With passion and love for all creatures since early childhood, coupled with a special understanding and connection with them, Hawai’i Island native Allen Daniels jumped at what turned out to be a career-expanding experience.
On a break from college in the late eighties, he was offered a seasonal job with Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Recognizing natural talent and a special relationship with the dolphins, he was offered what he calls an opportunity of a lifetime. Without a look back, he left college behind, embarking on a 10-year journey that began training with the industry’s leading marine mammal experts and becoming a professional dolphin trainer in 1992.
“After several years, I began to realize that the innovative techniques used in training 500-pound-plus mammals, could be easily adapted to training dogs. There was a big need for this, as well as a need for a modern, professionally-run training and boarding facility here on Hawai’i Island,” Allen says.
With the seed planted, he began training dogs on the side during his time off, while researching state-of-the-art facilities on the mainland West Coast. At the time, the concept of doggie daycare was taking hold there, and Allen quickly embraced it as part of programs he would eventually offer.
Paws University, a seven-acre property situated up the country just minutes from Kailua-Kona, officially opened by owners Allen and Lana Daniels in 2002 with Doggie Day Care as one of its core offerings. It was the first facility in the state of Hawaii to provide daycare, Lana says.
“Our campus was designed for dogs to have lots of room to play and interact. We’ve created an environment for active dogs to run and play all day, while less active dogs have a safe place to relax after getting the exercise they need,” Allen says. “Allowing dogs to play in a carefully supervised and positive environment has been proven to reduce unwanted behaviors while increasing their confidence with other dogs and people.”
“We provide a large variety of services, including multi-week training classes–Puppy Kindergarten (basic training) and Pawsabilities (advanced dog training) as well as, one-on-one private training with Allen either at our campus or at the client’s home,” Lana says.
The training method used is known as Operant Conditioning, which allows trainers and owners to create a trust-based bond with their pets. That bond results in the pet’s willingness to perform desired behaviors with rewards and repetition. This allows pets to develop skills even beyond their owner’s expectations, Allen says.
Allen is quick to note that it was the belief and trust of two “angel” investors–both among Allen’s original clients when he began training and boarding from his home in 2000–that made the dream facility a reality. And in 2016, he and Lana made another leap of faith, investing in some unique, new amenities at Paws, including the addition of an attractive and fun water park in the dog play area and K9 grass throughout the facility.
“The K9 grass features special anti-microbial elements, which are especially important in keeping our dogs healthy and comfortable. The turf doesn’t generate heat, and it’s made to last,” he says.
In addition to boarding both dogs and cats and providing training and daycare for dogs, full-service grooming also is offered by one of Hawaii’s most skilled–and personable–groomers, Lera Yoder. Lera apprenticed with a master groomer in Santa Rosa, CA, for more than three years prior to moving to Hawai’i Island in 2021.
“We’re really happy to have Lera here. She’s been a great addition since joining us one year ago and is a complement to our fantastic team of twenty highly trained animal care technicians, supervisory staff, and office assistants,” Allen says.
Since opening 21 years ago, the team at Paws has provided services to thousands of dogs and their human parents, with the pet’s well-being and happiness always the first priority. The entire campus was built around the special needs of the animals with an administration building housing the reception area, retail boutique, pet grooming, and kitty boarding areas, as well as the caretaker’s apartment. Dog boarding is dorm room-style, with the building situated around the play yard.
The one-of-a-kind Paws University is truly a dream, not only for Allen and Lana, but for island animals and their owners as well.
“Being a part of my clients’ ohanas–both past and current clients–has left an indelible mark on my heart. They have all helped me to do what I do and do it better and better each year,” Allen says. “The most meaningful thing to me is seeing the progress my students make, how it improves their quality of life and that of their owners.”
For more information visit pawsuniversity.com or phone (808) 325-6436. Paws University is located at 73-4259A Hawaii Belt Road, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740. Note: New clients’ dogs must undergo selective screening prior to being accepted for boarding or daycare.
“The idea for this doggie daycare, training, and boarding facility hatched in 1998, while I was training dolphins at Hilton Waikoloa Village and training dogs on the side.”
“Our number one priority is providing a professional, safe, and comfortable place for all the animals in our care and for our staff. Key to that is creating and maintaining a stress-free environment.”