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Only Top Dogs Need Apply at Pooch Social Club in East Village

By Serena Solomon | December 18, 2012 7:32am

EAST VILLAGE — Forget velvet ropes in the Meatpacking District — the hottest ticket in town may be a new membership-based doggie social club in the East Village.

Ruff Club will begin screening potential four-legged members this week with a strict application process and "temperament test" required for exclusive entry into its new doggie daycare and boarding kennels. The business, set to open in a former performance and bar space at 34 Avenue A, will also cater to the social needs of owners, as well as their pets.

"We are trying to make sure the dogs are appropriate for a daycare setting," said Alexia Simon Frost, who came up with the idea for the club with her husband Danny Frost.

"Sometimes dogs are not very social," she added. "It doesn't mean they are a bad dog or a good dog — it just means they are better off in a one-on-one walking situation."

Those who join the social club will be able to drop their dogs off for the day, or work and socialize in a café-like setting equipped with free WiFi and serving coffee, while observing their pet in the playpen through a glass wall.

Yearly dues are $149 with daycare, and then members pay rates starting at $29 a day. Nightly kennel stays cost $49. The club will also hold regular lectures and workshops, including the latest dog-rearing techniques.

For interested dogs and owners, the application to Ruff Club includes a questionnaire giving permission for the Frosts to obtain records directly from vets.

"We obtain the records to make sure everything checks out," said Danny Frost, noting Ruff Club looks for health issues that could become a problem or previous behavioral issues such as biting.

Once a dog passes the initial stage, the pooch is dropped off at the clubhouse for a temperament test — minus its owner.

"We want to be able to observe its natural behavior and personality," said Danny Frost. "If we have the owner here, if the dog can see their owner, it really affects their behavior."

The prospective dog member is then let loose in Ruff Club's glassed-off playpen, where the dog is given a trial play period with other dogs already known to the club.

"We really want to see how they will play in a regular daycare setting," Danny Frost said.

Ruff Club staffers then observe for anti-social behaviors such as separation anxiety once the owner leaves or aggression.

"Toy aggression isn't a deal-breaker," said Alexia Simon Frost, speaking about when a dog guards a toy or snaps at others who approach it in an attempt to grab the object. 

"If there are four dogs here at night and we know that none of them have toy aggression, then we bring out the ball," said Danny Frost, adding that Ruff Club will be reliant on knowledgeable staff as well as electronic data they intend to keep on members.

The temperament test lasts for about 90 minutes, and owners are notified of their pets' success when they return to pick up their dog, Danny Frost said.

"One thing we look for in screening is whether the dog simply doesn't like daycare," he said.

"We wouldn't want a dog in daycare who doesn't like it."