Pet Camp Ranger Station: “Beyond Group Play”TM

As we begin operations at the Ranger Station, we are being asked the inevitable question: why? Why did we feel the need to expand?  Why did we feel the need to offer enrichment and training beyond group play? And for those of you who know how Pet Camp really works, why did Michelle let Mark take on this project?  While we can’t answer the last question (you can ask Michelle herself at, we can answer the first two questions.

Why did we feel the need to expand?

Pet Camp’s Main Campground is amazing!  It has amenities you just don’t find anywhere else.  Here, in case you forgot are just a very few of them:

  • No Concrete Flooring: Unlike most overnight and dog daycare facilities where the dogs play and sleep on concrete, none of that happens at Pet Camp’s Main Campground. Dogs play on either artificial grass specially designed for dogs or on all-natural surfaces.  All the campsites, where the dogs rest and sleep at night, have rubber floors and radiant heat.
  • No Pressure Washers: If there was anything good to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was that it expanded people’s understanding of such things as “fomites” and “aerosolization.”   Well, what do you think happens when you zap something on the ground with a pressure washer?  Yup, whatever “yucky stuff” that was stuck to the ground (the fomite) just got aerosolized!  At Pet Camp’s Main Campground, we don’t use pressure washers.  We clean with low-pressure and low-vapor steam and disinfect with electrostatic sprayers.
  • Glass Retractable Roof: It’s hard to say much more than that. It’s perfect for letting in plenty of sunshine and fresh air.  There’s not a dog out there who doesn’t benefit from that.

So why, given how amazing the Main Campground is, did we feel compelled to open the Ranger Station?  Succinctly, we were tired of making the counselors and the dogs in the training and enrichment program share space with the group play dogs.  We grew tired of putting things up (fungility equipment for example) for some dogs, only to have to take them down for the next dogs. We were unable to set up more elaborate and permanent structures in shared spaces. Also, there were just some dog training and enrichment activities that needed quieter, more secluded spaces than we could make available at the Main Campground.  In other words, we wanted to do more for the dogs.

Why did we want to offer more training and enrichment Beyond Group Play (TM)?

We know that group play is important for dogs’ socialization and mental stimulation.  In fact, when Pet Camp opened in 1997 and we introduced group play for dogs, our industry group, the American Boarding Kennel Association (now known as the International Boarding and Pet Services Association), gma was so outraged at this “controversial” idea that they almost didn’t let us join our own industry group.  The issue is not the importance of group play; the issue(s) are (1) some dogs are just not group play dogs and (2) even group play dogs have social, emotional, and physical needs that can’t be fully met through group play alone – they need things beyond group play!  Here’s why dogs need offerings Beyond Group Play:

  1. Individual Attention: Dogs are individuals with unique personalities and preferences. They need one-on-one interaction to form strong bonds, build trust, and feel loved and valued.
  2. Training and Mental Stimulation: Dogs thrive when they engage in various activities that challenge their minds. Training sessions, puzzle toys, and interactive games provide mental stimulation and prevent boredom.
  3. Exercise: While group play can be great exercise, it may not address all the physical needs of every dog. Some dogs have more or different types of energy that require different means to dissipate that energy.  Some dogs will excel at a giant maze, some at a custom-designed dog park, and some need the challenge of fungility.
  4. Variety of Interactions: While group play offers interaction with other dogs, it doesn’t provide exposure to the full range of human experiences, such as different environments, people of varying ages and appearances, and different sensory stimuli.
  5. Training and Behavior Management: Dogs need consistent training and positive reinforcement to learn good manners and behaviors. This requires one-on-one time with their owners to establish clear communication and expectations.
  6. Sensory Enrichment: Dogs rely on their senses to understand and navigate the world. They benefit from experiencing new smells, textures, sounds, and sights that may not be present during group play.
  7. Relaxation and Calmness: Not all dogs enjoy the high-energy environment of group play. Some dogs may prefer quiet one-on-one interactions where they can relax and bond without the stress of social dynamics.

We get group play for dogs – we were one of the first in the pet care industry to offer it, and we value its importance in many dogs’ lives.  We also think there is value in non-group play activities.  We believe that instead of thinking about group play vs. training and enrichment as an either-or possibility, it’s important to think about dog training and dog/canine enrichment as options for your dog that go Beyond Group Play (TM).


Pet Camp is San Francisco’s most award winning pet care facility.  Family owned and operated since 1997, Pet Camp has three locations in San Francisco to serve the San Francisco Bay Area’s dogs and cats.  If you are a pet parent looking for dog day care, dog training, pet transportation, bathing or overnight care for your dog or cat, give us a call and speak with one of the counselors.