed with the human on staff. “I remember one Thanksgiving I had 12 dogs in the bed with me,” says Jim Dasenbrock, who owns The Dog House with his wife, Beth. “I couldn’t even move.”
It all started in 2001 when Jim, now 48, launched a dog-walking and pet-sitting business. When clients asked if they could board their dogs with the Dasenbrocks, they agreed. At times the couple kept up to a dozen dogs in their home. In 2005, they opened The Dog House. “We literally took the 12-dogs-in-our-home situation and made it bigger,” Beth says.
It took a while to build the business, and at one point they almost went under. Today, though, prospective clients wait about a year for an opening. The Dog House averages 130 dogs in residence a day. It could be more, Jim says, but not with the same level of care. “Clients treat their dogs like children and they hold us to a higher standard,” Jim says. “And we’re okay with that.”
The business has about 21,000 square feet of space at 1999 S. Yost Ave. The building is divided into five rooms, each with access to the outdoors. There are five dog groupings: small dogs; a “low-key” group of older, sick, and obese dogs; and three large dog groups. The groups are rotated through each room so they don’t get bored and, Jim says, “so they can check their pee-mails.”
The 19 employees all understand doggy body language and know each dog’s name and personality, including which dogs get along well within each group. “You have to figure out that puzzle every day,” Beth says.
The couple says it has been a challenge to grow so far beyond their initial expectations. “It’s also been a blessing,” Jim says. “We’ve been able to help a lot of people through our success. That part I really like.”
Learn more at trydoghouse.com.