“An individual behavioral analysis is performed on each dog.”
“Dogs are grouped together by temperament and carefully monitored.”
“Our staff is specially trained in canine behavior.”
“Your dog will be well-exercised and all tired out by the end of the day!”
If you’re one of the slew of pet owners who take their dogs to daycares or board at those same facilities, these are probably all promises you’ve heard before. “We clean kennels and dog common areas multiple times a day! Our facility is staffed by dog lovers! We take pride in ensuring every dog has a safe and pleasant experience!”
For those who have a crammed schedule and a lively pet, these claims can be as irresistible as a siren call. After all, who wouldn’t like to come home to a dog who had a great time playing with their own kind, and is now all tuckered out and ready to relax quietly on the couch, rather than spending the day destroying the couch out of restless energy? The guarantee of a socialized, well-exercised dog who's had their destructive urges placated sounds like a win-win-win!
The problem is, despite nice daycares appear on the surface, they are actually harming your pet. This is because the inherent nature of doggie daycares throws a wide variety of dogs with wide-ranging personalities into in an unfamiliar environment, thereby placing them in close contact with a large number of unfamiliar dogs, only to be handled by a typically overworked staff of often unknown and generally unskilled people.
Sound unpleasant? Sure is. Four main issues make daycares an inherently unsafe and ultimately unhealthy environment for your dog.
Problem #1: Disease
When large amounts of dogs come into direct contact within small, occasionally enclosed spaces, diseases abound. Many settings host large amounts of dogs (shows, training sessions, and controlled boarding facilities are some examples), but are much better at circumventing the risk of disease than daycares, because they avoid direct contact.
Dogs in training or competition settings typically do not directly interact with each other, nor do they share quarters at any point--in fact, immediate contact is the thing those handling dogs in these settings most want to avoid, as interaction is the fastest way for animals to spread disease, and the surest way to spark a fight. Plus, maintaining the high standard of cleanliness necessary to minimize the risk of disease as much as is responsibly possible is far easier for facilities that keep animals separated completely, eschewing common spaces.
Though most daycares try their best when it comes to cleanliness, the very nature of their facilities creates the perfect infection ground for canine health issues, such as kennel cough and worms. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association:
The very reason you take your dog to a dog gathering – social mixing with other dogs – is the same thing that can put them at risk. Diseases can be spread through direct contact between dogs, shared bowls and equipment, contaminated water, stool, insects and other methods.
Daycares and dog parks are two of the highest risk settings for the spread of diseases, as they involve:
Want to take all the steps you can to avoid putting your dog at health risk? Make the smart choice, and cut out daycares and dog parks.
Problem #2: Fights
Just like with people, dogs possess a wide variety of personalities, pet peeves, and quirks. In fact, this is particularly true in dogs, given the beautiful range of breed diversity present in their species. German Shepherds tend to be aloof, protective, and proud; Belgian Malinois tend to have supreme athletic ability and enough energy to power a small city; Border Collies can skillfully maneuver vast herds of sheep across hundreds of acres of land; and Rottweilers are excellent at guarding their owners’ properties from ne'er-do-wells. This is one of the reasons we love dogs - they really have something for everyone, ready to do any job imaginable.
However, when it comes to daycares and other communal settings, these wide-ranging traits are a double-edged sword. Characteristics which make one breed great at their jobs can also make them less skillful or patient when interacting with other dogs, especially in a group setting. A dog who may harmonize with one or two dogs, or even several specific dogs, may act rudely or aggressively when it comes to different combinations of others. Different dogs bring different traits to the table, causing personalities to inevitably clash.
For instance, in the case of the German Shepherd, the aloofness and protectiveness which causes them to excel at apprehension work and bitesports can make them aggressive towards other dogs. Their nature, after all, is to police!
In the case of the Belgian Malinois, their boundless energy can cause them to become obnoxious towards dogs who aren’t interested in rough play for hours on end, thus provoking “if you don't leave me alone, so help me” fights.
In the case of Border Collies, their nature to herd and chase can similarly annoy dogs who interpret being stared down as a threat.
And when it comes to Rottweilers, their guarding ability causes them to be highly protective over resources such as water and toys, often to the point of attacking other dogs.
The same rule of character clash applies to even the friendliest and most tolerant of breeds, such as Golden Retrievers. The sunny personality which makes them such a popular family pet can also make them grating to dogs who prefer to be left alone -- just as highly extroverted people who don't always pick up on subtle “I want to be left alone now” cues from introverts can inadvertently cause arguments.
And these are just a handful of examples of dogs who may get along just fine with others... until someone irritates them, or smells “wrong”, or touches “their” water, or finds their repeated and increasingly desperate requests for personal space ignored. Australian Cattle Dogs may get along great with breeds who are tolerant and willing to put up with their pushy, stubborn natures, but something like a Doberman isn’t going to suffer in silence as a Lab or other typically tolerant breed may.
As a stand-alone trait, that’s not a bad thing. It’s perfectly okay if a dog has strict boundaries! If we were in their shoes, most us would, too. When these boundaries become unacceptable is when dogs are placed in situations that have high likelihood of violating said boundaries. This is not fair either for the dogs who have these rules, or for the unknowing dogs who surround them.
Unfortunately, daycares inevitably place individuals whose personalities will clash together. Again, many dogs may be fine with specific individuals, in a specific setting, at a specific time, but all of that can change in a flash. And the volume of dogs who pass through daycares necessitates that the “behavioral evaluations” -- often performed by individuals who have not spent the years of learning necessary to read the nuances of canine body language -- are brief and not nearly thorough enough to truly assess a dog’s characteristics. Similarly, the volume of dogs who pass through daycares, coupled with a finite amount of space, means that eventually, a less-than-ideal combination of dogs will happen, and so will a fight.
Fights are a regular occurrence in daycares (even when they don’t result in visible wounds) due to the low ratio of staff to dogs. Even in states such as Colorado, which mandate that there is at least one staff member is on duty per every fifteen dogs (Code of Colorado Regulations, 8 CCR 1202-15, p. 15) still require far too low of a ratio to truly minimize the risk of altercations as much as responsibly possible. This is particularly concerning in light of the clashing personalities and ineffective evaluations explained above! No matter how competent a kennel attendant may be, expecting them to monitor a slew of dogs in the circumstances already described - small yards, clashing personalities, and limited resources - is just plain unrealistic.
Furthermore, the skill and care of employees at daycares can vary wildly. Many of those who work at daycare facilities are well able to read canine body language and truly love working with dogs, but many of those workers do not. The lack of skill and lack of enthusiasm which can -- and often does-- pervade these facilities can make the difference from a dog roughly treated and a dog kindly handled, and can also make the difference between a simple disagreement and a bloody altercation.
Want to minimize the chances of your dog being mentally or physically scarred? Skip the daycare. Find a reputable training facility, and get active with your dog.
Problem #3: Stress
Possibly the most common reason pet owners pay for their dogs to attend daycare is exercise and fun. After all, it can be hard to wear an energetic pup out, particularly if you work full-time and have kids who need to be chauffeured from one activity to another. The prospect of receiving a tired, happy-to-be-reunited pet at the end of the day can be tempting, just as the prospect of picking up a tired out, happy-to-be-reunited child from soccer practice can be.
So what’s the difference between sports practice for kids, and daycare for dogs? Both give the participants some healthy socialization and good old-fashioned exercise, right? Nope! Sports and other activities are a form of good tiredness, and daycares are a form of bad tiredness, a.k.a tiredness springing from stress.
Think of it this way: taking a long flight filled with delays and shuttles and several transfers is tiring. So are impending final exams which involve hours upon hours of frantic studying, and so are job deadlines involving multiple people and large and complicated workloads. After enduring these experiences, the average person needs time to recuperate - maybe even a spa day!
Spending a day hiking in the mountains, on the hand, is tiring without being draining. Visiting with a friend for coffee is the same. In fact, these activities and other active, enjoyable ones usually qualify as a form of recuperation in their own right! The difference is, the first group of tiring activities are stressful and thus exhausting, and the second group of activities are enjoyable and thus fulfilling.
For most dogs, spending a day in an environment filled with rowdy, unpredictable strangers and unfamiliar handlers with no way to bow out is the polar opposite of a good time, leading to vast amounts of stress and discomfort. Just as we come home from a long, stressful day at work and have no energy to do anything but veg for the rest of the night, your dog is lethargic when they return from daycare not because they've had an awesome day, but because they're trying to recuperate before they have to deal with it all over again tomorrow.
Problem #4: Bad Habits
Just as their good forms of tiredness and bad forms of tiredness, there are good forms of socialization and bad forms of socialization. Socialization, after all, simply means learning from those around you. Dogs who have pleasant, fun experiences with other dogs and humans generally learn to be polite, gentle, and friendly, looking forward to interacting with others. After all, why wouldn't they? Other dogs and humans have only ever brought them a pleasant time!
Dogs who have negative or stressful experiences, on the other hand, can learn obnoxious or dangerous coping mechanisms, to be fearful or reactive, and to have a low threshold for behavior they don’t care for, thus avoiding interactions with others at all costs. If you repeatedly have awful experiences with others, you're going to do your best to avoid any interaction you can. When it comes to dogs, that can manifest in obnoxious, dangerous, or even violent habits.
Our pets learn from each other, and they learn from us. This is true even when we aren’t actively trying to teach them anything - perhaps more so! And as you probably know, dogs also tend to default to behaviors we dislike. (That’s what makes training so important.) And when a dog is placed in an environment with a variety of strangers with wide-ranging manners, they tend to come away with fresh bad habits - both due to imitation, and due to newly-learned coping mechanisms.
Ultimately, this is because of a lack of quality control. As with most things, when it comes to socialization, quality can be beneficial; quantity can be ruinous. When a dog is being obsessively fixated upon by another dog, it doesn’t matter that they're receiving an enormous amount of interaction. They can quickly learn to lower their tolerance for behaviors they don’t care for, whether that’s obsessive dog #1 harassing them for an extended period of time, or well-mannered dog #2 issuing a polite invitation to play.
As kennel attendants also vary widely, so does the effect they have upon a dog’s behavior. Skill of handling drastically affects the attitude, comfort level, and performance of dogs, creating either a fun and effective experience, or a stressful and damaging one - same as how a good trainer can help you have a happy and well-behaved dog, and a mediocre one can put your dog four steps back.
If the handler is unskilled or uninterested, dogs can learn fun new ways to coerce humans into caving to giving them their way, and they can unlearn commands when allowed to repeatedly ignored ones issued. Daycares lack quality control, and they are thus the ultimate breeding ground for bad habits.
Are there exceptions to this “daycares are unpleasant and unsafe for your pet” rule? Sure. But they’re just that: exceptions, and exceptions which buck the doggie daycare model completely by having standards which most facilities either can't profitably sustain, or don't want to.
Ultimately, it’s well-demonstrated that doggie daycares/communal boarding facilities do more harm than good. The same ends which people desire by sending their dogs to daycare can be achieved through far less risky and far more beneficial means. Do what’s best for your dog, and quit the daycare.
So What Should I Do?
After reading this article, you’re probably wondering: what are these better alternatives? How can I find them for my dog? What can I do to give my dog safe, healthy stimulation? Here are just a few!
For during the day when your dog will be home alone, try:
For when you return and have a few minutes to spend on your dog:
And most importantly, visit a local trainer for activities, games, and solutions customized to you and your dog. Reputable trainers can provide access to:
In the end, it’s the informed and kind choice to find alternatives to putting your pet through a potentially life-damaging experience. As is said in the dog training business: set your dog up for success! That’s the ultimate goal of a pet owner, after all. We love our dogs, and we want what is best for them. So make the wise choice. Dodge the risk and dodge the sales pitch, and start a new hobby for your dog.
There are many people and companies out there offering to take your dog in to train them for a period of usually 2 to 4 weeks. So how do you choose?
The purpose of this article is not to tell you which is good or bad, but to educate you in your decision. Keep in mind, no matter which program you choose, you MUST continue using those methods in your daily life with your dog in order to maintain the training.
Probably the most common service advertised, most often these programs start with the use of e-collars and prong collars from day one. The dogs are taught commands with the use of aversive stimulation. When they perform the right behavior, there is no punishment, when they perform the wrong behavior, there is a punishment. Some rewards may be worked into to the program to reward some good behaviors.
EXAMPLE: a dog is taught to walk next to the handler by learning that any place away from right next to the handler means a correction will come. As long as they stay in the “safe zone” they will not be punished.
Results: What you will usually see in dogs trained by these methods are stress behaviors such as panting, licking of the lips, and pinned back ears. When the dog is walking, the head is often down, the ears are back and the tail is down. The flip side is yes, the dog is very obedient. The dog understands that there are negative consequences for behaving incorrectly. These dogs, however, do not really enjoy training nor will they voluntarily offer behaviors and think independently. The relationship in this scenario is the owner is “dictator” and the dog must submit.
Is this for you? Force based training works well for people who are looking for an easy “just push the button” approach to training their dog. These owners often do not notice the change in their dog’s body language, are not aware what the change means, or don’t care as long as the dog is being obedient. Many people like the results of this training as it only requires that they learn how to push a button when the dog behaves incorrectly. If you want a partnership with your dog and do not want to damage the trust in the relationship, this method is not for you. If you just want your dog to obey and want fast, transformational results, then this may fit your needs.
Motivational Only Training
The far other side of the spectrum is motivational only training, also known as “purely positive” or “force free” training. For some people and some dogs, this can work. It is absolutely possible to train almost any behavior using force free methods. You can also counter condition bad behaviors into good behavior with lots of repetitions, consistent rewards, and patience.
EXAMPLE: a dog is taught to walk next to the handler by being rewarded many many times with treats in that position, making that position very positive and valuable to the dog. The dog starts to stay in the position much more in the anticipation of more great treats.
Results: Dogs trained with positive methods will not show the stress behaviors and fear that the force trained dogs show. They tend to be happy learners and enjoy training. They will often offer behaviors to try to figure things out, and be independent thinkers. Their ears will be up, tails wagging, and have a happy disposition. Results aren’t transformational because with this method the personality and spirit of the dog is preserved, so it’s the same.
The flip side of this is some dogs are more difficult than others. While yes, it is possible to train purely positively, the time commitment, dedication, and consistency required to maintain this training results in failure for many dog owners. They are often made to feel like failures and bad dog owners for not succeeding with these methods and may even quit trying and rehome their dog. In a board and train program, the most common complaint about this method is the training doesn’t “stick” well when the dog goes home. Often this is because the owner does not have the same skill, timing, and consistency as the professional trainer.
Is this for you? This method of training is great for people dedicated to not using any corrections on their dog, and who have the patience and ability to do so. Also, the type of dog you own often plays a big role in how successful people are in these programs. If you opt for a purely positive training program, you must be committed to the program long term. Additionally, using rewards will never permanently damage a dog’s spirit and personality, so owners do not have to worry about badly done corrections.
A more middle of the road approach requires trainers that are knowledgeable and skilled in both motivational training and the use of corrections and tools. These trainers still want the dog to be happy, motivated learners who learn to enjoy training and offer behaviors to try to get their rewards. Skills are taught with motivation and corrections are used primarily to block unwanted behaviors and to proof the skills the dog already knows. This method is good for people who have tried purely positive training, but for whatever reason have not succeeded. And that’s ok! That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dog or have to punish him into submission. Learning to properly use corrections can make the world of difference in the relationship between some owners and their dogs and still maintain a happy, well-adjusted dog.
EXAMPLE: a dog is taught to walk next to the handler by being rewarded many many times with treats in that position, making that position very positive and valuable to the dog. The dog starts to stay in the position much more in the anticipation of more great treats. However, if the dog breaks the position to charge at a rabbit, the dog is given a correction for doing that and given more treats when he gets back to the correct position.
Results: A happy learner that loves to train and interact, but understands there are consequences for bad decisions. This requires that the owner does not overuse corrections and continues to reward good behaviors. This responsibility remains with the owner, so learning is required!
Interested in learning more about board and train? Contact us for more information. We will talk to you about your goals and the methods best for you and your dog. If you prefer the force-based training, we are not the right place for you, but there are many other businesses in the area that can provide that service.
The short answer...nothing is totally safe, but some are less dangerous than others. Here are some options and the pros and cons of them all:
Bully sticks: Considered probably the most safe of the edible chews, yet we do know of one dog who died due to an intestinal blockage from a bully stick.
Antlers: Considered one of the safest options as far as not something dogs will not tend to swallow, however the risk with antler is they are hard and may cause tooth fractures.
Hooves: These are too hard for dogs and are very likely to cause tooth fractures.
Rawhides: Least recommended of all chews. These bleached hides are full of toxic chemicals in addition to the high risk of intestinal blockages. Rawhides can rehydrate and expand inside of your dog’s stomach. How rawhide is made.
Baked or cooked bones: Not recommended at all due to risk of splintering. Bones that have been cooked tend to splinter off into sharp shards because of how dried out they’ve become. These sharp shards can cause intestinal perforation.
Toys : Nylabones, Kongs
These are all excellent chews, but must be supervised as these can also cause intestinal blockages. Both nylabones and kongs have landed many a dog in the ER for emergency surgery to remove them from the digestive tract. Stuffing kongs with food and freezing them can provide puppies and dogs with some good fun, but the chews should not be left unattended. Always remember to choose an appropriately sized toy - make sure it is larger than your dog’s face and mouth so it cannot be accidentally swallowed.
Kong stuffing suggestions: Pure peanut butter is too caloric to use repeatedly, so we recommend using a rehydrated powdered dog food such as Sojo’s or the Honest Kitchen. You may also mix peanut butter in with cooked oatmeal and pureed canned pumpkin to cut the calories. Pumpkin is great to firm up stools, so that’s another benefit. Canned food can even be used in Kongs as a nice treat. Kongs are a great way to get in your dog’s supplements. Mix in supplement with whatever stuffing! We recommend the working dogs direct complete supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties and joint protection.
Raw bones can be an excellent choice for giving your dog something to occupy their mind with (they’re also great natural toothbrushes), but there are a few concerns to keep in mind when selecting your bones. Not recommended - thick ‘weight bearing’ bones from large animals (such as: knuckle bones, beef leg bones, marrow bones, sliced femur bones, etc.) Thick bones like this are often found in pet stores and many grocery aisles have soup bones or marrow bones set out. These types of bones are popular but if you have a power chewer or a dog that tries to actually chew on the bone and not simply eat the marrow out, you risk a major tooth fracture. These bones are made to withstand the weight of huge cows, they’re simply too dense and hard for your dog’s teeth!
If you are going to feed bones, also make sure to use only raw, unenhanced (no added sodium!) edible bones that have not been machine cut. An example of machine cut bones are the split pork necks you see at the grocery store...Even though the pork bones themselves are not incredibly dense, the machine used to chop them into pieces leaves extremely sharp edges that if swallowed can cause damage. Some safe bone choices include chicken quarters (leg and thigh attached), whole or split chickens, pork ribs in slab form, turkey necks, duck necks, and other poultry bones.
Watch your dog closely when they first start eating bones. Dogs are not built like humans, they do not chew up everything carefully before swallowing, so a rip, tear, and swallow style is absolutely okay - don’t be alarmed if you see them swallow a huge chunk. That being said, try to pick bones that are appropriately sized for your dog. If you have a large breed dog, a GSD for example, bones such as chicken wings will likely just be swallowed whole. Though digestively this is okay, an overenthusiastic dog may choke...a larger cut such as a chicken quarter would be a better choice.
When looking at bones try to make sure you also do not feed ‘naked’ bones (bones that have no meat on them). Dogs can handle consuming bones entirely, but make sure they’ve still got meat attached to them or you will encounter some serious constipation. The meat also adds a bit of cushion and padding on the way down.
Also click here for CBS new article here with more information.
We have announced two upcoming seminars under our events tab!
On May 13 and 14th we will have Dave Kroyer out to host his interesting "Chicken lab". Participants will get a chance to hone their clicker skills while training chickens. Dave is well known in the IPO and obedience world for his training and we are fortunate to have him here to share some of his knowledge. Sign ups and more info are located here .
For the weekend of June 2-4, we also will have Joanne back for another obedience seminar. Though last time was more structured for IPO, this seminar will not have a tracking component and is applicable to both AKC and IPO motivational obedience and problem solving. Join us for these three days and find sign ups and information here .
We are seeking 1-2 kennel workers to help walk dogs and clean. Our board and train is getting more popular and we are ready for some help. A full description of the job requirements and what we are looking for can be found HERE.
Did you get something for your pup for Valentines? I know Jarvan, Lara, Riyo, and Mace will be sharing some fresh treats today to celebrate <3
We had a random nice day in February, almost 90 degrees!, and still a nice amount of you came by to check out our new place. :). We enjoyed seeing all the pups, helping with nails and training questions, and we hope to see a few of you soon in our puppy classes and group classes for training!
We have added a second Puppy Kindergarten class to our schedule, it begins on March 2nd.
On March 1st we also have a Good Manners Pet Class 1 class starting!
Our Grand Opening is in just a few days and we are hoping to see a lot of the local Plano dog lovers attend :).
Our website is finally live and classes are launched. We have a few puppy classes and our special "Handling the High Energy Dog" class set up for early February. We will open a few more after that week, but for now we are just working on the final pieces.
This week is a big one for us, but we are looking forward to getting closer to our grand opening.
We did some serious scrambling in order to make our Joanne seminar happen. We DID it!!! Though we would have liked the back room to be done, we had enough going to make everything work. Food, coffee, shelter from the rain? Okay, not so bad. It was a fun weekend and we are looking forward to hosting another one.
We want to give a special thank you to everyone who helped make our seminar run smoothly. We had a ton of help from club members, club family members, and friends. DFW Working Dogs came out to join us at the seminar and it was great to see a lot of people that we haven't in awhile.