By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)
Longtime dog trainer Kevin Gilliam said he had been looking for a way to exercise his pet in urban Alexandria without going to dog parks, which are too chaotic and unpredictable for his taste. That’s when he came up with an idea: a dog-centric gym.
“I thought, ‘Where can I go to interact with my dog and practice our training?’” Gilliam said. “Where can I go for a cool environment in the summer or a warm environment in the winter?”
Last month, Gilliam and his wife, Kim, opened Frolick Dogs Canine Sports Club just off of Duke Street. The 3208 Colvin St. business offers daytime boarding as well as the canine equivalent of traditional workout facilities.
“It’s just like a regular gym where you pay your monthly dues, and then you can come in and use the facilities between 11 [a.m.] and 7 [p.m.],” Gilliam said. “We’ve got dog treadmills, balance balls specifically made for dogs and agility-training equipment. And just like a regular gym, you can use the equipment as you please.”
And just like gyms for people, Frolick Dogs features “self-grooming stations”: places where you can give your dog a bath after exercising.
Although the gym has equipment geared toward owners whose pets participate in agility competitions, the main goal is to allow owners to exercise and have fun with their four-legged companions, Gilliam said.
“Petunia over there, her owners said when she first came in that she’s scared by a lot of stuff, so just the fact she’s on the treadmill right now is big,” he said. “It’s all about building up confidence in your dog and having fun.”
And business has picked up much quicker than he had ever anticipated.
“I think word got out before the grand opening [last month] and we’ve been getting everybody from the first-time dog owner all the way to pros competing in the obedience or agility arenas,” Gilliam said. “It started off rather busy, and just ramped up. Every day it increases.”
The media attention has been even more shocking.
“It still feels kind of surreal,” he said. “I mean, it’s a very basic concept, but I guess I tapped into a whole subculture of dog owners. And it’s the right market to do it — I’m not sure this would work out in, like, Woodbridge. It has to be an urban setting.
“[I] think it’s an alternative to sitting at the dog park, drinking your Starbucks and just watching your dogs run around with other dogs. Some dogs like that, but some would rather entertain their owners and work with them.”