These pups are PAW-pular: Local doggie daycare's videos light up the Internet during pandemic

Posted at 7:34 AM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 18:16:56-05

NORFOLK, Va. - A local doggie daycare is growing in "paw"-pularity both on the Internet and in real life.

Dogtown opened in Norfolk's Chelsea neighborhood four years ago out of necessity. Founder Sam Woomer was working at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and couldn't find a spot that was open early enough for him to drop off his dog.

"Dogtown is a daycare and boarding facility. We also have an indoor dog park called Dogperk," said Woomer. "We hovered around 13-25 [dogs a day] our first year and ever since then, we've grown."

Videos have always played a big role in how the business operates. Dogs first have to pass a temperament evaluation and then they can "join the pack." Staff will take videos of dogs that are dropped off and send them to the owners so they can see how their dogs are doing.

They also take videos and post them to social media.

"I think people just love dogs. It's such an easy subject, and we're really lucky that we have dogs to model for us and be in the videos," said Woomer.

The clips include everything from dogs responding to their names to slow motion running out into the snow to coming back to surprise tennis balls. Dogtown also partners with other nearby businesses, like Smartmouth Brewing Co. and the Naro Theater for content.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as people scroll through their phones to keep themselves busy, Dogtown's following has grown exponentially.

"You'll go to sleep and the next day I'll open up TikTok and we'll have 50,000 new followers," said Woomer.

Dogtown has nearly 400,000 followers on Tiktok and 10,000 followers on Instagram. Two videos of dogs responding to their names have racked up 14 million views.

But the success of Dogtown goes beyond virtual.

With more people working from home during the pandemic, more families are getting puppies and bringing them in.

"The numbers have definitely gone up," said Katherine Jones, Co-Owner of Dogtown. "People work from home and you're looking in your dog's eyes wanting to go for a walk, but you still have work to do. You still want to have a tired, happy dog. They get to work and their dog gets to go to school."

With ruff-ly 100 dogs visiting a day, Dogtown's 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space isn't enough anymore. The small business is currently on the hunt for a second location, preferably in Virginia Beach.

"There's definitely a market for it," said Woomer.

A market for dogs locally and, as Dogtown has found out, a virtual market for doggie content on the web.