Dogtown at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Homeless dogs get individualized medical care, training, socialization and enrichment at Dogtown at the Sanctuary until they are adopted.
By Heidi Losleben

This article appeared in Best Friends magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine by becoming a Best Friends member.

Fun facts about Dogtown

  • When fully staffed, 54 people work in Dogtown
  • 7,260 people volunteered in Dogtown in 2016 alone
  • Dogtown staff and volunteers prepare about 300 pounds of dog food daily

Ask a dozen people what makes Dogtown, the area of the Sanctuary dedicated to our canine companions, so special and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. From the dogs who leave a lasting mark on volunteers’ hearts to the enduring love caregivers show each resident, it’s no wonder that Dogtown is such a popular place to visit. Here’s a peek at what makes the Sanctuary different from any other safe haven for dogs.

Individualized medical care, training and socialization for dogs

Dogtown Headquarters buzzes with activity and anticipation every day, as volunteers from around the country show up to get their assignments. Play with puppies? Walk senior dogs? Help socialize a shy pup? Even scooping poop is fun when you’re surrounded by gorgeous scenery, happy dogs and people who love them.

Volunteer at Dogtown

Ask Dogtown manager Carley Faughn what’s most special about Dogtown and she says, “We treat each dog individually and cater to each one’s needs. The Dogtown team is very knowledgeable about how to help dogs overcome any challenges they might have, while at the same time providing them with a full, enriching life.”

On any given day, more than 400 dogs call Dogtown home. Dogs live here, are loved here, and are welcome to stay as long as necessary until adopted. Some are healing from abuse or neglect. Others are shy or undersocialized. Some have special medical problems. Dogtown is designed to meet each dog’s particular needs.

Two male caregivers, Tom and Haven, sitting on the ground petting two dogs, Fred and Express

In Dogtown Heights, the dogs live in thoughtfully chosen pairs or groups. They have access to indoor and outdoor space with room to run, and every resident has toys and a cozy bed. You can inhale the sweet smell of puppy breath until you’re dizzy at the puppy preschool and cuddle up to small dogs in the laundry room. Across the road are the Lodges, where dogs who don’t want to live with others have a room and a yard all to themselves.  

Learn more about Dogtown’s puppy preschool

Line of four puppies all peeking over the half-door to their kennel

Veterinary care and grooming for dogs

There’s a veterinary clinic at Dogtown where vet techs take care of minor medical needs and treatments. (When dogs require surgery or more intensive care, they go to the main facility, the Best Friends Animal Clinic.) If dogs are recovering from surgery, are overweight, or need some general fitness assistance, they spend time at the fitness center. There, a hydrotherapy tank with an underwater treadmill rehabilitates pups who need help getting back on their feet.

Caregive Haylee huggin Yuma the dog, both very muddy

Two full-time groomers keep dogs looking and feeling their best with baths, nail trims and haircuts. Dogs arriving at Best Friends start their new lives by getting the full spa treatment, and when a dog is adopted, he or she gets a final spa day before leaving for that new home.

Learn more about dog grooming at Dogtown

Dog park, pools and training arena for dogs

Both mental and physical stimulation are vital to a dog’s well-being, and the residents of Dogtown get their fill of both. Daily walks led by caregivers and volunteers are just the beginning. The large fenced-in dog park, a perfect place for off-leash romping, allows energetic dogs to do “zoomies” and play fetch. In the summer, kiddie pools provide relief from the desert heat.

A silhouette of Blair the dog jumping up in the air with a toy in her mouth with a sunset behind her

For more structured fun, a covered training arena called Tara’s Run boasts agility equipment and different types of stairs and flooring, which helps dogs who may have never lived in homes to transition successfully once they’re adopted.

A heaven on earth for dogs

Woman smiling and sitting on the ground giving a belly rub to Rhonda the dog“There is so much teamwork that goes into the daily lives of each dog in Dogtown,” says Carley. “Everyone — from the caregivers to the behavior consultants to the adoption specialists — plays a role and works together to save more lives.”

When you visit Dogtown, you can’t help but notice the tenderness and affection that caregivers lavish on their charges. They treat the dogs as if they were their own, seeing to their individual wants and needs, making sure they are comfortable no matter how short or long their stay.

Dogtown is not simply a holding area until dogs find their forever homes. It’s their home away from home until adoption day comes. And if that day doesn’t come? Dogs are welcome to stay right here, at their own heaven on earth.

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Brown dog on her back on a blanket on the sand with a black dog behind her

Photos by Molly Wald and Kurt Budde