Pack life meets party atmosphere in the "inner sanctum" backroom at the Loose Pooch Social Club, where bowsers big and small, old and young frolic in the way dogs are meant to.
Paul Wellman

“They ‘re a pack and we’re the pack leaders, in the best-case scenario,” said Loose Pooch Social Club proprietor Shannon Rodgers of the collection of waggling-tailed dogs romping around the establishment’s back room. Human pack leaders though they might be, the Loose Pooch staff excels in helping their furry clients accomplish the simple task of acting like dogs. Being social animals, dogs crave the pack and all the sniffing, pawing, and playful roughhousing that comes along with it. And that goes for all dogs-big lumbering ones, tiny skittering ones, and all makes and models in between.

For the skeptical dog owners who wonder whether their charges might benefit from doggy day care, Rodgers explained that her services help improve the lives of both the pooches and the people who own them. For example, in selecting Loose Pooch’s location two years ago, Rodgers wanted plentiful indoor and outdoor space, as well as a spot that would make dropping dogs off convenient. Of the 250 regular clients-with 40-50 staying on a given day-some dogs make half-day appearances every now and then and others stay the entire length of the workday.

Loose Pooch’s four-legged guests get a chance to interact with other dogs in a way they wouldn’t have had they stayed home. They also chase balls, get fed, and even get brushed and de-stinkified. For owners who can’t always keep their dogs at home, it’s well worth the price tag. “I feel bad for leaving him home,” said Heather Clenet about her dog Ollie, a Leonberger whose horse-sized frame hasn’t prevented him from safely playing with even the smallest dachshund. Rodgers-a canine masseuse whose believes big dogs and little dogs can happily coexist-proudly states that so far she’s never witnessed a fight. “If we see agitation, we step in, give them a ball, and then they forget whatever they’re angry about,” Rodgers said. “They’re easy to divert.”

Prior to admittance, Rodgers said she meets each dog, pets them, and then futzes with their anxiety spots-their tail or rear, for example-to scan for any indication of aggression. Once the applicant passes the pat test, a member of the staff leads the animal into the back room to see how it interacts with a few similarly sized dogs. Rodgers estimates that about 90 percent pass and enjoy happy tenures at Loose Pooch. Acing the anxiety test, however, doesn’t guarantee a spot on a given day. Rodgers keeps 10 dogs for every staffer, more or less, and temperaments and energy levels are factored into her decision to stop accepting dogs for the day. Reservations are encouraged.

Rodgers claims she has “good dog mojo.” But more than that, she also seems to have good enough business sense to offer a needed service in a dog-crazy town like Santa Barbara. A social club for dogs, what more could a pet owner want?

4•1•1 The Loose Pooch Social Club is located at 1925 State Street. Call 569-5201 or visit for prices and additional information.


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