Dogtopia paws its way into Canada

We love our pets and they love us. (Julia Pelish/

The arrival of Dogtopia in Canada should make life easier for travellers and their pets. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Julia Pelish Visuals Editor

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — I have a frequent-flyer friend who lives with her yorkie and often finds herself having to run out of town at a moment’s notice. Most times, she can leave home feeling confident and secure knowing she can count on me to step in and provide Coco with affectionate care. I love dogs, but as a travel journalist I’m on the road a lot and don’t keep pets of my own. When I am home, I welcome the opportunity to spend time with my surrogate pet. We enjoy our walks together, having treats, and snuggling. Coco feels right at home here. But when I am not available to dog sit, Rosa in the past has had no choice but to leave her cherished pet in a kennel when she goes on vacay.

That’s about to change. Dogtopia, a doggie daycare centre that started in Virginia in 2002, is expanding to Canada, with 35 locations planned for the next several years. Vancouver will be home to the first franchise location in the country early in 2014, Dogtopia founder and CEO Amy Nichols says.

“I was in Vancouver for the first time a couple of years ago and it was only for a few days, and we weren’t thinking about coming into Canada at that point, but I remember thinking to myself: Those are our people. Our customers are very committed to their pets and they’re highly educated. It seemed very natural to me that a market like Vancouver would make sense for Dogtopia,” Nichols says. “I just thought, ‘We need to be here.’ Little did I know that three years later we would be here.”

Locations opening across Canada

Other locations are planned for Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area. Among Dogtopia’s services are webcams, so owners can tune in to view their pets when they’re apart, and multiple play areas where dogs are separated by size and attitude. Dogs will enjoy pawdicures and specialty gourmet treats. Owners will have the peace of mind of knowing their pets are well taken care of day and night.

The pet-care business is booming, with Dogtopia recording $14 million (US dollars) in sales annually and aiming to grow from 29 US-based franchise locations to 400 across North America by 2021.

[box_light]Vancouver: A great city for pet travel[/box_light]

Pet lovers spent $6.5 billion on their animals in 2012, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada says. According to Statistics Canada, more than 4.4 million households in the country have a dog. While Nichols expansion plans may make dogsitters like me obsolete, it also helps to guarantee outstanding care for dogs.

“In Vancouver alone, families have 110,000 dogs. What Dogtopia provides is a safe, joyful, caring environment for dogs when their owners are at work or on vacation,” says Chris Aconley, a franchise expert from Vancouver and Dogtopia’s western regional manager. “Dog lovers in Canada will now have peace of mind when they are apart from their pets. The days of worrying about how your pet is doing when you’re not there with them are over.”

A photographer who has worked in the largest media markets in Canada and the U.S., Julia’s travel photos and videos have been featured prominently in the Toronto Star and been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Her new line of photo jewelry was inspired by her travels. Even though she is an American, one of her favourite travel experiences was spending Canada Day 2000 on Parliament Hill, joining in a parade with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and others. Julia is’s Visuals Editor. See her work at

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