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$50-a-month gym memberships for dogs? Canine sports club opens near D.C.

$50-a-month gym memberships for dogs? Canine sports club opens near D.C.
Dog gym near D.C.

A gym just for dogs? It may sound crazy, or simply like the latest capital canine craze, but local veterinarians don’t find it that, well, far-fetched.

It’s certainly a popular concept.

Frolick Dogs Canine Sports Club in Alexandria, Virginia, opened a few month ago and has garnered an enormous amount of attention, both locally and nationally. The reason is simple.

"At the end of the day, people are happy when their dogs are happy," says Dr. Bill Bush of the highly rated Bush Veterinary Neurology Service in Leesburg, Virginia.

It's not surprising that owners would want the same for their dog as other family members, especially in the dog-crazy Washington, D.C., region.

Go beyond dog training

"Man has co-evolved with the dog, and we've shared the same environment with them, so we are more similar than you might think," Bush says.

Exercise works the same for dogs as for humans, he adds, so a dog gym makes perfect sense.

The husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Kim Gilliam opened Frolick Dogs based on that idea. Initial members, Kim Gilliam says, were looking for that “what’s-next-for-my-dog” idea.

Once you get past dog obedience training, it can get tricky to find structured activities for your dog to burn off energy. That’s where Frolick comes into play.

“People wanted something else, beyond just training,” Gilliam says.

That something else at Frolick comes in the form of treadmills, balance balls and an imposing agility course, complete with hurdles, balance beams and a tunnel.

Gym memberships, day passes

The facility lives up to the gym name. It was modeled after a typical health club — even down to a monthly membership fee for the dogs.

Frolick charges $50 a month for recurring members, and $60 to pay one month at a time. If that’s too much of a commitment, a day pass to the doggy gym is available for $10.

The gym's hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. It's closed on Sunday. Hey, even a Labradoodle needs a day off!

Long waits for the treadmills haven’t been a problem yet, but as business grows Gilliam expects things could change.

“We may have to put time limits on the treadmills,” she says.

Frolick's dog gym occupies about 3,000 square feet on the main floor. Additional space on another level is used for pet grooming services and dog day care facilities.

Dogs need exercise

Gilliam plays up Frolick's fun factor, but she's quick to cite the health benefits of having a fit dog, especially when so many of today's pets are overweight.

“Clients are worried about their dog's weight and often don’t know what to do,” Gilliam says. "They are taking their dog for longer walks and monitoring the food intake, but it doesn’t seem like enough."

It can be frustrating for owners with overweight or overly energetic dogs, but taking charge of a pet's health is their job.

"We are responsible to provide our dogs with the exercise they need," Burns says. "We can decide to get up in the morning and take a walk, but a dog can't. That's up to us."

And now, of course, up to Frolick, too.