Anybody can take their dog for a walk. But now Salt Lakers can take their dog for a swim at a center that rivals anything you’ll find for humans.
DogMode, which opened 20 years ago as a doggie daycare/boarding facility, has added a doggie swimming pool. Well, an Aquatic Fitness Center for dogs — a fancy name for a fancy facility.
“There are other pools for dogs, but nothing exists like this,” said owner Susan Butler. “And I don’t think anybody else is going to be crazy enough to create it.”
DogMode built a 5,000-square-foot addition to house the pool — which is 45 feet long, 20 feet wide and 4½ feet deep — along with a comfortable lounge area with lockers. And the pool itself is beautiful.
Did I say the DogMode facility rivals those intended for humans? The fact is that the doggie pool is considerably more inviting than a lot of public pools.
“Of course everything needed to be top of the line, because why would you do it any other way?” Butler said with a smile.
It’s clean. It smells good. If you didn’t know it is a dog facility, you wouldn’t guess. There are eight filters that are cleaned daily, and a robotic pool cleaner.
DogMode Aquatic Center
Where • 4030 S. Howick St., Salt Lake City
Phone • 801-261-2665
Hours • Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. 6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Pricing • Initial swim orientation (reservation required), $25 for 30 minutes for one or two dogs; $5 per each additional dog; open swim, $15 for 30 minutes, $30 for 60 minutes; reserve swim (reservation required), $60 for 30 minutes, $120 for 60 minutes, $5 for each additional dog
For more information • dogmode.com
“We have a guy that comes in and does the pH and checks everything out for us, and he told us that this is cleaner than most human pools,” said pool manager/dog trainer David Valdez.
And, by the way, toddlers (and others) have been known to pee in pools. Dogs generally don’t.
But this is a dog pool, not a dog-and-person pool. Pretty much the only person who gets in is Valdez, who makes sure dogs can swim.
“The orientation pretty much proves to me that your dog can swim,” Valdez said. “And then after that, you can drop your dog off for daycare or boarding. We can swim your dog or you can. You can come in yourself and then go play fetch with your dog.”
Not all dogs can swim. Not all dogs want to swim. But you never know.
“You’d be amazed at even the little, tiny dogs who like getting in the water,” Valdez said.
My two Shih Tzus came with me to DogMode, and I was certain neither would get in the pool. I was right about Xavi, but Chip was more interested. His favorite activity is chasing tennis balls, and he followed one into the water, splashing around on the shallow area at one end. Then he ended up underwater in the deep area — shocking us all.
“I was about ready to jump in,” Butler said.
No need. Chip came up swimming. And it didn’t deter him from jumping in again and again.
The wet hair in his eyes sometimes kept him from seeing the tennis balls; he’ll need a top-knot or a barrette the next time. But he loved it, and it was hugely entertaining.
“Isn’t it hilarious?” Butler said. “You can’t stop smiling. This is designed to be fun. We want families to come here and have a good time.”
Including the pups.
“It’s like Disneyland for dogs,” Valdez said.
No dog is forced into the pool.
“If we get a dog who’s not too sure if he knows how to swim, then we get him in a life jacket and I go down in the pool with them,” Valdez said. And the pool is well stocked with doggie life jackets and big, fluffy towels.
(Dogs are required to have proof of vaccinations for Bordetella, distemper and rabies. To participate in open swim, dogs must be spayed or neutered by age 7 months.)
The water is kept at room temperature — it’s warm enough so dogs can stay in it for 30-60 minutes. It’s saltwater, but it’s like a saline solution, not the ocean. There’s no saltwater smell on dogs after they get out of the pool.
Chip had a fantastic time. He even jumped back in after I had him mostly dried off. And I had to pretty much pull him away when it was time to go home.
“It’s great for exercise, for sure,” Butler said. “It’s great for weight loss. It’s the only way I can get my big dog to get really exhausted.”
I hear that. Chip was so exhausted a couple of hours after we got home that I had to carry him to the front door to take him for a walk.
“We have a lady who has an 18-year-old dog that comes in for exercise,” Valdez said. “And I get in and do laps with the dog. She brings that dog in once a week and she claims that it’s really helped him with his mobility.”
When the weather is warm, you can take your dog and head to the recreation area out back, which you can also rent for picnics/barbecues. The grass is artificial and can be cleaned and sanitized.
(My dogs, um, quickly made it clear they thought it was real grass.)
The idea for the doggie pool originated when owner/manager Brent Butler struck up a friendship with Valdez, who trained his two dogs to compete in dock-diving — they run and leap as far as they can into a pool or water tank.
“It was just kind of a fun outlet for them,” Valdez said. “One of my dogs went from jumping 13 feet to 24 feet.”
Actually, 24 feet and 5 inches — enough to win a major competition three years ago.
“It’s a very addictive sport,” Valdez said.
The DogMode pool has a ramp (or dock) built to the specifications of the North American Diving Dogs organization — 40 feet long and 8 feet wide. They’re hoping to not just have dogs come in to train, but to host dock-diving competitions.
Dock-diving and exercise are options, but dogs can just get in the pool and have fun.
“We’ve been here for 20 years. There’s a lot of dog daycares out there now,” Butler said. “We just kind of upped the ante.
“I’m astonished every time I come here. I keep thinking — I don’t know who does this, but I guess we did.”