FREEPORT — Dog lover and lifetime pet owner Brooke Baran is living out her dream, opening a business centered on dogs and their owners at Brooke’s Barks and Recreation in Freeport.
Baran said she is happy to make sure that pet owners have options for their dogs while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others want to make sure their beloved companions have the right spot to be social with other dogs while enjoying brain games designed to keep dogs sharp and active.
“As a dog lover and lifetime pet owner, I understand the powerful bond between an owner and their furry friend,” Baran said. “They provide the best source of unconditional love, but sometimes we need extra help with them.”
She opened her business to the public and canines in July. Baran offers day care for the dogs and training services with Jan Carlson, a certified dog trainer.
While Baran is the owner of the business, Carlson has come on board to offer dog training that includes puppy preschool, beginning and intermediate obedience and a therapy dog prep class.
Baran said things were slow when she opened up in July 2020, but after the new year hit, she began to see interest from dog owners.
Many were going back to the office after months of working from home during the pandemic. Baran offers a respite for those whose dogs need adjustment time as their owners stop working at home, leaving the dogs to cope with a new type of pandemic-related isolation.
“What I began to see with dog owners is, their dogs did not have enough socialization or were experiencing reduced manners,” Baran said. “We began to take in dogs that needed extra training for the socialization that comes with doggy day care.”
Carlson added, “Many dogs began to suffer from separation anxiety. Engaging the mind with a dog is a powerful tool.”
Baran said doggy day care offers both dog and owner an outlet. She said she has seen behaviors change. Dogs become happier, and when the owner has them back in the home at the end of the day, the dog is more relaxed. Excess energy is burned off through playtime and brain games.
“I want dog owners to bring their dogs to a place that gives them peace of mind,” Baran said. “I equate my day care with a preschool, where dogs can do brain games.”
The brain games that Baran uses are tools and activities — like bobbing for balls — and training to keep the dog’s brain active. The idea is to have the dogs spend time with her staff, also known as bark rangers, in small groups for each activity.
“Brain games help the dog engage in learned play to give them a chance to think,” Baran said.
Marilyn Smit, who has four dogs, is excited to be able to have a safe doggy day care for her canines. She said she looks forward to taking her dogs to the facility for exercise and socialization.
“I try to make sure my dogs have a chance to be worn out,” Smit said. “Day care gives them a chance to work their minds. When my dogs stopped being able to go places, I think they got depressed. I would take them for car rides around town. I have one dog that wants to do something so badly, and with Brooke’s day care option, I know I have the right fit for me and my dogs. There really is nothing like this in this area.”
Carlson has been training dogs in this area for many years. She said the key to a happy dog is a trained dog, which makes for a happy dog owner.
“Communication is the key with a dog,” Carlson said. “I started my therapy dog training classes three weeks ago. I enjoy it. I love working with dogs, and many people don’t realize the simple things that can turn a good dog into a great dog. It’s about building that trust. I tell people to spend time with their dogs and stay consistent.”
Baran said dogs are a different species. They don’t understand English. Communication is all about pitch, tone, praise and body language.
“With these tools, we teach a dog a new language,” Baran said.
Brooke’s Barks and Recreation also has a self-service dog biscuit bar with treats made in Illinois.
“I love being able to engage with dogs, develop personalities and break through barriers,” Baran said. “I offer a safe place for dogs, help for owners who need something extra, and have a place for a dog to be a dog.”
For more on Brooke’s Barks and Recreation classes and day care, visit brookesbarksandrec.com or call 815-616-5561.