Chef Barry Karacostas started walking his dog Leo to overcome his own addiction. Eventually, they ran unleashed through London’s Kensington Park. Their momentum uncovered a deep, unmet canine need … and built a successful business.
As a “voice for dogs,” Barry Karacostas has a lot to teach us about how to listen and care for our canine companions.
He was once a successful chef/owner in London’s competitive restaurant scene. But like many in that business, addiction and stress hit him hard. His wife Julie handed him their Rottweiler’s leash and said “Leo is YOUR responsibility now.”
Forced to feed and walk Leo, Barry found himself healing and regaining confidence. Buying a dog walking service from a fellow Kensington Park denizen, he became known as the Dog Jogger. He built an off-lead dog pack one dog at a time.
Over the years, Barry deepened his knowledge and commitment to canine health. He also attracted celebrity clients! Today, he's full circle: using his hospitality skills to run a five-star dog hotel.
0:00 London’s Urban Dogs Pamper Time with Barry Karacostas
01:35 London’s Competitive Culinary Scene
02:31 Rise from The Downfall
03:24 Leo, The Rottweiler and Savior
04:38 Barry’s Dog Walking Business -- a Fluke or a Calling?
06:30 20 Dogs Running Unleashed – Okay, What?! How?
08:46 Leo as Wingman
09:42 Tracking Dogs with GPS
10:29 How to Build a Pack of Dogs
11:54 Happy Dog, Happy Human
15:05 The “Voice for Dogs”
16:13 City Dogs vs. Country Dogs
18:00 London Dogs vs. New York Dogs
20:36 The Soho House for Dogs
21:55 The Urban Mutts Experience
22:45 Blueberry Facials, Anyone?
23:35 Get Loose Doggos!
26:08 Sleepy Time … Hmm, Cabin or Penthouse?
28:15 Pandemic Soft Opening
32:01 Partnerships with Dog Charities and Foundations
33:24 Celebrity Patrons – Trust and Friendships
35:12 Expansion … Next!
37:00 Setting The Bar for Dog Daycare Industry
About Barry Karacostas
Barry the Dog Jogger is also the Founder of Urban Mutts Hotels, the UK’s first Dog Club & Hotel. A state-of-the-art facility for the urban canine community, it has a simple mission: making city dogs happier and healthy so they can make their busy urban owners feel the same way.
About The Long Leash
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James: [00:00:00] (Dog Podcast Network Audio Logo). Welcome to the Long Leash. I'm James Jacobson. Today, we travel to London to speak with Barry Karacostas, who has been transforming the way that Londoners care for their dog for years. First with an innovative dog walking service, where Barry would run with up to 20 dogs off leash through the city parks, he became known as the dog jogger and garnered a certain reputation and a lot of tabloid publicity because a number of celebrities entrusted their dogs to Barry and his pampering dog fitness and wellness service. More recently, Barry has upgraded the available services that he provides to London's most picky dog loving clientele. This upgrade comes in the form of a five star posh dog hotel and daycare club with a simple mission of making city dogs happy and healthy so that they can make their urban pet parents feel the same way.
Its attention to detail in raising the bar on what others were doing probably started with Barry's previous career as a restaurant chair. Now, many years ago, as you may know, London had a pretty dismal reputation when it came to food. However in more recent times, London has radically changed all that and is now recognized as one of the most innovative culinary cities in the world. And so it is here with food that I began my conversation with Barry Karacostas.
Barry: [00:01:35] Culinary industry is top of the game. They have to be, you know, it's demanded. Unfortunately, you know, when you set a bar, you know, we've got some great chefs, one that's, you know, conquered America, Gordon Ramsay. You know, they set a bar and then, you know, everybody's got to meet that bar if they want to, you know,big contenders.
So I think it's in constant competition and that drives. Because that's what I was in that was while I was involved with, years and years ago. I came from a family of restaurateurs and, so I was a restaurateur myself. I had the restaurant in London, so I know the industry very well.
James: [00:02:14] How long were you in that?
Barry: [00:02:16] Well, ever since I was 16. I mean I left school and, you know, I went straight into the business and then I, you know, I worked in it until, well, you know, my early thirties.
James: [00:02:26] And how did that prepare you for what you're doing today?
Barry: [00:02:31] I don't think it was a preparation. I think it was more of a downfall, you know, it didn't suit my character very well. So I was, you know, drinking too much. I had, you know, I had a huge problem with drugs. I wasn't sleeping. And, you know, it took a really bad knock on effect and it was my wife I have to always mention it first and my dog, Leo the Rottweiler, that guided me through and out of a very deep hole and I, you know, managed to turn my life around. So the underlining commitment to dog is very, very real and very strong, because they saved my life and my family, you know, I wouldn't, I wouldn't have a family if it wasn't for, for the dog.
James: [00:03:19] Well, let's talk a little bit about Leo. How did, how did Leo play that pivotal role for you?
Barry: [00:03:24] Well, I think the responsibility as a couple, you know, we were, you know, myself and Julie, you know, as a couple, we were you know, I was always at work. She was always the one that looked after the dog. So when you know, things hit the fan and things weren't going well, it was, you know, you clearly, if I'm still around, you're not helping yourself and you need to help yourself and get yourself out of the hole. So she decided to, you know what, I'm giving you six months.
I'm going I've, you know, I've had it. And you look after Leo. He's your dog as well. You need to, you know, show responsibility and, you know, the five o'clock in the mornings stopped happening, which inevitably stopped a lot of, you know, interactions, social interactions I had. And I had a you know, an element of responsibility. I needed to go home. I needed to walk him in the morning, walk him at lunchtime, walk him in the evening. And so things were driving me back home, whereas before I didn't have the need to go home because everything was looked after.
James: [00:04:26] That's an inspiring story. It's great to hear how Leo helped you turn things around. Now, I think it's about them that you acquired a dog walking business. Right? Let's talk about that.
Barry: [00:04:38] I was in Kensington Gardens and, there was an individual there that approached me. He had a business and he was moving away and he said, you know, I see you in the park. You're doing anything at the moment? I said, no, you know, I sold a business which is my then restaurant. You know, just trying to find a different path, you know? So he goes to me while I'm selling my business. How about you buy a dog walking business? And I was like, well, okay, how much? And he gave me a price. I said, now you must be joking.
I said to him, I've got half of that under the bed. If you want it, come and get it. He goes no chance because you know, we've got great clients and whatever. And I said, yeah, but those clients are loyal to you. So it was a bit of two-in-one froing. But then I think a couple of months later, he came up to me and he goes to me, you know, that half you said you got, I said yeah. He goes to me, well, I'll take it. And I said, well, that half's now become a quarter of the amount, so you can take it or leave it. He goes, do you know what? I would take it? You know, let's do this. So, that was the beginning.
James: [00:05:40] So what was it like running the business? Tell me about how you work with these dogs.
Barry: [00:05:46] I've always done everything excessively and I, you know, and you know, sometimes it's in to my downfalls, but also to my ups. So I always give my everything in everything that I do. So even dog walking had to be. I had to be the best. I had to do something that, you know, excelled from everything that was, that was out there. So I started running with Leo before I was going to see clients. And then I thought, nah, you know, these dogs are still going home and they've got barrels of energy.
So I started reading about, you know, different, you know, engagements, both mentally and physically to drain energy of dogs. So they could become easier to train. And, you know, running as a pack was one of them instead of running with just Leo. I started integrating some of the dogs that I felt that needed more exercise and more stimulus.
And, you know, it was, you know, it was. The evidence, the proof is in the pudding as we say here. You know, you could see the difference. The dogs were amazing. I had the knack, so I gradually increased my pack and I went from, you know, three dogs to the, you know, at the, at the top end of the time when I was doing it, it was, you know, I was running with a pack of 20, 21 dogs.
James: [00:06:53] Were they all on leash or no?
Barry: [00:06:55] No. Hopefully. Yeah.
James: [00:06:58] Is that a problem in London?
Barry: [00:07:00] It's, it is now. Because obviously the public parks are a lot busier. The population of dogs are a lot more, so there are regulations now, but obviously, you know, there were certain parks that would allow it, the bigger parks in London. So I used to run religiously and, on Hampstead Heath, which I'm sure you've had, and it was easy there because you could go off the beaten track, which was the exercise. It's a lot better for dogs to be on soft compound. Anyway, it's better for the ligaments, better for their muscle tone, better for their pores. So we weren't really seeing a lot of other users, park users and especially, you know, my exercises were we're very early in the morning. So my, I used to pick up, my first dog was at quarter past five. And, you know, by 7, 7:30 I was already in the park ready to start the exercise.
James: [00:07:52] So you would pick them up, you would drive around and pick up all the.
Barry: [00:07:54] That's it, all the dogs. And then, you know, so I had a custom built van and, you know, head up Hampstead Heath and then, you know, we give them a little bit of time. So the exercise was 15 minutes in the beginning. You know, sort yourselves out in the packing order. Of course I was the boss, you know, it was, it was all about them to sort themselves out and also, you know, go to the toilet because once you get going, you don't stop.
And they, they do learn that really quick when they see that the pack, when they, when they do stop and, you know, especially the guys that are, you know, Not used to the, exercise and they see the pack disappearing into the distance. The fear and the urgency to get back to the pack is so great. But yeah. And it was, we're fine with that, and I got healthier. I saw my dog was getting healthier. The clients were, you know.
James: [00:08:46] So Leo would go with you.
Barry: [00:08:47] Absolutely. He was a he'd sit in the front of the van with me. We'll go around picking up dogs. He was my, he was my wing man.
James: [00:08:56] I love that. Had you been a jogger before you started this?
Barry: [00:09:02] No, not at all. I was a gym goer, so I was, you know, lifting weights and, you know, cardio was never really, my forte. I played a bit of rugby when I was a kid. But nothing, no. Running wasn't really an exercise that, you know. It was dogs that got me into it and, you know, I would do a lot of, yeah, it's been a lot of articles and newspaper, you know, newspapers that say that I run miles and mile, some of them even a half a marathon every day.
But no, it was, it was an exercise between sick.
James: [00:09:33] Don't believe what you read is.
Barry: [00:09:34] Absolutely. You know, they don't expect them to write what you tell them in the tabloids, you know? But yeah, they were. You know, I would do six to eight kilometers and we would track the dogs with GPS and because they don't run in a straight line, they would clock anything between 20 to 30 kilometers on a six to eight, my.
James: [00:09:56] So you put GPS on each dog?
Barry: [00:09:58] So we did in the end. Yeah. When the, when they start, when they exit, you know. I started it before the GPS. But when it came about, I was curious to see how many kilometers the dogs were actually doing because they don't run in a straight line. You know, so it's very different for a dog. So, some of these dogs were doing 30K you know, kilometers in a session.
James: [00:10:21] Did you ever, did a dog ever go far from the pack that you thought, I think he may be in trouble or he's lost?
Barry: [00:10:29] No, they generally, so there's a, there's a way that you do it and it's, you know, through the experience of reading and introducing dogs into a pack and the exercise. So I would, they would be attached to me for the first, you know, seven to 10 days. They had to learn that they weren't allowed to cross my legs. So obviously keeps me safe. And obviously them, because, you know, they don't, you know, you don't want a 15 stone bloke, you know, over a Jack Russell or a Vizsla, you know, that can be very, very, painful for them and also me, also an integration into the back into the pack because I'm introducing them.
So they, you know, the other pack members get that confidence from me that their stoke's okay. We need to accept them into the pack or how into the pack. And there was a process, you know, and it's only learned through practice. And that knowledge is gained by, you know, the exercise and working things out, as when you do it.
So it's not really something you can read about. I mean, I've done, you know, I've given my heart. So I've read about everything there is to read about, you know, mental stimulation, physical stimulation, you know, all that sort of stuff. But, you know, I think practice is a key to, you know, the experience.
James: [00:11:49] What kind of reactions were you getting as you were, as you had this large pack running through the park?
Barry: [00:11:54] Oh, people love seeing it. Because they couldn't believe that dogs were staying with me. I mean, if I ran off a cliff, they'd run with me, you know, and it was, you know, it's hugely empowering and, you know, I felt proud of them. They felt great. So at the end of the exercise, we would sit down and literally they would just all just naturally sit around me and it was, you know, hugely empowering to me. And so satisfying and soul satisfying. That, you know, I could actually give back to this wonderful specie that's saved my life you know.
James: [00:12:29] What kind of, what were the comments from the clientele? What were they saying that. Had the dogs changed?
Barry: [00:12:35] Absolutely. Dogs were losing weight. They were fitter. They had better appetites. They were easier to train. On the days that I would run with them, they were, you know, impeccably behaved when they would take him to the swanky con you know, Kensington Cafes and, you know, so it, was very very clear that the exercise was beneficial to everyone and also support. So, you know, I had boot camps for dogs that were clinically obese and I'd work closely with vets. I still do, putting them on diets and making sure that we're exercising them at the right rates. And getting them as fit as they could possibly be, no matter what kind of breed. It could be a pug that did interval training because obviously a pug is not going to run for six to eight kilometers, but they can do little baskets and stair climbs.
And, you know, just the same as a human would do. And again, owners would be, they couldn't believe their eyes when they actually got that dog back that they originally had. Because it's it happens and you know, I've done it. I'm sure everybody who's had a dog has done it. We feed through love. Oh, just give him a little bit or just give them a little bit and plus even the food and because they live with us, we don't see them piling on the pounds and normally people are a little bit embarrassed. Oh, you've actually, you know, your dogs actually really put on a lot of weight and it's like, you might want to stop feeding it. So I had to overcome that as well as don't be so polite and actually become the voice of the dog. You know what, if your dog could talk, it'd be screaming and saying my knees hurt, my pores hurt. I can't breathe properly. I don't really want to go for a walk. You know, I feel uncomfortable. I constantly want to do a poo. You know, it's all those things. So I think they need a voice as well. So it's, you know, my, I felt that my job if I met it didn't matter if somebody took it the wrong way, I'd say it very tactfully. But I would tell you if your dog was clinically obese, I would tell you then and there. And it was.
James: [00:14:42] These are the client dogs or just dogs that you would observe. You wouldn't come up to someone on the street and say.
Barry: [00:14:47] No, I'm not that no, no, no, no. We're talking about people that came to me for help or, you know, some sort of a service.
James: [00:14:57] And was, so you were sort of, you described yourself as a voice for the dogs. Elaborate on that. I'm intrigued with that.
Barry: [00:15:05] Well, I think they they'd kind of actually talk. So I think it's in our duty as carers, whatever you're doing, whether you're a dog walker or groomer, you know, you need to be, you need to state facts that go alongside animal welfare and I think animal welfare is key. So, the industry itself needs to have an underlining commitment to the animal welfare. And it's not all always about money. It's about making sure that dogs are happy and healthy and they can succeed in an urban environment for me, because I live in an urban, you know, in an urban environment, and make sure that we're actually doing them justice and giving the right advice to support them in their way so they can be happy and healthy dogs.
James: [00:15:56] Let's talk a little bit about that urban environment and we will get into urban mutts in a moment, but that, you have, I've done. I do my background research and you've said that the dogs who are living in the city are different than dogs who live in the country.
Barry: [00:16:13] Absolutely. Absolutely. They have to conform to a lot of restrictions and they have a different consistency to succeed and living in an urban environment. Dogs in the countryside are very different because maybe you know, that they live on a bigger state. They probably see a handful of dogs every week.
Whereas here in, in an urban environment, you take your dog to the, you know, the park or Kensington Gardens or high park. He might see 500 dogs on a two hour walk. It's, you know, the population is big. So, you know, of course a dog has to have a different etiquette that lives in the city, to the dog that lives in the countryside.
James: [00:16:54] And is that an etiquette that they pick up on their own or is that something that is taught?
Barry: [00:17:01] I think it's taught. It has to be because you know, you're constantly, if you live in a, you know, in an apartment or if you live in a small house, you having to commute to work or commute everywhere, then your dog is having to learn how to get on and off a bus on the tube. You know, on the underground, on the subway as you call it, or go to a park where there's going to be scooters, skateboarders, police sirens, helicopters, swans there, you know, you've got all sorts being thrown at them all the time. So it's the duty of the owners to make sure that they're desensitized to these, by socializing them well. Getting the right advice and introducing them to the different elements correctly. So they can be happy and healthy and not nervous, anxious. You know, shying away or, you know, trying to protect themselves through, aggression.
James: [00:18:00] You are well-traveled. Are London dog was different than, I don't know, New York dogs?
Barry: [00:18:07] LA I mean, I mean, LA is definitely, they pamper their dogs completely. I mean, they, do love their dogs. But I think we, in a way probably treat our dogs more as family members, unlike them. I think in America that it's more like, you know, can you look after my dog? They'll go, yes. They're not interested in what goes on behind the scenes whereas in London I think them that they want to see everything and they want, you know, especially now.
The responsible ownership thing is huge now. There's a big amount of awareness where your patches in puppies from et cetera, et cetera. So I think people are now more picky about where they send their dogs and more, you know, put pressure on finding out exactly what's going on with my, you know, with their dogs, whether it be, you know, putting a Fitbit on their collar, making sure that they are going for a walk when they're at daycare, to, you know, CCTV.
And I know in America, you know, I've,done a lot of research in America and the daycares do have live CCTV cameras and in the beds and, you know, in their sleeping areas, et cetera, et cetera, that the clients can tap into. I, preferred and my business partner, Greg, as well. We both came to the conclusion. No, actually you're not going to tap into a camera that's mount top. Come and see the facility cause do you know what, we've got windows everywhere. There is no place in this facility that we've got grow the wonderful album months that you can't see. You know, you can walk in as a guest and be able to see the work, you know, that the staff, the mutt squad working and training and, you know, giving the dogs a, physical massage, you can see it from reception. So there's no hidden corner.
James: [00:20:13] And there's no back room, the mysterious back room, like in a veterinary clinic.
Barry: [00:20:17] That's it. There's nothing.
James: [00:20:19] All right. Let's take a quick break here and we'll hear from our sponsors. We'll be right back.
And we're back with Barry Karacostas. Barry, you run urban mutts, which I think has been described as a five-star hotel for dogs a little bit like a Soho house.
Barry: [00:20:36] That's the one. Yeah, that is true. Yeah. So we built this, from the ground up, with the animal welfare at heart. So even the flooring is anti-microbial, it's easy to clean. It's hospital grade. We have air filters that take pure air and it runs through, so it sucks the air from the facility and it goes through hospital grade filtering systems.
So it stops any transmission of any disease that might, you know, be in the air or, you know, could be carried by one of the dogs. Everything. We don't have sharp edges that, the paint on the walls is non-toxic. So even if a dog was to chew the corner of a wall off, nothing would happen to him other than a bit of an upset tummy. So yeah. So although five star, let's remember it's five star for the dogs and it's a five-star location for dogs. So.
James: [00:21:33] Let's talk about the location for those who are not familiar with London, describe where you are and what the amenities are. If I was Fifi and I was a, an urban dog, needing a little RNR because my parent is away. What would I, as Fifi experience?
Barry: [00:21:55] Oh wow, you would get dropped off into a nice reception. There's a little bit of a retail department so you could go for a little wander by the time we check you in, you can have a little wander around the shop. See if there's anything that you fancy your owner to pick up for you. Next to the reception is a big window, a spa where you can get a hydro bath with some amazing products by a great company called Wild for Dogs, which is planet friendly and pet friendly. And the hydro baths are nice and gentle. We have quiet dryers, so they're easy on the ears for the dogs. We also got mufflers for the dogs.
So it's actually a, and we don't rush. So it's not about, you know, getting them in and out. It's about, you know, we've got blueberry facials for the dogs that are, you know, want to get through. The blueberry facials. Actually serves a purpose. So it's predominantly for these dogs that get very, very teary and they have state tear stains.
So they get a nice little face mask.
James: [00:23:01] Well, I'm Fifi, the maltese. If I have to. Sounds like I would definitely need the.
Barry: [00:23:05] Absolutely. The Maltese and the Bichon Frise. They all go, they all come in for their blueberry facials. Yeah. And it's a very tranquil, it's actually good for the groomer as well. So it's a very, meditative treatment, you know, both for groomer and for the dog, and it gets results. You've got a nice, pristine white, nice glowing flair on your face rather than.
James: [00:23:30] So I've had my hydro bath. I've had my blueberry facial. What's next?
Barry: [00:23:35] Then you would probably go into the social club. So the social club it's got various areas, so we'll be able to identify the carers, all animal behavior trained and first aid trained. So they would in your day, you would get an enrichment time one-to-one away from the pack, which would be any top-up training or learn a new trick to show off when your owners come and pick them up. And then you would have a physical examination, which is just the check. But, you know, and like a massage.
So we would check all that all the limbs, eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, and just give them a once-over just to make sure that they're all healthy and we haven't noticed any lumps or bumps anywhere, which is good. We can feed that back to their owners. And then you would get a both time to socialize, find your friends, and then we'll group you up with a maximum of four dogs and you would literally get into our custom built van, go to the park.
And that is where you can, you know, it's still structured, but that's where you can let loose and have some fun. Still get a little bit of training, maybe a bit of fetch, maybe a bit of, you know, come. But generally as for you, that's for you to do whatever you want. Do you want to roll around in mud, roll around in mud. Get loose. Get with it.
James: [00:24:55] Even after I just got my bath?
Barry: [00:24:56] Oh God. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We don't shy away from that. You see all the time you can do what you want. You want to get that furry, you know, covered in mud. We'll clean that out. Trust me before the, before they come pick you up. No, there's no, there's no boundaries that they have to have release.
Then you'll probably come back. If you are muddy and dirty, then you would get a quick wash and go. And again, you know, back into the social clubs to socialize, you'd have your treats. So we use organic treats, obviously with the record, you know, with the consent of your owner. If you're allowed to treats and make sure that you're not got any allergies.
And then, you know, you would basically relax until the end of the day. Probably go for a second walk, quick seconds. A quick second walk on your 24 hour stay, and then you'd be back in. You'd go to your little sleep hop. You've got a raised bed. You've got mood lighting. There's a chill-out music playing, so it's quite tranquil, so it can dim the lights and then you would have your dinner.
James: [00:26:03] Tell me about the room. Now there are different options for lodging, right.
Barry: [00:26:08] So there are there's all the rooms, all the rooms are pretty much the same. Apart from, we have two, we call them the penthouse suites and it's, just a, it's an adjoining door. So if you've got friends that have come to stay and they're happy with you to, you know, socialize and we can double up. So they can double up or triple up on those rooms. And that's basically, that's where we put all your personal belongings. So we would put your, you know, your comfy blankie, if you've got little bit of separation anxiety, or an old t-shirt of your owners, so you've got the smell there, so we can comfort you. Any of your toys and then, you know, your treats and, you know, treats. I'm, very, very strict, but if a dog does have a treat to chew on. Somebody will sit there with you until you've finished, because we don't want any accidents to happen. It's 24 hour supervision. So if you're in need in the middle of the night and you know, you need to go to the bathroom, there's somebody there to take you out. And then again, to bring you back and give you those cuddles until you nod off again.
James: [00:27:18] Wow, that does sound. And tell me a little bit about the food. I imagine that you probably have thought about that.
Barry: [00:27:25] So food is always, we don't like to change the dog's diet. It's not very good. So food would be supplied by your owner. And you would be given your food at your recommended, you know, times. So, we have other bits and pieces that we give, with regards to treats and maybe some interactive toys, you know, just to keep you occupied. So yeah, so a lot going on, you know, as a, you know, as they, you know, comes to a close, just to make sure that you're happy and you're, you know, your energies, drained and you're ready to have a good night's sleep, ready for the next day.
James: [00:28:03] Well, that certainly sounds like, an amazing experience for, for our Fifi. That's pretty amazing. What kind of feedback have you gotten since, because you opened right when the pandemic was.
Barry: [00:28:15] Well, we tried to open. Yeah. So we were expected to open in April. But then obviously lockdown happened. So it was delayed and our launch, our, well, our soft launch was in September, but then we closed in November. Then we reopened in December, then we closed ended December and now we've reopened now. And so we're looking forward to, I think we've got it right this time. So hopefully we'll have a, longer run for the concept of, for these, the lucky mutts that are members.
James: [00:28:49] And what, tell me a little bit about the financial side of it. What does, membership cost?
Barry: [00:28:54] Membership at the moment is free. But we do have to have a membership bio by all dogs. So we have to have, their vaccination reports. They come in for a consultation where we find out a little bit about the dogs, about their fitness levels, about if they've gotten the allergies, if there's any, you know, if they've had any injuries in the past and we also have details on the commands that they know and what words that we can use as carers and also any top-up training or any refinement training that they'd like to do whenever they come to visit. And that was.
James: [00:29:32] You got full dossier and on all of your apps?
Barry: [00:29:35] Yeah. There's a lot of detail. Yeah. A lot of detail, but it also makes our care a little bit more bespoke for each individual dog. So every day it, when an, a member arrives, we print their boarding card and it has all the details. So there's consistency.
James: [00:29:50] Boarding paradise. That's kind of a funny thing.
Barry: [00:29:55] So the boarding card is produced and it has their notes. It has any allergies that they have, what time they need to eat, what exercise they need to do for the day, et cetera, et cetera. And then we have consistency because as we know, you know, Fifi, if she had no consistency would be completely bonkers. So I think, you know, consistency is key to success and to making a happy dog and, you know, Urban Mutts vision is, you know, we make dogs happy. So to do that, consistency is key.
James: [00:30:30] Are most of your guests overnight guests, or are they just there for the day? Well.
Barry: [00:30:36] Well, we haven't had a lot of holidays booked as humans. So the dogs are pretty much been at home. So predominantly now it's, you know, spa day, we do a spa day bundle, which is daycare plus treatments in the spa and a lot of daycare. So people now starting to go back to work, you know, starting to, you know, maybe go back to the office a couple of times and also dealing with, you know, the lockdown puppies as we call them. They need time away from their owners, which, again, increases their confidence. So a lot of people dropping off for a couple of hours or for four hours just to gradually get them into the flow of things and, you know, get them used to going to mutt school. And spending time with us and, you know, as a run-up to when things open up even more, and they having to go back to a five day a week, you know, nine to five job.
James: [00:31:36] So, you see, here in the States. And I believe in the UK as well, the shelters saw a decrease in their population. A lot of people during the pandemic were adopting dogs that might not otherwise have been adopted. What repercussions. Are you seeing any of, are you seeing any of that, of those dogs coming to spend a little time with you?
Barry: [00:32:01] Oh, of course. Yeah. I've done a lot of stuff with, you know, rescue centers, you know, whether it was the best to see dogs and cats home. And we're affiliated. We're partners with an amazing charity, a lovely, beautiful friend of mine, Nicky Tibbles who's, she's a renowned florist here in London, but she also, runs and, founded a wild at heart foundation, which is about spaying and neutering stray dogs around the world. So in very critical, you know, countries that have a you know, a serious problem, but she also re homes those dogs back in the UK, to a wonderful families.
So I've done a lot of work with her rehabilitating, you know, dogs back into, you know, some form of normal loving environments that otherwise would have been completely lost because of their harsh upbringing. And we see a lot of them, you know, and I've got clients of mine that, you know, turn up here and they're impeccably behaved and, you know, great members of the pack. So, you know, a huge success, for these dogs and, you know, they've turned, they've been lucky enough to, find good homes and good owners that want what's best for them.
James: [00:33:16] That, those sound very lucky. I know you've had some celebrity clients when you were doing the jogging. Okay. Name some names.
Barry: [00:33:24] Ooh, name that, there's quite a few I can't talk about, for obvious reasons. But yeah, I mean, Elle MacPherson is one. She's also become a very, very dear friend of mine. So I looked after Beller and Moon. They used to run with me when they were here in the UK. I was fortunate enough to be able to take them out to Miami and sets with them in Miami.
Get them trained, you know, on the Island to stay away from the bull sharks in the water.
James: [00:33:57] Good training.
Barry: [00:33:57] So that was good training. Yeah. It was an experience for me as well. But yeah, I, you know, Guy Ritchie, a wonderful, a wonderful client of mine and his, wife Jackie, and I've got a strictly calm dancing. I don't know if you, you've obviously got your franchise of strictly calm dancing in the US. But we've got ours here. So a lot of the dancers there, I've got the amazing Karen who she, rescued three dogs from the wild at heart foundation, that I'm lucky enough to be their carer and, their first point of call when she's busy, you know, doing the shows and stuff.
So, the beautiful Betty, Molly, and Phoebe and Betty Boo, as we call her. It was the first one. Then she adopted Molly and then she adopted Phoebe, the three legged dog stray. She, you know, she was found with a broken leg that healed broken, so they had to amputate it. But they, again, beautiful dogs, you know, we've integrated them into an urban, urban life and they they're living life and living the dream.
James: [00:35:07] Do you see expanding beyond your current location in London?
Barry: [00:35:12] Absolutely. I mean, you know, that's always been on the cards, so I think we're trying to set the bar, by the way we do it, by the way, you know, our training, our policies and procedures need to be very, very tight when we're ready. We will with, of course we've had a lot of interest. But this is, you know, like I said, it's a new, a new level of care. And as a huge support for urbanites, because it is difficult, you know, we've all got busy, busy lives, but we're never going to stop people from buying dogs. So I think just as much as we look after the dogs, we need to look after our dogs owners as well and give them support and, tap into the industry and give them the plethora of experience that we have. And knowledge we have of care. Posse, because you can only do good by doing that. Then how would you call it's close to your chest, give it out there, you know, get them involved and, you know, increase their capabilities. So then they can care for their dogs better and also support them when they're busy, you know, where's my dog's gonna go. It's a one stop shop. Its going to come here. We've got everything.
James: [00:36:26] So let's bring this back to the beginning when we were talking a little bit about your restaurant days and how hard that was and how not just physically draining that was for you. But, there's the service ethic we were talking about, like, you know, how a Gordon Ramsey has changed the dining scene, perhaps in London for the benefit. Do you see yourself perhaps in that same role as being a pivot point to changing how we care for dogs in an urban setting?
Barry: [00:37:00] Absolutely. I think that, you know, we want. When we say, raise the bar. It's not about raising the bar and serving, you know, dog-friendly champagne to our dogs. It's about, you know, we want people to come in here and notice the level of quality of both care and, fit out environment that we've created to actually grow a community that demands it and speaks about it. So then when other owners go to their daycares or their overnight facilities, or their a dog Walker, they're saying, well, this place does this. Why are you not doing that? You know, because at the end of the day, the most important thing for, me in this industry is to make sure that that dog is looked after in the best possible way. And again, I keep saying it happy, healthy, and set up to succeed in a very compromising environment.
James: [00:37:59] Barry Karacostas, thank you so much for being with us.
Barry: [00:38:02] It's a pleasure. Thank you very much for inviting me on.
James: [00:38:06] As the restrictions on travel begin to ease, I am contemplating and looking forward to once again, flying and hopefully returning to my annual business trip to Europe, which always includes some time in London. And when I'm there now, not only will I look forward to the great food. But I'll look forward to checking out Urban Mutts in person. I'm delighted that we heard from someone across the pond that they say, because as you know, dog lovers live in places all over the world and at dog podcast network, we endeavor to bring you their story.
And we have a simple, powerful mission, just like Barry does. To help improve the quality of life for dogs and the people who love them. So we would love to hear your stories and suggestions for stories that we can cover here. Please get in touch with us via our website @longleashshow.com, where you can check out our entire back catalog of in-depth conversations.
There is a blue button on the bottom right of every page where you can leave us a voicemail message or send us a message via the contact form. And if you're not already getting this show in your podcast feed, please follow us in your favorite podcast app on Apple podcasts or Google or Spotify or whatever podcast app you love.
We're also on YouTube. All the links are at longleashshow.com. And please do us a favor. Tell a friend about the Long Leash and dog podcast network, because we have an ever growing library of shows, especially for dog lovers. So you can check them out at our main website at dogpodcast network.com. I'd like to thank Barry Karacostas again for joining us today. But most of all, I would like to thank you for pressing the play button and listening. I'm James Jacobson. And on behalf of all of us here at dog podcast network, I wish you and your dog, a very warm, Aloha.