A Member of the Family is more than just the title of dog whisperer Cesar Millan’s latest book; it’s the trend pet-care professionals see across Cincinnati and the nation. More than 60 percent of U.S. households have a four-legged family member, and from food to care to accoutrements, pet owners want what’s best for their furry friends.

“The humanization of pets continues to have a major impact on the marketplace,” says Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association, which tracks business trends in the $43.4 billion-a-year pet products industry. “Because the same person shops for the family as for the family pet, there is a great deal of similarity in purchase pattern. Food is an excellent example. If the person favors organic and natural foods for his or her family, the same type of food will be viewed as good for Spike or Fluffy.”

Jamie Henry, co-owner of Life’s A Treat pet food store, which opened last May in Kenwood, echoes the APPA’s findings.

To that end, Life’s A Treat stocks high-end foods for a variety of pets, but especially for dogs. With brands such as Taste of the Wild, owners are able to present new meals nightly. Other brands present raw options or all-natural formulas specific to a pet’s palate, allergies or nutritional needs.

“We’re not veterinarians,” Henry says, “but we’ll work with owners to find a food that works with their dog.”

Sandy Day bakes “all-natural, completely organic” dog treats available online at Nibblestreats.com, which is based in West Chester, and at farmers’ markets and events, sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally.

“My treats are not to appeal to the people, but to the dog,” Day says. Self-educated on dog nutrition, Day does extensive research before formulating her “woofles” and other treats.

“I ask a lot of questions before I sell,” says Day. “Does your dog have allergies? Hot spots? People who are willing to spend money on their dogs are willing to find out.”

Also, despite what you might think considering the downturn in the economy, people are still lavishing money on their pets. “We haven’t seen any change in dog care, just their owners taking shorter or closer vacations,” says Terry Rath, co-owner of The Pet Spot, a day care and boarding facility in Norwood.

The Pet Spot opened in 2005 with the goal of bringing West-coast style luxury pet care to Cincinnati. Gone are the days of bare-bones boarding in chain-link kennels. Now it’s full-service home-like facilities offering everything from behavior modification to massage.

The Pet Spot offers 44,000 square feet of grooming, day care and boarding complete with upscale, themed villas that offer TVs with pet programming, raised bedding and webcams so owners can watch their pets even while they’re away. With spa services and dog massage available, pets take a vacation at the same time as their owners.

At the Pet Athletic Club Downtown, dogs learn while their owners are away. Mic Foster opened PAC about two years ago. Offering boarding, day care and grooming, dogs at PAC also receive training.

“Training is incorporated into everything we do,” Foster says. “As dogs are incorporated more into a family’s life, there is a higher expectation of that pet to be better behaved, especially when out in public.”

Five professional trainers are on PAC’s staff to work with dogs in boarding and day care. The club also trains rescue dogs, which are then adopted out, fully obedience trained, for a price. Foster and his wife, Stephanie, have six dogs of their own, four of which are rescues.

Other services offered by the club include pet taxi transportation and dog food delivery — a boon to those Downtown residents in high-rises, without cars, or for anyone who’d rather not heft 50 pounds of kibble.

Kibble is just one of the items sold at Red Dog Pet Resort & Spa, which Ray Schneider opened in Oakley last December. This deluxe facility with staff on premises 24-hours-a-day combines lodging, day care, grooming, massage, a member-only dog park, pet boutique and pool.

“The pool is for fun and fitness,” explains Stephanie Fries, marketing director for Red Dog. “We have an aquatics instructor who is certified for dogs, and the pool is kept at 90 degrees offering non-impact muscle movement.”

Just as therapeutic pools help people with arthritis, they also help pets. Red Dog offers special services for geriatric or special-needs dogs, with a veterinary technician on staff for administering shots or medication and a special HVAC system to ensure air quality.

Of course, to truly feel like home, in-home pet sitting is an option.

“It’s a great thing for your pets,” says Shelly Rings, owner of Madeira’s Top Pets, which offers in-home pet sitting, dog walking and dog taxi services. “With in-home care, you don’t have to worry about some of the sicknesses your pet can get with boarding. It’s more convenient, and your animal stays in your house with no anxiety.”

Before hiring an in-home sitter, Rings recommends checking to make sure he or she is bonded, insured and also has completed a Red Cross course in pet first aid.

In-home pet sitting is an increasingly popular trend in pet care, according to the APPA, as are pet-friendly hotels and lodging facilities. But wherever their pets go, owners want them to look good, so many shop at stores offering pet accessories and attire, such as Hyde Bark Fashions in Hyde Park and Kenwood’s Moochie & Co. in Kenwood Mall.

But not all businesses have gone to the dogs. Cat care is offered by most boarding facilities, and Red Dog has even housed the occasional guinea pig or rabbit. Especially catering to cats is Meow Mart in Silverton, which sells premium cat foods, litter boxes, scratching posts, carriers, cat condos and toys. Meow Mart opened in 1990 to help defray the costs of the adjacent Scratching Post cat adoption center. All of the profits from Meow Mart go to The Scratching Post’s operating funds.

“Our specialties are handmade cat toys and beds, premium cat foods and anything a cat or cat lover might want,” says Teresa Riegel, president of The Scratching Post, which claims to be the first shelter in Cincinnati to help individuals pay for spaying and neutering cats.

Like Meow Mart, most pet-related businesses recognize that not all pets are pampered, and they work to help less fortunate animals. Moochie, for example, works with The League for Animal Welfare, Circle Tail Inc. and Save the Animals Foundation in the Cincinnati area.

“We always want to work with shelters,” Fries says of Red Dog. “I changed my career for this because I love my own dog so much. If shelters want to work with us, they just need to ask.”

For the more fortunate furry friends, APPA President Vetere sees the high-end trend continuing.

“I think you will continue to see an influx of baby boomers turning to pets as their children leave home and go out on their own,” Vetere says. “This group, while wanting the love and companionship of a pet, also wants the flexibility of continuing to work and travel.”

That’s good news for pet-care providers and good news for pet owners. The APPA’s 2008 Pet Products Trend Report predicts more companies known for human products will enter the pet product fray, resulting in more choices and lower prices.
The Pet Spot
2503 Norwood Ave., Norwood, OH 45212
(513) 351-SPOT (7768)

The Pet Spot is Cincinnati’s luxury pet care resort for boarding, training, day care and grooming. The resort works to make a pet’s stay safe, enjoyable and fun so on the next visit, the pet is actually pulling its owner to the door.

Anderson Township Family Pet Center
6666 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244
(513) 231-7387
Cincinnati’s premier destination for dog lovers with everything pets need, including boarding and services, under one roof. With unparalleled service and great prices, coupled with a large selection of dog food, treats and supplies, the Anderson Township Family Pet Center is a diamond in the rough worth the effort to find. It received an award for “Best Pet Daycare and Advice” in the June/July Love Cincy issue.