Every dog has its day… of pampering!

Being man’s best friend is harder than it looks: Even if dogs dedicate their lives to their human companions without asking for much in return, some of them end up rehomed, abandoned, or abused.

You can say it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

And because dogs are a howling success as man’s besties, they at least deserve a day at the spa, yes?

Now that you’ve had more than enough of dog puns, let’s follow Topper, an adopted Chihuahua who has done such a great job as BFF to comedian-author Stanley Chi, as he spends the day at the Libis branch of The Dog Spa & Hotel for some well-deserved de-stressing and pampering.

Topper gets a thorough but gentle ear cleaning as part of his grooming.

Clean as a hound’s tooth

“Topper loves baths. Maybe it’s because he knows there’s a treat waiting for him after each bath,” said Stanley, Topper’s human for six years and counting. “I think he will enjoy the first time he gets groomed at the dog spa.”

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Stanley was right. After all, The Dog Spa & Hotel started as a community for dog owners on Facebook.

“It was a pet lover’s page where members could share best practices. We realized we had so many dogs and we weren’t happy with services and supplies we found elsewhere,” said Eric Villanueva, who co-owns The Dog Spa & Hotel with James and Erlene Loverio.

“Supplies were too expensive in the Philippines because there were too many middlemen. We started sourcing products from abroad. When the members of our page found out that we had a grooming service, there was an increase in demand and we had to open a second branch. We now have fifteen branches, eight of which we own while the rest are franchised.”

Topper and Stanley experienced firsthand why the spa was quite a hit. The expert grooming package they offered Topper started with a thorough but gentle cleaning of his ears, followed by nail clipping and buffing. He was then given a warm bath with organic soap and shampoo.

While Topper had no aversion to water, the same couldn’t be said of other dogs. Asked what should be done if a canine customer became agitated, groomer Richard Perdigon said he preferred rapport over restraints. “I’d rather spend a little more time with the dog until he became comfortable with me instead of using a muzzle on him. They become more stressed with unnecessary restraints.”

Topper might have been used to baths, but he hated having his teeth brushed! Richard, however, didn’t find it much of a challenge – after all, he had two dogs and a cat of his own.

“All our groomers are pet owners. They have to own a dog if they want to work with us,” explained Eric.

Richard also recommended the emptying of Topper’s anal glands. “Some pet owners think it’s cute when a dog scoots on the floor. They don’t realize that a dog may do that due to discomfort, such as when his anal sac is full.”

More than just a massage

Topper gets powdered with a puff and sprayed with cologne formulated especially for dogs – talk about pampering!

Were dog massages merely a frivolous luxury? Eric said they weren’t. “A thirty-minute massage is equivalent to about two hours of walking,” he said. “Probably the most important benefit is that it increases dog and human bonding. It’s so much easier to train a dog after he gets a massage.”

Before his massage, Topper was given a hair spa treatment. After a thorough rinsing, his fur was gently toweled down and blow-dried. To ensure that he wasn’t stressed out by the noise the blower made, Richard made sure they started with a low setting.

Topper was then given a soothing 15-minute massage. Trained to massage dogs just like all the other groomers who worked at the spa, Richard also worked on Topper’s ears.

An ear massage, Eric said, helped anxious dogs relax even more.

A dog with long fur would have also received an expert haircut, including a facial trim, anal trim, and paw trim – these served more than an aesthetic purpose. “If the fur between a dog’s paws grows long, he might slip when walking on smooth floors,” Eric said.

All clean and dry, Topper’s body was powdered with a white puff. Finally, he was sprayed with cologne made especially for dogs.

It wasn’t just any scented cologne, however. “We had to study everything in the spa, from the colors to the scent. We use blue and yellow because dogs recognize these colors. As for the scent, we use lemon grass because it relaxes them.” Lemon grass is the canine equivalent of lavender, a soothing scent enjoyed by humans.

While the spa and grooming services are offered mostly to canines, requests for cat grooming are also entertained. “Owners might find themselves stressed out when they see their cats agitated during a bath, so baths are difficult for cats in general. But if they want to avail of cat grooming services, we are definitely going to entertain them as our groomers are trained for that.”

A howling success

Although it was his first time to experience head-to-paw grooming, Topper was a trouper. He munched happily on his treats as he walked away with his happy human, his chin and tail held high.

His day at the spa went better than expected! After all, no animals (or humans, for that matter) were harmed in the making of this article. Everyone, with fur or without, ended up feeling – and/or smelling – like a champion.


This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s July 2017 issue.