DOG owners in Huntingdonshire will go barking mad for a new business that has just opened in Hilton.

Barkley Grange is the area’s first dedicated doggy day care centre, where pampered pooches can socialise and have some fun while their owners are at work or out for the day.

While the concept of childcare is familiar to everybody, most will be surprised that crèche facilities for dogs are a growing trend.

Already popular in the USA, the concept is starting to take off here and 23-year-old dog lover Sophie Rice was quick to catch on, opening her new business last week.

With the help of her partner, Sophie has converted some buildings on their farm to provide a home-from-home for her four-legged clients, with not a kennel in sight.

She said: “I used to be a dog walker and pet sitter and at that time day care for dogs was very big in America and I knew my next move would be to open my own doggy day care.”

She explained: “It’s basically a crèche for dogs. We’re open 8.30am to 6.30pm and whether you’re going to work or just visiting friends or relatives and don’t want to leave your dogs on their own, we can help. We only take dogs that are sociable and get on with other dogs because we have one big run where they play together.”

As well as having the run of a large enclosed field, the dogs at Barkley Grange take part in lots of activities, including treasure hunts.

Dogs range in size from Westies to much larger German Shepherds and everything in between.

Currently, Sophie can look after up to seven dogs but hopes that in the next six months she will be able to take on another member of staff, enabling her to fill the 15 places she is permitted to under Huntingdonshire District Council’s planning conditions.

As well as caring for her clients, Sophie looks after her own three dogs: Winston, a three-year-old boxer, Austin, a three-year-old lurcher, and Jacob the Jack Russel, who is getting on a bit at 13.

Sophie had been working on the plans for Barkley Grange since January and had help and advice from the Prince’s Trust on starting up her own business, which also includes a dog grooming parlour.

INFORMATION: For more details call 07702807946 or visit www.barkleysgrange.webeden.co.uk