LIVINGSTON, NJ — Robert and Michael Gonnello, the brothers behind Livingston’s new family-owned doggy daycare, grooming and boarding facility, welcomed members of the Livingston Township Council and the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce to The Barker Lounge on Monday for a celebratory ribbon cutting marking the grand opening of their new business.
In the two weeks since officially opening at 81 Dorsa Avenue, The Barker Lounge has seen an average of 15 dogs at the facility every day and has held meet and greets with more than 70 dogs in the area. So far, Robert said he and his brother have experienced “a warm introduction to the community.”
“We have a lot of happy customers, which is great, and we’re just excited to be here, finally, after all of this time building it and just happy to be a part of the Livingston community,” he said.
The Barker Lounge Livingston is now the third of its kind in New Jersey, as the franchise also has highly successful locations in Cranford and East Brunswick.
Robert, a Millburn/Short Hills native and current resident of Westfield, explained that Michael’s experience as a customer of the Cranford location is what inspired them to introduce The Barker Lounge to a dog-friendly community like Livingston.
Although Livingston and surrounding towns are home to thousands of dogs, the brothers realized that there are only a handful of pet-related businesses servicing these communities. Despite the challenges of opening a new business during a pandemic, Robert and Michael said they were “eager to show Livingston just how passionate [they] are about caring for the community’s canines.”
“It’s great to see a new business open up during ‘normal times,’ but even more so now,” said Livingston Mayor Rudy Fernandez. “We wish The Barker Lounge much success and look forward to having them here in Livingston for many years to come.”
According to the Gonnello brothers, The Barker Lounge is “not your standard kennel,” and their team has gone “to great lengths to ensure it.”
The Barker Lounge provides year-round doggy daycare, overnight boarding and grooming at a facility that boasts more than 11,000 square feet of indoor space and more than 4,000 square feet of outdoor play yards.
All play spaces feature the “safest, most sanitary and comfortable doggy grass in the industry,” according to Robert, who added that the turf is not only good for the dogs’ paws, but is also safe for the dogs to relieve themselves on.
After being screened, each dog is assigned to a playgroup that can be easily tracked and monitored by employees. According to Robert, the ideal playgroup is about 12 dogs, and the maximum is 15.
“We mix them based on size, age and temperament—who we think is going to get along together,” he said. “We put them in groups where, based on our knowledge and expertise, they're going to be with other like-minded dogs that are similar in size. We’re not going to put a 14-year-old large dog in a room with a puppy Rottweiler."
Screening includes a full free day at the facility, where the dog will undergo a behavioral evaluation and a thorough health check to ensure that the dog is in good health, free of parasites and all communicable diseases and current on all vaccinations.
If a dog does get sick while at the facility, however, The Barker Lounge has an isolation room that is sealed from all sides in order to contain the disease and prevent other dogs from becoming ill while in The Barker Lounge’s care.
The Barker Lounge also reserves the right to turn away any dog that might be considered a safety risk for the employees or other dogs. According to Robert, this occurs with an average of about one dog out of 20 and has occurred once so far at the Livingston location.
Since opening on Oct. 5, The Barker Lounge in Livingston has had between 10 and 20 dogs come through the facility on a daily basis, and many local families have already taken advantage of the boarding and grooming services.
With 53 kennels available for overnight boarding, The Barker Lounge is equipped to care for dogs for up to two weeks as needed.
According to Robert, all dogs are lodged separately with their own bed and water unless there is a sibling pair that is able to safely eat and sleep in the same room. Dog parents are typically asked to supply their own bed or blanket if possible, although the facility has these on hand if needed.
“Generally speaking, boarding is most commonly a three-night stay for either summer weekends or holidays or when someone goes away for a week or 10 days,” said Robert.
Located just off of Eisenhower Parkway near the I-280 ramps with a large sign that is clearly visible from the county road, The Barker Lounge is in the ideal location for customers, according to the Gonnello brothers.
In addition to being convenient for commuters, the location is also convenient for the dogs, as Robert noted that there will be much less noise and much fewer people walking around than if the facility had been opened as part of a retail strip.
The Barker Lounge is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for playtime, although customers are encouraged to drop off their dogs before noon. Full-service dog grooming, including nail clipping, is also available by appointment.