The tail on each dog that walked into Dogtopia of South Chandler was wagging. Owners Michael and Susan Perlman greeted each animal by name – which can’t be easy since they care for about 100 different dogs in a given week.
“We really do want to be an extension of the family,” Susan said.
The Perlmans plan to celebrate their third anniversary since opening their business at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Heights on Sept. 17. They will be giving tours and giving away movie tickets and other prizes.
Because of limited space, guests are asked to RSVP by calling the day care at 4901 S. Arizona Ave. at 480-447-0655.
Dogtopia also offers boarding and a spa, though Michael said they are first and foremost a day care business, which takes up about 80% of their time.
The business is thriving now, but did not start out that way. The Perlmans opened just before Labor Day 2019.
“We were not quite catching a head of steam in February,” Susan said. And then March 2020 arrived and the world changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Perlmans had to shut down for 10 days in early March because one of their employees may have been exposed to the coronavirus. There was little testing being done at the time and little information on how to contain the spread.
Then, just after they were sure their employee did not have COVID, they had to shut down for a second time by order of Gov. Doug Ducey. They reopened a few months later, but shut down for a third time after a new wave of COVID infections spread around the country that summer.
Some of the changes the Perlmans made because of the pandemic have stuck.
They added a drive line, where customers drop off their dogs right in front of the store and an employee walks them inside. They also do more cleaning.
One other change was to streamline the spa experience, offering it only on Mondays and Thursdays. An additional employee is brought in on those days to handle the workload.
Susan said every dog receives a health check before they can enter one of three play areas. An employee checks the ears, the gums and the body looking for any problems.
“We’ve noticed things on dogs the owners didn’t realize were there,” Susan said. “One little poodle that comes to play, she had something in between her toes. Mom took her [to a vet] and it was a malignant cyst. She was fine, it was caught early.”
The cost of day care ranges from $48 for a single day pass to $140 for unlimited play during the week. There are also discounted rates for two- and three-play sessions a week.
The Perlmans had others jobs, but decided they wanted to work together and were looking for a franchise opportunity.
Dogtopia was the first they looked at, but they continued looking. Finally, they decided they liked the support Dogtopia gives to its franchise owners and decided to make the switch.
Now, they said they are preparing to open a second location in Northwest Gilbert next year.
“Dogs need, crave and have to have socialization, they need that exercise, and they need the consistency,” Michael said. “So it is all about the dogs to us and the dog experience, which ultimately impacts mom, dad, because the dogs gain more confidence, they can go to the vet much easier. I’m blown away every day what we hear from our pet parents about how their dogs are easier to train after coming here.”
Susan said a recent study found dogs in day care averaged about 30,000 steps a day. Dogs that stay home alone get around 4,000.
“We’ve got dogs that have been with us for all three years, and we are so deeply grateful,” Susan said. “So we’re doing raffle prizes all week. So were just trying to do stuff to say thank you to the customers that we do have.”
“It’s really a big thank you that we’ve had the most loyal, phenomenal customers,” Michael said. “And we want to thank them and recognize this achievement.”