Camp Lotsadogs


The following article appeared on City Top Stories on August 6, 2004

Susan Steiner used to be a private investigator before her business went to the dogs. And she couldn't be happier.

She's taken a giant leap of faith and left the dog-eat-dog world to start her own business. And it's one you may not take seriously at first. But she believes it can combine her love of animals with her love of making a good buck (or should that be a good "bark"?)

Steiner runs Camp Lotsadogs, a day and overnight camp for canines. She claims it's a way to let man's best friends be exactly what they're supposed to be.

"We've bred them, and we've trained them for things through the ages, and then we leave them at home and go off to work, and you know Labs don't get to retrieve and Shepherds don't get to herd," she explains to "We just let them play all day. And if it's crappy weather, I have a living room to let them sit around on the couch ... with people and let them watch TV."

Steiner first stumbled on the concept when she left her own dog with a similar camp several years ago. But she didn't like the way it was run, and that bone of contention spurred her on to make her own attempt in January.

"I thought if I find the right property, then I'll do it," she recalls. "And I found ... a stream and I fenced in two acres for the dogs in a meadow with lots of trees ... And I have two forests and I take them in there."

The business, near Oshawa, is able to accommodate 20 boarders and 20 day campers, some of whom she'll pick up at the Whitby and Oshawa GO stations. So exactly what does a pampered pooch do at Camp Lotsadogs?

"First they run around like lunatics, they play, they do their alpha thing, they pee everywhere ... then we have ... tennis balls, and we fling balls for about 20 minutes until they're all absolutely pooped or the balls are all chewed up ... And then we pant ... and some of them like to be hosed down."

But it doesn't come cheap. "It's $230 a week and they play all day, 12 hours ... and day camp is $100 a week," she outlines. Still, with some Toronto kennels charging twice that for a week's stay, she thinks it's a bargain.

And the dogs aren't cooped up all day, which they appreciate. "I had one lady ... she starts crying, "I can't leave her here! ... and when she came back ten days later, the dog wouldn't get into the car!"

For now, Steiner is advertising in local flyers and community newspapers, hoping to get the word out. And while she admits she'd do it all for free if she could, she's hoping word of mouth makes her big financial gamble a winner.

"I need ten dogs a day to cover all my expenses including pizza night for the dogs," she laughs. "And that's it. The rest of it's passion."