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Club Aqua Paws

Mike Iwon, co-owner of the new Club Aqua Paws, 2711 Lathrop Ave., Suite C, bends down to help dachshund Ryder, who’s wearing a canine life jacket, during a test swim. Behind Iwon is Gayle Thielen, his mother-in-law and Ryder’s owner. The business opens Monday, March 6.

RACINE — When it comes to water, there are dogs that love to splash and swim in it, and dogs that only want to drink it.

For the swimmers, a new Racine business will give those pooches a year-round place to do their dog-paddling. Club Aqua Paws opens Monday at 2711 Lathrop Ave., suite C.

Mike and Lisa Iwon’s new indoor dog pool business, not surprisingly, began with a dog of their own.

“We were looking for this for our dog about six years ago,” said Mike, a chemical process operator at Waxdale for SC Johnson. Their female yellow Labrador retriever had had knee surgery and also had bad hips. The only canine aquatics center they could find was in Illinois and very expensive, Mike said.

While traveling, the couple found other canine swim centers, and at one point Lisa suggested it was something they also might start.

The water in their 13- by 25-foot pool is 46 inches deep, or just under 4 feet. The carpeted deck can be reached by a carpeted stairway or the long, handicapped-accessible ramp.

Another, much shorter, ramp slants down from the deck into the water as the pool entrance and exit for the dogs.

The water is not chlorinated, Mike said; rather, they use the pool chemical Baquacil which, he said, is much gentler on skin.

“Because we don’t let people swim, we can use a chlorine-free chemical,” he explained. “It’s OK for residential pools, but not commercial pools.”

“It works better than chlorine,” he added.

Life jackets

Club Aqua Paws requires customers to sign a waiver and show that their dogs are current on their vaccinations. The swim center also provides canine life jackets in five different sizes ranging from 5- to 15-pound pooches to 85 to 100 pounds.

“We ask that every dog wear one, but you can sign off on that,” Mike said.

Club Aqua Paws provides plenty of tennis balls for dogs that may need to be tempted into the pool that way.

There are also two dog-washing stations, one for smaller and one for larger dogs, which cost $1 a minute. Each swim includes a free rinse-off there.

Towels are dog owners’ responsibility to bring, but there will be two dryers for finishing the job.


All swims are by appointment.

The first visit, a $25 evaluation, includes about a 15-minute swim. If necessary, someone from Club Paws will get into the water to entice the dog into the pool, Mike said.

After that, the cost is $25 for a 20-minute swim. A second and third dog living under the same roof can also swim at the same time for no additional cost, and a fourth would cost $5 extra.

Eventually, Mike said, he’d like to try open swims with dogs of different owners, which some canine aquatic centers do very successfully.


Mike thinks the business can have year-round appeal. Owners can be fined for letting dogs swim in certain parts of Lake Michigan, he pointed out, and ponds can be full of unknown organisms.

After investing an estimated $37,000 in setting up Club Aqua Paws, Mike said, “The big unknown is: Will it be sustainable in Racine?”

“We wanted to provide this service for people with older dogs.”

Mike added, “Heck, my son wants to bring his cat; it’s always jumping into the bathtub.”

For more information, call 262-583-1138.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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