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Dogs on vacation living in the lap of luxury

By Mary Mueller, CNN
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Americans will spend $4.73 billion on boarding and grooming for their pets this year
  • Luxury pet hotels are a popular option for pet owners who are willing to spend more
  • Hotels have large bedrooms, swimming pools, gyms, spas, chauffeur services

(CNN) -- More and more animal lovers who aren't opposed to splurging on their furry friends are choosing overnight stays at resort-style retreats that offer services fit for royalty.

Pet owners are poised to spend $4.73 billion on boarding and grooming for their beloved animals this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Luxury pet hotels feature rooms nice enough for people, large swimming pools, gyms for working out, spas for relaxing and chauffeur services.

The pet grooming and boarding industry has "nearly doubled over the past decade," IBISWorld analyst Britanny Carter wrote in a recent report. New luxury pet services like pet hotels are growing in demand despite the recession, she added.

"Over the next five years, this trend is expected to gain further momentum as pet ownership rises and owners use their growing disposable income on an increasing array of services for their pets."

Living it up

Before traveling to visit family in Alabama, Allison and Marcus Josephson needed someone to watch their 4-year-old chocolate Lab, Penny.

They always want the very best for Penny.

"Well, being a family that doesn't have any two-legged children, she is a four-legged fur baby, so she is spoiled," Allison Josephson said.

The Josephsons aren't fans of kennels for Penny because of the caged environment, so they opted to take her to Pet Paradise, an all-inclusive resort in College Park, Georgia.

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For three days, Penny resided in the Presidential Falcons suite.

The room has amenities like a flat-screen TV, a small bed, a water cooler, a window view and a personal webcam so Mom and Dad can check in on her.

Penny's parents say the webcam is one of their favorite features because they can go online and see Penny having fun and making friends.

The suite's $75-a-night price tag can be too steep for many owners. Pet Paradise manager Shannon Hunt says they won't sacrifice luxury by getting a standard suite at $38 a night, featuring raised bedding, a water cooler and a patio but no flat-screen TV or fancy decor.

In New York, D Pet Hotels take high-end to another level.

Suites start at $84 a night and can go up to an ear-raising $200 a night.

D Pet's expensive "Uber" suites have a modern style, with a full bed adorned with stuffed animals and, in case your dog gets lonely, a flat-screen TV to watch.

"We don't actually think of the dogs at D Pet Hotels as being spoiled. Dogs are like members of our family," said Kerry Brown, co-owner of D Pet Hotels Chelsea.

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Things to do

At Pet Paradise, furry friends can enjoy room service or let loose in the bone-shaped swimming pool, while at D Pet Hotels, the Pant Gym offers treadmills to help canine guests stay fit on vacation.

Play time is taken seriously at both pet hotels, which feature large areas where dogs can run around, play catch and tug-of-war, and socialize with other dogs.

"Being social is very important to the dogs. They are social animals. They live in pack structure," said Dale Garner, certified dog trainer and Pet Paradise's play coordinator. He organizes them into play sessions by temperament.

He also says most dogs "mind their manners" and don't have problems with each other.

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Similarly, at D Pet Hotels, a temperament test ensures that a dog is comfortable among the pack.

What's a vacation without a little nosh? At D Pet Hotels, room service is available.

"When dogs come here, they do have the option to use our private chef services. We offer meals from anything from brown rice and vegetables with their choice of meat to, actually, raw food diets," Brown said.

At Pet Paradise, resort staff will bring your pooch a bone and ice cream to enjoy each day, and Hunt says they will even feed your pet from a fork if that's what they like.

Relaxation is ruff

There is no shortage of spa services to pamper pooches pet hotels, from baths to pawdicures -- yes, manicures for dogs!

At Glamour Paws in Atlanta, another pet boutique, the chic spa will give dogs a custom grooming with colored highlights or even a blueberry facial.

"A lot of dogs get blueberry facials because they either have tear stains or water stains around their beard. The blueberry facial helps lighten them up and get those stains out," said Nichole Robinson, co-owner of Glamour Paws.

Owners request a variety of hair colors and styles on their dogs, Robinson said.

One pooch named Diamond got her ears, feet and tail dyed hot pink.

A more unique request, Robinson said, is owners asking to dye their dogs' feet red so it looks like they're wearing Christian Louboutin's red-soled heels.

When nothing is too fancy for Fido

Similarly, D Pet Hotels' "Look Book" allows owners to choose from a variety of styles for their dog.

The "Don Draper" look will have your pooch leaving the spa with a bow tie (minus the cocktail).

Brown said the most popular look is the "rich bitch," a top knot on the dog's head.

Going home in style

After a long vacation, dogs, like people, are ready to head home.

D Pet Hotels offer a way for dogs to hit the road in style.

"In L.A., we actually have luxury cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris that can come pick up your dog. Here in New York City, we partner with different chauffeur services so your dog can leave in a black car or a limousine," Brown said.

Ultimately, dog owners just want a safe place to leave their pet. They want to make sure they're happy and healthy. But for some lucky dogs, there's no limit to what their owners will spend.

Would you book a luxury hotel stay for your pet? Share your take in the comments section below.

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