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For the Dog That Has Everything: Concierge Services

Friday, 19 Oct 2012 | 7:46 AM ET
Allison Michael Orenstein | The Image Bank | Getty Image

Doormen, swimming pools, dry-cleaning — these are some of the perks one expects at pricey Manhattan apartments, but now you can add concierge services for dogs to the list.

"We're always seeking new things that would enhance our rental product," said Marina Higgins, vice president of ARGO Real Estate, which manages 9,000 co-ops, condos and rental units in New York City. She said having dog-friendly properties "has been a draw."

"New Yorkers are into pets," Higgins continued. "They are very dog-centric. In order to lead the market, you have to be flexible and welcome well-behaved dogs and conscientious dog owners."

Like ARGO, many real-estate developers and landlords have learned that dog-friendly buildings are a magnet for wealthy apartment owners. (Read More: Most Expensive Apartments in New York City)

"One way high-end buildings can become more competitive is to offer amenities specifically geared towards pets," said Jennifer Smith, a real estate agent at Nest Seekers International, which specializes in luxury apartment sales and rentals in Manhattan.

Although the rate of pet ownership in the city is half the nation's 60-percent average, New Yorkers spend twice as much on their pets, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Think $1,350 a year for New Yorkers versus $696 for the national average.

But for dog owners in Manhattan, the actual amount they spend can be far higher than the average.

"Some dog walkers are making $100,000 to $150,000 a year," said Bob Marino, president of the New York Council of Dog Owner Groups, a non-profit which represents dog-owners' interests.

In fact, canine pampering is a multi-billion dollar business in the city alone, he said, which is why buildings are more than willing to dote on dogs and their owners. (For More, watch: NYC's Indoor Doggie Spa)

Rose Associates, which manages more than 27,000 apartments in luxury buildings in Manhattan, will open a "dog spa" at its 70 Pine address within the next year and a half. And dog-care group The Spot Experience as teamed up with a number of city landlords and developers to bring its dog-care services to residential buildings.

Since January of this year, Spot has partnered with the Millennium Tower, ARGO and Rose, and will add another 10 locations by year's end through additional residential partnerships. Spot also plans to expand into five other major U.S. cities by mid-2013 with stores and residential partnerships.

Spot offers residents in the program daycare and dog-walking packages for roughly $400 to $600 a month – a 20 percent discount due to high commitment within the buildings, said Spot.

Other perks include a waived $200 membership fee and priority access during holidays. Grooming and overnight services are only a shuttle ride away.

Carolyn Spector, who lives in the Rose's Ashley building, said paying $600 a month for unlimited dog-walking is worth the cost.

"I manage a non-profit and there are days that I'm up very early and not back until very late at night," she said. "The first thing I think about in the morning is who is going to pick up my daughter from school and how is the dog going to get out and how many times a day."

New Yorkers initially hesitate to adopt a dog for these very reasons — hectic schedules, frequent travel — as well as limited space.

For Spector and her family — who recently moved to New York City from Long Island – the transition has been the hardest on Bentley, their 45-pound golden doodle. Rather than send him to conventional doggie daycare, Spector likes having dog amenities at home.

"The building is really an extension of our apartment," she said. "It would be great to have someone take him and his 'girlfriend' Penny, who lives down the hall, to the local dog-run."

Since Rose signed up its Aldyn and Ashley buildings with the Spot Experience in early August, dog ownership has increased between 20 percent and 25 percent among new and current residents, said Spot CEO Mitch Marrow.

The amenity is not just welcomed by dog owners, it adds to the comfort to non-dog owners, who don't want random people walking through their halls, Marrow said.

"We do full criminal background checks of employees," he said. "When Spot goes into a building, they are all employees; they are dressed in uniform; they have ID and they have to check in."

Happy dogs also mean happy neighbors.

"There's nothing worse than having an apartment block where a dog is barking for eight hours," said Martin Deeley, executive director of the International Association of Canine Professionals, a resource group for dog owners based in Orlando, Fla.

There are more pros than cons of in-house dog amenities, Marrow said, particularly if buildings already have dogs as residents.

"It allows for people, who otherwise would leave their dogs in the apartment, become less of a noise nuisance," he said.

For Bob Cohen, the resident and board member at the Millennium who first pushed for the alliance in January, the amenity has been a relief.

His one-year-old golden doodle now has his own schedule — and his own friends.

"Dogs need socializing too," he said.

-By Natalie Erlich, CNBC.com Writer

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com.

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