At ‘Soho House for dogs,’ LA pooches romp at private members’ club

By Thomson Reuters Jun 11, 2024 | 5:14 AM

By Omar Younis

SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) – Dogs are living it up at DOG PPL, a private members’ park for canines in the Los Angeles beach enclave of Santa Monica, where dogs and their owners socialize and enjoy high-end amenities in what has been dubbed “Soho House for dogs.”

For a $120 per month membership fee, dogs get access to a clean and luxurious place to hang out and are watched by minders called “rufferees,” who step in if any of the dogs get too excited. Dog owners have access to lounge and work areas, Wi-Fi, a bar, free parking and social events.

DOG PPL was founded two years ago by friends Alex Esguerra and Liam Underwood, after they became frustrated with the shortage of clean and safe dog parks in Los Angeles.

“A lot of people call us the ‘Soho House for dogs,'” said Esguerra. “I think that they relate the two because they imagine Soho House is a membership club that really invests in their people and they curate community and programing and hospitality to the finest degree to kind of give people a different type of lifestyle. We want to do the same for dogs.”

“The humans are a guest of their dog, who is the member, and they come and visit the park, the members get to experience the community and the amenities,” added Underwood.

Dogs lucky enough to score a membership at DOG PPL must go through a temperament test to make sure their behavior is suitable for them to be around other dogs and people.

“They’re not jumping through hoops or having to stand on their back legs or anything like that,” explains Keitel Frankle, a dog behavior expert and DOG PPL’s Safety Operations Manager.

“We’re more passively seeing the social skills that they have and how they’re able to coexist amongst the community of different ages, sizes, breeds, energy levels, personalities. It takes a lot for a dog to be confident enough and adept enough at socializing in such a stimulating environment,” he adds.

The dogs are definitely having fun but what about their owners?

“I think I enjoy coming here more than my dog,” said Oliver Damavandi, a 39-year-old from Malibu, who comes to DOG PPL with his dog, Gino.

“I think they’ve made it about the dogs, but the human interaction is just as good. And I think we’re in a part, phase of the world where we’ve, like lost the ability to communicate and lost the ability to connect. And I think this space really allows for people to do exactly that,” Damavandi added.

He noted that it is more relatable than going to Soho House and that there is “no pretentiousness.”

“It’s facilitated a lot of things from business, personal. Yeah. I met a really pretty girl here,” he added.

For Olga Plaksina who attends with her dog, Bimba, the club provides a safe place for her dog to play while she works or socializes.

“Well, she likes all the dogs around, she likes to play all the time. And I care that she is safe here,” said Plaksina, noting that it is mostly friendly dogs.

“I like that I can work from here. There’s Wi-Fi, and you can get a coffee. So this is super cool, not only for dogs, but also for people,” she added.

(Reporting by Omar Younis; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sandra Maler)