I Took My Dog to a High-End Pet Spa. Here’s What Happened.

Since she hadn’t had a pro grooming experience before, I figured, why not spoil Lyla a little?
By: Nicole Pajer
Dog's day at the spa

Aside from going to PetSmart for a bi-monthly nail trimming, my two-year-old Doberman, Lyla, has never been to the spa. Her short fur really doesn’t require much maintenance other than the occasional brushing and post-dog-park bath. But lately, her skin has been collecting dandruff and I figured it was time to try a professional bathing experience. Upon hearing about Southern California’s The Barkley Pet Hotel & Day Spa, Lyla and I decided to check it out.

Since she hadn’t had a pro grooming experience before, I figured, why not spoil Lyla a little? Upon perusing the Barkley’s website, I decided to book her for the Tropical Paradise Spa Treatment Package, a luxurious bathing experience that included a wash with tropical passion shampoo and conditioner, a head and body massage, a spritz of cologne and a floral bow or bandana at the end.

Lyla’s Spa Day

When we arrived at the location, we were blown away by its size (the facility is over 30,000 square feet!). The reception area closely resembles the front desk of a swanky hotel with a team of staffers ready to meet your needs. As we walked in, I glanced to the right and saw a pool. A lady was strapping a pup into a life jacket, placing him on top of a foam surfboard, and leading him around through the water. “One of our visitors is having a private swim lesson,” said one of the receptionists. Apparently, it’s thing they offer.

We were soon greeted by the spa manager, Gina Newman. An avid Doberman lover herself, Newman took one look at Lyla and fell in love. “I’ll take good care of her today,” she promised. Wanting to witness my pup’s first professional bathing experience, I headed back with her to watch the process.

Lyla's day at the spa

After giving me a quick overview of the facility, Newman led Lyla back to the bathing area. She hoisted her up into one of the bathtubs with the help of an assistant and started to hose her off. We have a walk-in shower at home and Lyla isn’t used to being in a bath so, after three attempts at leaping over the side of the tub, the ladies catered the bathing experience more towards Lyla’s needs and transferred her to a stand up shower (she instantly calmed down). Thus began her afternoon of luxury. 

Newman hosed Lya down and began to pull out an array of products. She lathered her up in a tropical conditioning shampoo that was plant derived, non-toxic, gluten free, and infused with certified organic aloe vera. Next, Lyla was slathered with their tropical paradise super conditioner and Newman gave her a head and body massage before rinsing everything off. My typically-energetic dog soon began to close her eyes and relax with enjoyment. She was settling into the spa life quite nicely!

Newman then decided to throw in a blueberry facial, which helped to clean away any of the gunk or matted fur around Lyla’s eyes and nose, and a full-body mud mask to pull out any impurities in her skin. “This will really help to alleviate all of her dandruff,” Newman said to me. “She’s going to walk out of here so fluffy and soft.”

Lyla's day at the spa

Then, it was off to the drying station. Since Lyla had never been blow dried before, she lasted about 60 seconds before she decided she wasn’t having it and the gracious spa employees decided to again modify the treatment. After a quick towel off, Lyla was placed into what they affectionately refer to as a “doggie cabana,” a sort of glass crate that has air jets on the bottom that blows warm air onto your dog and gradually dries her off. At first, Lyla wasn’t so sure about it (“you’re a Doberman!” Newman teased while we laughed about her skepticism to enter the cabana). But after a few minutes, she settled right in. We all took a break for lunch and returned to find Lyla completely passed out on her side, on top of the warm air jet, blissfully snoring away. 

After she was dry (and fluffier than I’ve ever seen her), Newman took Lyla over to the grooming station where she combed her fur with a special brush to get rid of excess fur and to prevent an excess of seasonal shedding. The rubber brush felt like a second massage, and after coming out of her sauna experience, Lyla looked more relaxed than ever. Newman also cleaned out her ears and spritzed her with a tropical passion spray. A scent worthy of a Hawaiian beach getaway deliciously engulfed her. 

While Lyla was in grooming, I had the gals dremel her nails down a bit. And when they suggested that we finish them off with some polish, I couldn’t refuse. Since Lyla’s nails are black, we opted for a shimmery gold color. My pup is very used to having her nails done, so she happily obliged. Finally, the pièce de résistance was a tropical bandana and flower that Newman artfully placed around Lyla’s neck. It really topped off the whole experience. 

Lyla's day at the spa

Lyla strutted out of that salon like she owned the world. She smelled like a delightful sea breeze and everyone in the lobby wanted to pet her and tell her how pretty she looked. The ladies at the front desk gave her treats, then she ran up to a guy who was checking out and stuck her nose in his crotch, proving that, although she just spent the afternoon enjoying a posh pampering session, she was still very much a dog. 

Life Post-Pampering

When we got home, Lyla modeled her new look for my husband. My rat terrier, Rocky, ran over to her and began to sniff her up and down, taking in her new floral aroma. Then they curled up on their bed together and fell asleep. The spa was a very stimulating experience for Lyla and it wiped her right out.

Two days later, she went over to my neighbor’s house to show her gold nails off to her Bullmastiff buddy, McCovey. His owners must have recently run their sprinklers because she returned home that afternoon extra muddy. We toweled her off with puppy wipes and her coat still retained its shine. A week and a half after her spa day, Lyla still smelled like the beach—and continued to proudly rock her Hawaiian-print bandana.