Choosing a daycare for your dog – Part 3 of a series: safety

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safe·ty  ˈsāftē/

1. the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger

It is my belief that no daycare wants your dog to be harmed.  That being said accidents do happen and when they do, those involved are more devastated than the dog’s own owner.  I can tell you this first hand since I owned a boarding, daycare and training facility.  I’m not writing about this topic to give anyone nightmares. I believe dog owners must be informed consumers. We are our dogs’ best advocates and protectors and I feel a tremendous responsibility as someone who ran a daycare where a freakish accident happened.

My goal is not to bad mouth daycares, but rather to educate dogs owners to know what to look for, to ask the right questions and understand the risks involved in having a pack of dogs together.

In the dog world there is a fine line between having fun and getting in trouble.  Just watch dogs play.  They run and chase, they roll and tumble and they use their mouths constantly.  Excitement can swiftly turn to arousal and attack.  Suddenly there are several dogs on one dog as the pack instinct kicks in quickly when the dogs  hear a yelp or cry from another dog.  In other cases it is predatory aggression or dominance over a situation or item of value.  Sounds terrible, but this is what occurs when dogs from all walks of life are interacting together.  And even with safety measures, accidents can still occur.

What can be done to protect the safety of your dog

Evaluating Dogs prior to acceptance for play

• The facility should have a formal acceptance policy in place with defined behaviors required from dogs that participate and be able to share this information with you.  This can include all dogs attending daycare must have had some sort of training or behavioral traits and/or personality.  Dogs that have been trained have more self-control than dogs that have not.  They understand there are rules and will learn the “rules” of the daycare facility much easier and quicker than untrained dogs.  In addition, most trained dogs have respect for people and will respond when someone gives them a command or tells them to stop a behavior.

Not all dogs should attend daycare.  Rather than regurgitate the specifics, Patricia McConnell has a great article and resources to help you decide if you dog truly should attend doggie daycare.

• Dogs should be evaluated individually for appropriateness to group play (e.g., means body language provides evidence participation is enjoyed and not just tolerated)  This should be done either through a test daycare or with a temperament test and before your dog spends an entire day at the daycare facility.

Medical requirements

  •  The facility should require proof of vaccinations, so they have the records of the shots and records of each dog’s veterinarian.  And they need have policies in place to keep these up to date.

Policy for handling problems

  • Dogs have been injured at daycare.  You need the ask questions: Do they have proper supervision and staff on the floor at all times, are the dogs left unattended? How well is the staff educated? Do they have security measures like double gates to outside entrances, no electric cords in play areas and safe, non-skid surfaces in the play areas? Do they have emergency procedures in place and what are they?
  • The daycare facility needs to have thought through situations and possibilities and have policies in place which they can share with you prior to leaving your dog in their care.

Knowledgeable trained staff

  • It is important to know the minimum training each staff member who is handling your dog.  Listed below are some of the Dog Gurus Daycare Operations Standards 
    •   First aid training for canines
    • Canine Body Language Training
    • Group play education – (i.e., how to effectively manage dogs using positive reinforcement methods: obedience cues, splitting or redirecting, time outs)
    • Training in defensive handling
    • Training in dog bite prevention
    • Customer Service Training
    • Formal process for new hires to progress through training
    • Continuing education requirements for all staff
    • Training in predatory aggression

My hope is by knowing what to look for in a doggie daycare and knowing what to ask in choosing a safe daycare for your dog, you may save your dog’s life. That’s worth learning about.

Next in this series:  Evaluating Daycare facilities

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Welcome to Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine. Throughout the site, you will find a variety of helpful dog training articles, insightful dog behavior tips, and truthful product reviews from nationally-recognized canine trainers and professionals.