Ruff Club is a dog-friendly social club and contemporary pet care hub in New York City. It’s a new style of dog daycare and social boarding that espouses key FitBark values such as staying connected to our dogs and gaining insight into them in more personal ways.

We asked co-founder Danny Frost what makes Ruff Club’s approach “contemporary” and what attributes we should look for in selecting a great pet care provider.

What was the inspiration behind Ruff Club?

Our inspiration is Leo, our three-year-old miniature Australian Shepherd. We experimented with traditional dog daycare for Leo and were turned off by it.  The places we visited felt impersonal, transactional, and tech-backwards, and the whole business model seemed ripe for an update.

An update for dogs, or for owners?

We feel the traditional pet care setting leaves owners on the sidelines. I remember interviewing local dog people as we developed our business plan. One said that leaving his Jack Russell Terrier at a traditional daycare “felt about as special as dropping off my clothes at the dry cleaner.”

This was the way we felt when Leo was in traditional daycare.  In the course of raising a puppy, we were interested in meeting other local dog people and sharing ideas and information. The traditional daycare model we knew offered no avenue for these kinds of conversations and new relationships. It also offered no way to learn about the dogs Leo was spending his days with — to us they were just a nameless, ownerless cast of animals.

At Ruff Club we are determined to restore the owner’s role in the pet care equation. Members can hang out in our social club, meet one another, and watch the dogs in a beautiful neighborhood setting with comfortable seating areas, wi-fi, and locally-roasted coffee.

When members can’t hang, they can stay connected to their dog via HD live stream on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. We constantly update our Facebook and Twitter feeds so that our members and fans can learn more about the dogs that are checked in.

Is an HD live stream something we should look for in a provider?

Well, I don’t know of any other providers who stream in high definition. I do think that it’s critical for a provider to offer a quality webcam setup. This is much about basic transparency as it is about leveraging technology to provide a better service. It’s 2013 – if a pet care provider isn’t live streaming, you have to wonder what they are hiding.

A webcam enables you to monitor whether staff is providing structure, guidelines, and enrichment for off-leash play, while also mixing in some critical and adorable naptime. You can watch for certain hallmarks of safe and enjoyable play, such as reciprocity and role changes in wrestling and chasing.

Should I use daycare and social boarding services instead of a dog walker or dog sitter?

It truly depends on your dog. Most daycare providers perform a comprehensive temperament screening, which helps to screen out dogs with potentially troublesome behavioral issues. When we screen, we’re also looking to determine whether the dog actually enjoys socializing in a daycare environment. A good provider will let you know if your dog doesn’t, at which point a one-on-one care solution will be probably a better fit for your dog.

What are the benefits of daycare and social boarding?

Particularly in the urban environment, we have domesticated dogs but we haven’t given them anything to do. This lack of self-actualization can lead to boredom, frustration and excess energy. Daycare and social boarding provide attention, activity, supervision, and rigorous exercise when an owner can’t. The social skills developed in daycare and boarding are transferable to other settings, so owners can more easily integrate a well-socialized dog into other facets of life.