Switzerland has a reputation for being squeaky clean, because of its spotless streets and neat houses - and Swiss pets are also expected to keep up appearances.This content was published on March 6, 2006 - 14:19
This is now easier than ever thanks to the opening of the country's first public dog shower.
It's guaranteed to appeal to dog owners, whose pet hate is post-walk bathtime.
The canine clean up machine can be found in the basement at the Swiss Touring Club (TCS) service centre in Volketswil near Zurich.
It works like a car wash: the hound walks up a ramp onto a rubber-floored platform, where it can be tethered.
The platform is at a height designed to minimise strain on the dog owner's back, and facilitate checking for fleas.
A token is dropped through a slot, the wash programme selected, and the show gets underway.
Hoses deliver warm clear or soapy water, as well as sucking up moisture and hair and blow-drying the animal when the washing cycle is over.
The dog shower costs between SFr6 ($4.6) and SFr12 ($9.3) for a full programme, depending on the size of the hound.
This compares with costs of up to SFr300 in a Swiss beauty salon for dogs. But Sandra Berger, who runs the Rex dog salon in Bern city centre, says it is unfair to compare the two.
"In the salon we take special care of the animals, checking for physical or psychological abnormalities. A machine cannot provide the same quality of service," she told swissinfo.
The level of care may not be the same, but dog owners looking for a quick, cheap service are queuing up to use the new shower. On Saturdays, there are 30 or more clients.
The device is made by the Italian company ESA+ and has already won over dog owners in Italy, Spain and Portugal.
When TCS service centre boss, Marco Martino, was asked to try it out in Volketswil, he was only too glad to make it a first for Switzerland.
swissinfo invited collie Nepomuk from the nearby village of Illnau to try out the dog wash for the first time.
He took his owner Edmunda Heizmann, for a long, mud-spattering riverside walk before they drove over to Volketswil.
Martino explained how the shower worked, reassuring them that the unit would be automatically disinfected before use by the next client.
Nepomuk doggedly sat it out as he was subjected to the various cycles. The end result was a super clean, dry-as-a-bone, fluffy collie.
"It was a pleasant experience for myself and the dog!" his owner commented. "This way, we avoid getting the bathroom all covered with spray."
When Nepomuk arrived at the dog shower, he had to wait his turn, as Veronique Grob was busy washing her giant poodle.
She told swissinfo she was very impressed with the new service.
"My dog is more calm here than in the bathtub at home, and it's quicker to wash him as the water comes mixed with shampoo already. The only disadvantage is that you can't choose the water temperature and I find this setting rather hot for a dog."
But other dog owners swissinfo talked to were more hesitant. "My dog is highly strung and I don't think he would enjoy the dog shower," said Kathrin Kraus.
She said she would continue to take Evy to the poodle parlour, to maintain her lustrous looks.
Barbara Blaser thought it a good idea, but not for her boxer, Jare.
"I don't need it for my dog because she has short hair and is easy to look after. All I have to do is hose her down and dry her off with a towel," she explained.
Martino says he has received only positive feedback since the shower opened in December 2005, proof that he is not barking up the wrong tree.
"People who wash their dogs at home know how long it takes to clean the bathroom afterwards. They're going to come here in future. "
The TCS car wash is just a few dog leaps away from the shower.
So, with a shiny canine on board, there's no excuse for driving a dirty motor.
swissinfo, Julie Hunt in Volketswil
The dog shower was opened on December 21, 2005.
A full wash cycle cost SFr6-12.
The average treatment in a dog beauty salon costs SFr45 per hour.
The Volketswil dog shower has up to 30 clients per day.
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