Camp Bow Wow a safe and fun environment for dogs

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Coming out of corporate America, Mark and Connie Garret began thinking about going into business for themselves in 2006. They decided that going franchise was the best route because it is being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. With a passion for dogs, the eventually found Camp Bow Wow.

Now owners and camp directors, Connie Garrett said they began looking for locations. They chose East County because they did not find the municipality of San Diego that friendly for this type of business.

Coming out of corporate America, Mark and Connie Garret began thinking about going into business for themselves in 2006. They decided that going franchise was the best route because it is being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. With a passion for dogs, the eventually found Camp Bow Wow.

Now owners and camp directors, Connie Garrett said they began looking for locations. They chose East County because they did not find the municipality of San Diego that friendly for this type of business.

“El Cajon was extremely business friendly, they worked with us, told us exactly what we needed, how long it would take from start to finish and it was very accurate,” she said. “We opened in March of 2008”

Camp Bow Wow is settled in a 6,600 square foot building, with the ability to house up to 110 dogs. Mark Garrett said the economy was booming in 2006, but opening in 2008 the bottom fell out.

“It has been a steady but slow growth because of the economy,” Connie Garrett said. “We are still growing at about 30 percent a year. It started slow, but it is moving much faster now.”

Camp Bow Wow has 13 employees, including one manager and the two Garrets. It offers doggy day care and overnight boarding that includes use of the day care facilities.

“It’s kind of like an all exclusive resort,” she said. “Unlike the other models out there where you pay a boarding price and everything else is extra, our prices are all inclusive. The only thing we offer for up sale is grooming services.”

Dogs get their own comfy cabin, with a cot, fleece, a campfire treat and doggy lullabies at night.

“They are tired after playing all day,” she said. “They play about eight hours out of the day during the week with three downtimes. Just like kids, they get tired and cranky in the middle of the day, so we give them a little rest.”

They started Yappy Hour because there are plenty of dog activities towards the coast, but not in East County. It is now in its third year of Yappy Hour at the Downtown Café in El Cajon from May through October ending with the big Halloween contest for the dogs. Camp Bow Wow is involved in other charity events. Woof and Washes at the El Cajon Dog Wash where proceeds go to the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation which does cancer research, re-homing shelter animals and full make overs of shelters.

“We also have a foster care program where we partner with local dog rescue organizations and we board them here for free until they get adopted or placed into a foster home,” said Connie Garret. “We have had 73 foster care dogs since we opened.”

Camp Bow Wow is fully climate controlled, three indoor and outdoor play yards that the dogs can go in and out of all day long, continuously supervised in the yards by trained employees and the dogs are separated by size and temperament. Yards have playgrounds, shade structures and pup pools in the summer. Ranging from sizes 4-by-4, 4-by-8 and 5-by-10, the facility is equipped with 53 cabins. 

“We are not a traditional kennel,” said Mark Garrett. “Our model is very different. It is an all day play open play environment. It is like three big dog parks.”

Connie Garret said the difference is that they are always supervised, all dogs are vaccinated and they all go through a free interview process before being allowed to stay.

“Safety is the number one rule,” she said. “All dogs have to be temperament tested and be social to both dogs and people.”

In the interview process, a customer comes in with their dog or dogs with shot records, we take the dog to the interview room and introduce them to two dogs, a male and a female one at a time. If that goes well the dog is required to stay with Camp Bow Wow for a minimum of three hours, but allowed to stay all day to see how a dog reacts with the group of dogs.

“Interview day is completely free,” said Connie Garrett. “We want the dog to be comfortable, the owners to be comfortable. We are stringent about the interview business and as a new business we hate to turn customers away, but safety of the dogs and our employees is the first priority.”

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