Former television presenter Caroline Flack made headlines this month when it was revealed that her pet pooch was staying at a luxury hotel for dogs, with room stays sold to the tune of \u00a380 a night.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nTo some, it may seem like an extravagance, but to others, dog hotels are becoming a nondescript, everyday part of 21st Century pet care. But where did this business model originally spring from? One of the first ever dog hotels to take flight was, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the centre of Los Angeles over 10 years ago, when Alissa Cruz and her husband decided to set up D Pet Hotel in the heart of Hollywood.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAt the time, Cruz said: \u201cWe love to be pampered on holiday, so why shouldn\u2019t our dogs?\u201d And indeed, the site was one of the first to bring canine luxury to a new level. Custom photoshoots, a dog boutique and its very own D-Chauffeur service are all on offer. \u201cNo request is too much for us. We can accommodate whatever the client wants\u201d, she says. How very LA.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBut slowly, a milder format has set itself amongst the less bombastic British countryside. In the past few years, there has been a real growth in the popularity of dog hotels, and our idea of the traditional dog kennel is perhaps on its way out.\u00a0\r\nThe dog lovers behind the business\r\nOne such business is Bath Country Pets, a luxury hotel in the beautiful Bath countryside. Run by Emma Edwards, the dog accommodation is purpose-built just 50 metres from her family home. Cosy and comfortable dog bedrooms sit adjacent to their very own lounge, with a wood-burner, rugs and toy baskets all on offer. Classical music and lavender oil fill the rooms, soothing the potentially homesick guests.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAs to why Edwards set up the business, she says there was a \u201cclear gap in the market\u201d for families who have canine pets but would not feel comfortable leaving them in a traditional kennel environment. \u201cThis was a new and exclusive niche that we felt we could fill, so we set about creating the perfect place for them to stay,\u201d she adds.\r\n\r\nAll in all, the concept took about 12 months to plan: eight months to build the site, and three months to prepare for its launch. \u201cOur business was built around a belief that we wanted to offer a service which was entirely different from a kennel set up and provide choice to the consumer.\u201d\r\n\r\nClaire Watson runs a similar business herself, aptly entitled Bed and Biscuits. The Swanley site has a limited number of \u201csuites\u201d, and all guests are treated to a raised bed and heating. There is plenty of room for dogs to play and romp, whilst toy boxes and paddling pools offer the finishing touches.\u00a0\r\n\r\nLike Edwards, she began the venture when struggling to find a place for her own dogs to stay. At the time, kennels had a \u201cvery bad reputation\u201d, says Watson. \u201cWe wanted somewhere where dogs would feel at home, where they would be able to be together and still enjoy socialising, long exercise sessions as well as cuddles and lots of affection.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nSo many of the kennels she visited were \u201ccold, unwelcoming and open to the elements\u201d. \u201cRows upon rows of dogs locked in cages\u201d, she says, \u201ccounting down the days until they could leave. Not being able to find what we needed, we cancelled our holiday, but the germ of an idea grew.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, Nick Amsel, who runs Hayfields Dog Hotel in Northamptonshire, decided to set up his dog hotel as he found the idea \u201cmuch more involved and infinitely more rewarding\u201d than running a kennel, for which he says you would need \u201ca heart of stone\u201d. \u201cI personally know each and every guest and couldn\u2019t bear knowing any were unhappy here. Of course there are many problems, they wouldn\u2019t be dogs if they didn\u2019t keep us busy. It\u2019s a steep learning curve to be sure.\u201d\r\nAnd for pet owners, what are the paws-itives?\u00a0\r\nIt may be an \u201cinfinitely rewarding\u201d venture for business owners, but for pet owners who are thinking about a holiday, why exactly should they use these services? Why should they consider turning away from kennels and spending that little bit extra on their pets?\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cWe offer more than just a safe pair of hands\u201d, says Edwards. \u201cOur aspirations are to deliver a positive 'holiday experience' for our guest. Our objective is that any guilt of leaving their beloved pet is set aside as they can see, hear and feel that their dog is having a phenomenal time.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cI personally think the main advantage is the facilities that these hotels provide, rather than kennels\u201d, adds Watson. \u201cAnd because these facilities are typically smaller than kennels tend to be, they can offer much more personal care for each dog and work with each owner to ensure they are continuing with the same routines and protocols that they have at home.\u201d\u00a0\r\nTrouble in paradise\r\nWhile this luxury accommodation may seem a problem-free affair thus far, pet owners still have a right to be cautious with these setups. The communal nature of hotels like this can spell trouble if some guests have behavioural problems, or simply don\u2019t \u2018click\u2019 with the guests around them.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAlex is a pet owner from Kent whose own dog Harley was attacked in a similar accommodation. \u201cAnother dog just got too rambunctious with him\u201d, she said. \u201cI think the close yet open living quarters didn\u2019t help. In the future, we will probably go back to using kennels - I\u2019ve found the standards of kennels have really risen over the past five or so years, but that degree of separation means the less sociable dogs can be monitored in a way that hotels might not be able to do.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nIn this regard, kennels offer a failsafe by segregating dogs for much of the day, while still allowing for monitored playtime. However, some dog hotels have found a way around this. Edwards, for example, holds trial days for applicants before they come to stay, so that she can examine their behaviour and fit to the environment and the other guests around them. She believes she turns away around 10% of applicants, and it is clear that she takes the process very seriously.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cThat is something we have learned to do carefully and provide constructive but honest feedback to our potential clients\u201d, she says. \u201cWe have now developed a specific programme of activities and a scoring system for our trial days so that we have a clear cut basis on which to make our decision.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nAnd for most of the time, guests do get on well together. \u201cAt meal times we prepare and feed dogs in ones or twos to avoid any issues. And it is very special in the evenings when they have all had a busy day to see them settle down together. Sometimes we see proper friendships bloom,\u201d she says.\u00a0\u00a0\r\nIf the price is right\r\nOf course, with luxury comes a price tag. Recent research revealed that the average cost to kennel a dog is \u00a317.35 per night, or \u00a3243 for a two-week stay. These prices included all the basics: food, heating and exercise. Whilst no such study has been done with dog hotels, a Google search reveals the average one-night stay in this type of accommodation comes in at around \u00a336. Some hotels, like the Canine Country Club in Devon, peak at \u00a348 per night, while the Country Dog Hotel in Somerset offers a VIP package for \u00a380.\u00a0\r\n\r\nNonetheless, it seems that prices are not deterring people from using these services. \u201cWe have seen an unprecedented growth in customers\u201d, says Watson. \u201cWe have also gained more staff and now have a really good reputation, with demand outstripping capacity for a majority of the year.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nIndeed, just last Christmas, searches for \u2018dog hotels\u2019 peaked at 100 per week. This may not seem like much, but it's a marked difference from the 24 searches during the same week 10 years ago. A further peak at Google statistics reveals that on average, searches for \u2018dog hotels\u2019 have trumped \u2018dog kennels\u2019 by a considerable amount over the past three months.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, Edwards\u2019 patrons travel from all corners of the UK: Manchester, Kent, Essex, and even St. Ives. The geographical length and breadth of clientele reflects just how far owners are willing to go to provide their dog with the best care.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIn the 18 months that Bath Country Pets has operated, Edwards has also found that almost all customers return to use the service. \u201cWe are constantly juggling the expectations of existing loyal customers who want there always to be availability, with the needs of new and potential customers.\u201d\r\nBarking up the right tree\r\nWhile Edwards has enjoyed her own success, does she believe there is still a gap in the market for similar businesses? \u201cI do, but it is niche to deliver the levels of care that we offer. Not everyone is able to afford it and there are lots of other alternatives available, home boarding, traditional kennels and house sitters of course\u201d, she says. Nonetheless, she believes it is \u201cinevitable\u201d that more businesses of this type open up.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAmsel also believes that this business model will thrive among the UK pet industry in coming years. \u201cAs a nation, we love our pets, but we\u2019re behind in terms of general welfare. Thankfully consumers are becoming more savvy and demanding higher standards. This is a good thing.\u201d\r\n\r\nAlthough standards of kennels have increased over the years, says Watson, they are still \u201cvery basic at best\u201d. And in this day and age, \u201cdogs are much treated as members of the family and therefore they are used to much more interaction and care. We do a lot more than keep a dog in a kennel for a week whilst their owners are away. Kennels have always had a bad reputation, but it also helps owners to go away knowing their dog is staying somewhere that treats them as an individual\u201d.