Dillsburg’s Fun and Therapeutic Canine Oasis
As guests navigate splash zones and puddles, a symphony of splashes, four-legged pitter patter, owner commands and lots and lots of happy barking fill the humid air. Welcome to Central Pa.’s fun and therapeutic canine oasis.
Located in Dillsburg and open year-round, The Canine Spa is an indoor swimming, therapy and play facility exclusively for dogs. Owner Gary Reihart started the business nearly 12 years ago. Being a former breeder of race horses, the building that now houses The Canine Spa was originally used to train horses before his retirement.
After almost 10 years of the building sitting vacant, Reihart’s wife, Beverly, had a great idea – open it up for dogs to swim. This prompted Reihart to send letters to nearly 40 local veterinarian offices. With an overwhelming response to the idea, the rest is history for the now-thriving and continually growing dog spa.
What started as free swimming for dogs has blossomed over the years into a full facility that also offers dock diving, training, therapy and the latest addition, doggy daycare. The main building houses the pool, which is lined with measurements for dock-diving training. The horse stables still stand just as they were years ago, but they are now used as playrooms for the individual doggy-daycare sessions offered.
A gated grassy area sits to the side of the building, and the grounds hold a massive 72,000-gallon filtration system to keep the pool crystal clear throughout the year.
It’s evident that Reihart has built relationships with owners and their furry friends since the beginning of the spa’s existence. A memorial board hangs in the building with photos of former canine patrons that have passed away.
“We love dogs, we love people and they are all welcome to come,” says Reihart.
“To see the pleasure of all the dogs that come here and their different personalities is amazing – each one different. I really loved the horse business, but the dogs are a little bit more personable. They are tuned to their owners and really are man’s best friend.”
Kevin Landis is the full-time operator of The Canine Spa Doggy Daycare. Landis is an undeniable example of the long-lasting relationships that form at the daycare because he was once an owner of a dog that came to swim frequently each week for training.
“I started coming for my show dog, Godiva,” explains Landis. “I would swim her every day to get her in shape for her championships.”
But what started as visits for training, turned into therapeutic visits after Godiva suffered an accident, leaving her with a herniated disc that required surgery.
“The surgeon said the best thing we could do after her surgery was to swim her,” says Landis. “Of course, she had been coming here all her life, so we started swimming her as much as we could. Godiva is now 15 years old, and although she doesn’t swim as much, she still enjoys her time in the water.”
The spa also offers training for the popular canine sport known as dock diving. In fact, the facility is the training venue for the world’s No. 1 ranked Yellow Labrador in dock diving – 5-year-old Dillon, the acclaimed dock-diving champion that is part of a team sponsored by The Canine Spa.
“I rescued Dillon four years ago,” says Dillon’s owner, April Reish. “We brought him here, and he took to the sport instantly. Dillon has such a huge drive for dock diving. He continues to get better and wants to do better. It’s his favorite thing in the world.”
Dock diving is an intense sport consisting of three disciplines: Speed Retrieve, Extreme Vertical and Get Air. Competitions are based on the dog’s age, breed and performance in each category. The dog with the highest score in all three disciplines is crowned the “Iron Dog.”
Training is crucial to prepping for these competitions, and with The Canine Spa as a sponsor of Dillon’s team, Reish and her team are able to train often.
“We come here to practice all the time,” says Reish.
“It’s a great partnership that we have with The Canine Spa. Dock diving is a great sport to get into if you love your dog and your dog loves the water.”
Both Landis and Reish started as guests who often frequented the facility with their dogs. Reihart asks most of his guests how they heard about the spa, and the answer is almost always a word-of-mouth referral. But this year-round, indoor pool is a hot commodity far beyond the small town of Dillsburg.
“We have had people come from Frederick, Reading, Virginia, State College, and we even had a guest fly in from Minnesota just to swim her dog,” says Reihart. “People say they haven’t heard of another location such as this, with a pool dedicated exclusively to dogs.”
From an old race-horse training center to a renovated, climate-controlled, lively doggy paradise, The Canine Spa was a spontaneous change in career for which Reihart is thankful.
“Since I went into the business, there are no downsides,” says Reihart. “When we get new dogs started, the owners are thrilled. We get a lot of first-timers. I’ve been doing this for so long, and out of the thousands of dogs, there were only about 10 to 12 of them that I couldn’t get to swim because of their fear of the water. It’s a great business to be in. The people are wonderful. The dogs are wonderful. It’s all been so great.”