A pair of young dog lovers turned entrepreneurs is opening a Tacoma dog day care that becomes a dog park after hours.
The name explains the concept: Wet Noses Dry Paws.
The facility becomes a climate-controlled canine recreation site when day care ends on weekdays and all day on weekends. Business starts April 4.
McKenzie Moates and Marc Ballinger, both 23, are co-owners of the 6,000-square-foot facility.
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Moates was on a pre-med trajectory at the University of Washington when she got sidetracked by canines.
“I started working at a dog day care and I fell in love with it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ballinger was completing his business degree at Western Washington University.
But, after a year at the Kirkland day care, Moates realized she could come up with a better model.
Ballinger was more than ready to give up his 9-to-5 job.
“Both of us had the entrepreneurial mindset and we’re both dog lovers,” Ballinger said. “It was a perfect business for us.”
The business is going in at 411 Fawcett Ave. in a freestanding building shared with Defiance Bicycles.
The dog-to-handler ratio at Wet Noses Dry Paws’ day care will be 10 to 1. They will cap the total number of dogs in day care at 50.
There will be two zones at the facility, one for larger dogs and another for smaller dogs.
To keep the area clean, there are two turf zones for the dogs to take care of business. A Porch Potty, complete with faux fire hydrant, is for smaller dogs. A custom-made, 200-square-foot turf zone is in one corner of the larger area.
Solids will be removed while liquids can be washed into the sewer system.
“We’re going to do a lot of positive reinforcing, a lot of treat giving,” Moates said. “Like how you would potty train a dog at home.”
Moates’ dog has been using it on a daily basis since construction began.
A big container of tennis balls is ready for eager dogs. To avoid tussles, some day cares don’t have toys.
“We’re going to do a temperament test and take dogs that are OK with sharing toys,” Moates said.
A bubble machine also will keep dogs entertained.
An obstacle course is in the works, but presently large equipment tires are standing in.
Client dogs have the option of wearing an ID tag. Staff can pick up dogs curbside and scan the tag to enter the dog.
“You don’t even have to get out of your car,” Moates said.
Owners can check in on their pooches any time they like via webcams.
The indoor dog park concept is what sets the new business apart from others. It was inspired by Moates’ French bulldogs, a breed with very short legs.
“They couldn’t be outside in the rain because they are so close to the floor that they get muddy. In the summer, they get so hot they can’t breathe. This is perfect for them,” Moates said.
The facility is climate-controlled year-round for dogs and their owners. Dog park hours are weekday evenings and all day Saturdays and Sundays.
“You can come here and exercise and play with them,” Moates said.
Only screened dogs will be allowed at the business.
“If you go to (an outdoor) dog park, you don’t know what you are going to get,” Moates said. “Here, everybody has to have their current vaccines, go through temperament tests.”
Wet Noses Dry Paws has a three-strike policy for misbehaving dogs. After a dog gets in an altercation, the owner will be consulted. A second incident results in a meeting with a contract trainer to correct the behavior.
“On the third strike, they can’t come back anymore,” Moates said.
Ballinger and Moates are certified in dog CPR and first aid.
Wet Noses Dry Paws will hold an open house April 2 and is opening for business April 4. The open house will feature vendors and activities. Potential customers are encouraged to bring their dogs, Moates said.
WET NOSES DRY PAWS
Where: 411 Fawcet Ave., Tacoma
Day care hours: 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
Dog park hours: 5-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Cost: $30 drop-in, $140 5 days, $288 12 days, $400 monthly
Information: wetnosesdrypaws.com/ 206-819-7164