When it comes to dog daycare there are many options. It’s important that you know how to choose the right daycare for your dog. Daycare can be a great outlet and learning experience for your dog, but if the facility has not trained their employees properly it can cause your dog to have behavior issues or make behavior issues worse. Be sure to ask the following questions when you tour a facility:
- What is your dog/supervisor ratio?
Depending on the amount of training and experience the supervisor has will depend on how many dogs they can handle. For supervisors that only have a year or less of experience, they should stick with below fifteen dogs. For supervisors over a year, they can increase their group to twenty-five. I have seen very experienced supervisors handle up to forty dogs. Keep in mind that often times it’s not how many dogs but the personality types the group consists of. I’ve supervised groups of forty dogs that I’ve had very little problem with and other days have only twenty dogs that give me a lot of trouble. Also, a supervisor handling small dogs will often be able to have more in their group than a group of large dogs. Bottom line is to ask about the supervisor that will be specifically in your dog’s group. Ask how long they’ve been supervising dogs in daycare and how many dogs are typically in their group.
- How do you test new dogs that come into the facility?
This is one of the few questions I’m looking for a specific answer. How a dog is introduced into a new playgroup can set up success or failure. We’ve all heard that a first impression is everything and this is no different. There are certain steps that should take place when evaluating a new dog. This isn’t just important on how they’re going to introduce and evaluate your dog, but how they’re going to do each dog afterwards that may play with yours. Below are the steps that should take place when evaluating new dogs for daycare.
a. New dog should be allowed to enter play area alone with supervisor. Supervisor will engage with dog to understand dog’s level of human comfort. Supervisor will then allow dog to roam the play area without interruption. This will allow the supervisor to evaluate the dog’s confidence level and temperament in order to introduce the appropriate dogs first.
b. Once supervisor has an idea on the dog’s personality, he/she will choose an appropriate opposite dog to introduce. For example, if the testing dog is shy and nervous, the first dog that I would use to test with would be a confident dog with great signals and great patience as well as an interest in playing but not overwhelming for the nervous dog. Sometimes this type of dog isn’t available so the supervisor has to have enough knowledge of the regular groups to know the best dog to test with. During this evaluation the supervisor is looking to see what level of dog skills the new dog has as well as patience and confidence.
c. Supervisor will continue introducing different personalities to the new dog until the supervisor has reached at least three testing dogs and has a good understanding of the new dog’s personality.
- What kind of training does your staff receive?
Facility should be able to explain in detail the type of training their staff receives. Don’t accept just the name of a training program or certification program, ask for the details. You want to ensure that supervisors understand dog communication skills, body language, personalities and how to evaluate them, dog interaction and fights as well as how to break up a fight or interrupt inappropriate behavior appropriately.
- Are dogs split up by size or play type?
Most facilities will answer, by size. This isn’t necessarily wrong; however, there are appropriate times that dogs are not split up by size but by play type. Many small dogs that have lots of energy don’t do well with the small dog group. They tend to be overzealous and often times won’t have a good playmate. It’s more important to understand how the supervisors are educated. If the supervisors are well educated, they’ll know the best way to split up dog groups.
- Are the daycare dogs put away for naptime?
Dogs get tired as we do. When they’re playing for hours, physical depletion is bound to happen; especially since that’s what we want for them. However, it’s crucial that dogs have a chance to nap during the day. Dogs that are left out tend to lose their patience and disagreements are going to occur.
There are a few things you want to watch for while supervising a play group. If you see any of these things during the play group you’ll know that the supervisors are not trained properly.
- Rewarding jumping or excessive barking.
- Allowing dogs to sit in laps.
- Excessive fetch playing with dogs.
- Excessive play or petting of daycare dogs.
- Screaming or yelling at dogs.
- Not cleaning up yard.
- Inappropriately interrupting unwanted behavior by grabbing scruffs, hitting or rolling dogs over.
- Not keeping water fresh and clean.
- Using the water hose as a toy.
- Using the water hose as a tool to break up a fight.
A few other things you want to keep an eye on are the following…
- Facilities that allow dogs to resource guard toys, beds, chairs, couches, supervisor or other dogs.
- Facilities that encourage dogs to get upon furniture.
- Dogs that go home dirty or stinky.
- Dogs that are allowed to continually aggravate another dog that clearly doesn’t want to play.
- If the facility gives you an excuse as to why you can’t supervise a play group without an appointment.
- Uses any type of aversion training such as correction collars, bark collars or leash corrections.
If you already have a daycare, be sure you check in every few months as employees leave and new ones arrive. You want to ensure that they’re all trained properly and your dog is still enjoying his days playing with all of his buddies.
Nikki Ivey, founder of DogSpeak, is a dog trainer and behavior consultant in Nashville, TN. She has been teaching owners, dogs, shelters and daycare facilities for 17 years. Visit DogSpeak
December 31, 2013 | DogGeek