PUBLISHED: 09:35 27 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:38 10 November 2015
(C) Maija Astikainen
With the UK pet industry worth a booming £4.5bn annually, our willingness to spend on our animals has rocketed. Fancy a massage and a Mohawk, Rover?
Life has never been so good for Hertfordshire’s four-legged friends. All over the county, animal lovers are turning their pet passions into professional ventures and there are a growing number of luxury products and services on offer. From spas and hotels to makeovers and massage, if there’s a service for humans, you can bet there’s an animal version for Fido and Fluffy.
Animal lover Sarah Allen set up her grooming spa in September 2013 and her salon on Buntingford High Street is a hit with locals who often just pop in to chat about their furry friends.
‘My door is always open,’ Allen says, and this friendly outlook is reflected in her treatment styles, which have a caring, stress-free approach, working around each pet’s individual needs. As well as grooming, she offers pedicures and flea treatment and her aromatherapy massage is one of her most popular services. ‘We use calming lavender oils – the dogs are often so relaxed they lay down in the bath!’
Allen says solving pet problems can be very rewarding work: ‘I’ve helped to find the right shampoo for the fur of dogs with skin issues and even worked with an owner to help calm her dog so the pet could be groomed without sedation.’
A full groom starts from £25, see sarahallengroomingspa.co.uk
Raye Lowe Studios in Cheshunt has offered a pet photography service for years, but in the past five the company has seen a spike in popularity with pets being included in family shoots as well as having their own one-on-one sessions. ‘Cats and dogs are the most popular, but we’ve recently photographed rats, ferrets and parrots,’ studio manager Kristy Hester-Lowe says.
Of course, working with animals has its obstacles, but the photographers give them plenty of time to relax and explore their surroundings, as well as tempting them with treats as incentives to co-operate. Every session is different, Hester-Lowe says. ‘The family often bring accessories like bow ties and jumpers and we recently had 10 dogs to photograph at once, which was a challenge. Pets really are a part of the family now – more so than ever. Sometimes a customer comes to us because the pet is ill. Hard though these shoots are, we help to capture their pet’s personality in photos they can treasure forever.’
Give them a makeover
Regular grooming is important for keeping a dog’s coat clean and healthy, but husband-and-wife team Vikki and Trevor Pearman from Hatfield really go the extra mile with their creative dog grooming service, Pedigrees ’n’ Pooches.
They are well-known for their dog-friendly fur dyes, feather extensions and even diamante ‘fur-jazzles’. Both the Pearmans are highly experienced, and they’re normally booked up weeks in advance, but they admit not everyone is a fan. ‘Creative grooming can be controversial, but we would never jeopardise an animal’s comfort or safety,’ they explain. ‘We only groom dogs that are healthy, well-socialised and happy with the attention they’ll inevitably receive. All of our products are made for dogs and we even test them on ourselves.’
There are glowing reviews on the company Facebook page and customers keep coming back, say the Pearmans. ‘One of our most fun clients is a little crossbreed who comes in regularly for a Mohawk down his back, and every time we dye it a different colour. We’ve also had a couple request colouring a pet’s ears as a way of announcing the sex of their baby!’
Luxury hotel break
Welwyn cat lover Abi Purser opened Longcroft, her first luxury cat hotel, in 2010 after failing to find a premium cattery for her own cat, Norman. ‘Demand for our suites quickly exceeded supply. During our first Christmas we turned away hundreds of bookings,’ she says.
This led to the start of a franchise, which stands at eight hotels with several more on the way. The hotels have hundreds of rave reviews, multiple awards and provide a five-star service.
‘Our aim is for our guests to have a better holiday than their owners,’ Purser explains. And with heated rooms, wrought iron beds, round-the-clock care, a cat treat ‘minibar’, regular cuddles, play sessions, spa treatments and an ‘A La Cat’ menu served on bone china, this is a distinct possibility.
The hotels are happy to fulfil the most luxurious of requests, from providing only Evian water to serving organic asparagus for dinner, and staff send daily photos to the owners. Says Purser, ‘It can be stressful leaving a beloved pet and often people have had bad experiences in other catteries. It provides great peace of mind to know your cat is having a great holiday too.’
Birthday cakes and treats
Sawbridgeworth-based Jackie Burns started her handmade dog treats business, Aunty Jacks, only in August last year, but the company has already received orders from as far away as Poland.
It was Burns’ Labrador Charlie’s sensitive stomach that inspired her to start making her own healthy treats. ‘I began to research which foods are beneficial to dogs and there’s loads,’ she says. ‘For example, apples and carrots are high in fibre, ginger can prevent travel sickness and carob powder (a cocoa powder alternative) produces a dog-friendly chocolate.’
Among Burns’ bestsellers are cheesy Marmite ‘love bones’ and ‘Mutteasers’ made with natural peanut butter, banana and honey. Her dog-friendly gingerbread was a sell-out at Christmas markets last year, and she even makes doggy birthday cakes ‘so dogs can enjoy a yappy birthday’.
See facebook.com/AuntyJacks for details
Top dog-friendly pubs
The Swan, Wheathampstead A warm welcome for people and pets and a big jar of doggy treats on the bar. theswanwheathampstead.co.uk
The Strathmore Arms, St Pauls Warden. The landlord says, ‘We welcome well-behaved children on leads, and dogs - I think I’ve got that right.’ A great area for country walks too. thestrathmorearms.co.uk
The Catherine Wheel, Albury. Free treats for doggy patrons and it’s a short drive away from the dog agility course at Southern Country Park. thecatherinewheelalbury.co.uk
Hanbury Manor, Ware Doggy guests are welcome in the drawing room and lobby and there are 22 acres of parkland for walks. marriott.co.uk
Luton Hoo, nr Harpenden Dog guests get pampered with their own basket, blanket, bowls and a chew toy. lutonhoo.co.uk
The Three Tuns, Ashwell A dog-friendly garden and the pub has even hosted a doggy birthday party. thethreetunsashwell.co.uk