When Vu Ngoc Minh Ha and her husband leave home in Tay Ho District at 7 a.m. for work, they take their samoyed dog named Xe Dap (Bicycle) with them and drop him off at a doggy day care on nearby Dang Thai Mai Street.
They pick him up on their way home in the evening.
For the past three years Ha, 27, has been entrusting Xe Dap to the center from Monday to Friday every week.
“We don’t want to leave our dog at home alone because we are afraid he will be lonely without anyone to play with or destroy furniture,” she says.
While the monthly fee is high enough at VND4 million, the couple pay extra for him to be fed extra meals and given spa treatments and other services. They typically spend VND10-12 million (US$427-512.89) on the animal each month.
Bicycle (white with a red scarf) plays with other dogs at a dog day care on Dang Thai Mai Street in Hanoi’s Tay Ho district in early 2022. Photo courtesy of Ha
Day care services for pets work similarly to children's creches in that owners can drop off their animals on their way to work in the morning.
Doggie day care is thought to have first appeared in the U.S. in 1987 before quickly gaining popularity in other developed countries.
In Vietnam, it appeared about five years ago.
Ta Quoc Hai, 29, owner of the first pet care and grooming service center in Hanoi, which opened in 2017, says there are many pet care centers in Vietnam and a number of them meet international standards.
His is a four-story facility divided into six areas, each more than 50 square meters in size. There are two sections each for dogs and cats, with the remainder dedicated to grooming, trimming, playing, and outdoor pools.
Hai first began by offering home health checks for pets and walks before expanding his business to include a pet spa and hotel.
After noticing the high demand he then opened a pet day care in 2019 and hired 10 pet sitters.
His facility accepts fully vaccinated dogs as young as three months old. The pets brought to the center each have a profile, which includes their eating habits and personality traits for the guidance of the staff.
He says: “Leaving pets at day care for the first time is like a child’s first day of school. They may be nervous because they are meeting strangers and seeing other dogs. They however become accustomed to it after 3-5 days.”
Ta Quoc Hai with dogs at his day care center on August 8, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/QuynhNguyen
The center has trainers who teach pets to defecate in the appropriate place, eat properly from a bowl, learn commands and tricks, and drop them off at home when the owners are unable to pick them up.
Small animals are transported on a motorcycle in a bag, while older pets are taken in cars for their safety.
Currently Hai’s facility costs VND150,000-350,000 a day, depending on the pet’s weight.
Requests for training, beautification and transportation are charged on a per-case basis.
Many Hanoians like Ha are willing to spend a lot of money on their pets.
For instance, Hai’s semi-boarding day care has nearly 50 permanent inmates. He says up to 100 are brought there during holidays.
“The majority of our customers are foreigners. Vietnamese owners account for 30 percent of our business, but that number is growing rapidly.”
Many service providers say that a ” pet humanization ” trend is thriving with pets being treated like family members by their owners with food, lifestyles and care to match.
It is one of the reasons for the surge in the popularity of pet-care services, they add.
Tran Ha Thu, 36, the manager of a cat care facility on Lac Long Quan Street in Tay Ho District, believes that as demand increases, the trend of sending pets to day care will become more widespread and centers will build and upgrade facilities to include more spaces, playgrounds, swimming pools, and so on.
She currently manages a center each in Hanoi, Saigon and the southern province of Bien Hoa, and each gets around 20 pets a month and charges between VND100,000 and VND400,000 per pet per day depending on size.
A staff member grooms a dog in Hanoi in August 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
For Ha, the pet care center meets all of her needs as her dog is fed on time and gets exercise instead of lazing around at home and waiting for her to return from work.
She feels safer as the center constantly updates her on Bicycle's activities and she herself can see him through the day since cameras are installed around the facility.
“Any unusual symptoms such as cough, fever, fatigue, or loss of appetite are documented and communicated to me.”
She says many people tell her that sending dogs to day care is excessive and unnecessary, especially when it costs even more than sending children to a private kindergarten.
But she and her husband ignore the naysayers, and plan to keep doing it, she says staunchly.
“The price here is higher than at other places, but it is worth it because it allows my husband and me to go to work with peace of mind.”
She even thinks her dog has been behaving better and appearing happier and more energetic since he started going to the center.
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