Category Archives: Daycare Protocol

Lobby Etiquette

In the past several months, we have had many new dogs join our pack at Dawg House, which makes this the perfect time to explain our rules and expectations for our lobby.

When you are in the lobby with your dog,  please make sure your dog is leashed and under your control.  This is for several reasons–first off, the door to the outside can open at any time, leaving a loose dog vulnerable.  Also, as much as we try to maintain a safe lobby, there are items and foods to which your dog should not have access.  The only way to insure they don’t is to keep them leashed and under control.

In addition, we have many dogs that are truly excellent daycare dogs—sweet and friendly, playful and enjoyable, until “Mom” or “Dad” enters the picture.  We have several clients that call from the parking lot for us to remove the dogs from the playroom safely, and others that need a wide berth when entering and leaving.  Because of this,  please don’t approach a dog in the lobby without asking if it’s okay;  but also, please be respectful and move away from the gate as people are exiting. Many of the dogs that attend Dawg House are rescue dogs, and have some real trust issues as well.  They are fearful of strangers, and may even bite if touched when afraid.  We do our best to maintain a calm and conflict free entrance and exit,  so by giving people and their dogs plenty of room, you will help with the process.

What happens when two dogs are in the lobby together? It’s fairly similar to the above situation–many dogs are BEST buddies when they are running around for hours together, loose in the playroom.   Get them on the other side of the fence, or on their lead in the lobby with another dog, and immediate conflict arises.  For this reason, please keep your dog on a short lead and don’t let your dog approach another dog in the lobby; it may not end well.

The final piece of this puzzle is how to handle your time in the intro area/airlock.  Because during pickup and drop off time our entire job is to safely get dogs in and out of the pack, we ask that you remain calm and avoid putting fingers through the fence to touch the other dogs that are present.  We know how completely adorable the pack is, and also how exciting it is to see your dog after a long day of work.  However, excited and high-pitch sweet talking or paying lots of attention to the dogs through the fence, can both cause over-arousal and can lead to conflict.   The dogs will compete with each other to get to the person doling out affection, and actually get aggressive in doing so.  We don’t want to dampen your excitement,  but it will actually help in training your dog to greet you more calmly as well.

We are so happy to have all of you new clients as part of our pack, and also to have the dogs that have been with us for a long time.  We wouldn’t be here without you, and our goal is the same–safe, fun play for the dogs that actually helps build their confidence, and wears them out for the night!

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Dog Daycare Goals and Perceptions

Dawg House dawgs have individual and diverse personalities, levels of energy, play and relaxation styles, mental and physical stimulation needs. Under one big roof, in essentially one big indoor dog park, we work hard to address all those things. We also try to find out what your long and short-term goals are as the mom and dad, and work toward those!

1. Some dawgs have a ton of energy every day, all day, and need to “get out the crazies” with other dogs on a regular basis. These dogs play hard and fast at daycare and need a human referee to make sure they play safe.

2. Some dawgs are shy or introverted, and need some dawg-and-human time outside of what their mom and dad can provide on a regular basis. Daycare is all about socialization: we specifically work toward the positive socialization of dawgs in a pack environment. Being exposed to other dawgs and humans in an outside-of-the-home environment on a regular basis is important for building confidence and providing mental stimulation.

3. Some dawgs have boundary issues or other social quirks that could use adjustment or refining. Maybe they need reinforcement with training issues like jumping up on people, “demand” barking, a too-aggressive play style, or just learning how to play well with others. We work very hard at Dawg House, refining play styles and setting boundaries in a social environment. We also work hard reinforcing good play styles with positive feedback.

Most dawgs have a little of all of these things in their personalities. Most dawgs could use some reinforcement in their basic training (sit, stay, no bark, down, off), positive reinforcement in their play style (good job, Mr. Pickles!), social exposure to other dawgs in a supervised, safe pack environment, mental and physical stimulation, and just a nice change of scenery with friends.

We know that folks watch the Dawgie Cam from work and home, and often have questions or concerns about what they observe. On any given day, you can watch dawgs playing hard and fast, relaxing in a group nap session, sniffing and wrestling, and you can see how humans regulate these activities.

We get questions about what people see. Maybe Mr. Pickles doesn’t seem to be as perky as usual – this could be that they’re just easing into things, or waiting for a different group to play with, or just watching. Maybe Mr. Pickles hasn’t been on cam after a particularly aggressive play session – this could mean they’re resting in another area, or a human has given them a neutral ‘time out’ to regulate the energy level of the group. Maybe a wrestling match looks a little fierce – not to worry – a human is always paying attention, watching and listening for warnings that things might be too heated.

As “dog behaviorists” we do our best to address both long-term and short-term dog daycare goals. A short term goal might be “I need Mr. Pickles nice and tired tonight because I’m having people over for dinner.” A long term goal might be “Mr. Pickles has been skittish around other dogs, and I want to make sure to reinforce positive interactions with him by bringing him to daycare.”

There are some mis-conceptions about how this works, however. We do try to communicate to new clients that it is best to bring your dog regularly in order that they get used to dog daycare, the pack environment, the human referees, and all that goes with the daily cycle. As dogs become regulars, we try to reinforce longer-term goals like basic training commands, positive play, and how to adjust to an ever-changing pack. Dawgs do need to come on a regular basis in order for these reinforcements to become natural and habitual. They forget, and they get out of practice. A skittish dog that takes a couple of weeks off or has a bad experience at the dog park or on a walk may take a few steps back and need to catch up on their confidence all over. We don’t pressure folks to come more often, but we do emphasize the importance of positive, regular social exposure.

More on how these things work in future blog posts… and we’d love to hear feedback from you!

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Canine Bordetella / Kennel Cough

Here at Dawg House, we require that all dawgs be vaccinated for Bordetella. Bordetella, also known as Kennel Cough, is much like the human common cold.

Being vaccinated does not guarantee that your dawg will be completely immune – there are new strains developing all the time – but keeping up to date with vaccinations is the best preventative measure.

Because Bordetella is an airborne virus, it is easily passed between dawgs that are playing together in parks or at daycare. Just like kids at school, they tend to share these things.

When a member of our pack picks up Bordatella, we ask for that dawg to stay home until the symptoms have cleared up and the vet has given the all-clear for socialization. If your dawg is exhibiting Bordetella-like symptoms, the best thing to do is to keep them from daycare until they can get checked out at the Vet.

That said, it should be understood that Bordetella is highly treatable and not too scary at all, so long as we are good owners and pay attention to our dawgs’ health and keep their vaccinations up to date.

Here’s a good description from www.petmd.com :

Kennel cough, the common name that is given to infectious canine tracheobronchitis is a very highly contagious respiratory disease among dogs. As the name of the disease suggests, it is typified by inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. This disease is found throughout the world and is known to infect a very high percentage of dogs at least once during their lifetime. It is also medically referred to as tracheobronchitis and Bordetella.

Common symptoms include:

  • Dry hacking cough that sounds like honking or gagging
  • Retching
  • Watery nasal discharge

Kennel Cough is NOT the same as Canine Influenza. Once you realize that your dawg is developing a dry, hacking cough, you should take them to the Vet right away to determine which they may have contracted. You should also keep them out of daycare and away from other dawgs until a diagnosis and treatment is provided by your vet.

Here are some additional references:

http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/canine_guidelines.asp

http://www.vetinfo.com/canine-bordetella-explained.html

http://www.vetinfo.com/canine-bordetella-symptoms.html

How It Works

A good friend (and long-term Dawg House client) told us recently that she enjoyed the sections in our older newsletters where we wrote short articles about how daycare works, what sort of training methods we use, the protocol of daycare for owners and their dogs, benefits of daycare and so on.

dog trainingSo we dug up a few of those little articles and collected them for this post. We made a few edits here and there, but we think most of them still stand up pretty well! We’ll make an effort to start writing a few more of these and include them in future newsletters.

By the way, if there’s anything you’d like to see more of in the newsletters or here on the blog, please let us know! It’s here for you, after all…

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COMINGS and GOINGS

There are a lot of new faces (and muzzles) here at Dawg House, and we try to
make sure that everyone understands how the playroom and the transition area work. It’s very important for the safety of Dawg House that everyone
understands why and how we operate dropoff and pickups times like we do.

Dawg House enjoys an “open” system, meaning:
1. You can always see the play area using the camera. We don’t hide any sections of the daycare or playrooms.
2. You are allowed to enter the “transition” area with your dawg when you drop off and pick up, as opposed to us taking your dog from you and going behind closed doors.
3. A “closed” system dog daycare never allows parents in the main room, much like a boarding kennel, who take your dog from you in the lobby and then go through a locked door. Most dog daycares are closed-system.
4. We do not have set dropoff and pickup times, as do most daycares, who close for a certain number of hours during the middle of the day. Dawg House parents come and go all through the day, whenever they need to.

In order to keep our “open” system working safely, here are a few points to
remember as you come and go:
1. Never allow your dog to be in the lobby without a leash. There are many
reasons why this is unsafe, from dawg fights to running out the open door onto the street.
2. Make sure the entrance gate is latched behind you before you let your dawg off-leash.
4. Please don’t look over the white fence from the lobby, and please
don’t call out to your dawg, whistle, or use a “pretty” voice while in the
lobby. All of these things make the playroom go totally insane.
5. When pickup and dropoff times are busy, please respect the line and be
patient. The quieter and less conspicuous you are, the calmer your dawg will be.
6. Please do not operate the gate to the play area yourself. Unless you want to chase 30 dawgs around the building and outside and up and down the street.

We created an “open” system because people really enjoy being a part of the
daycare instead of being blind to the process and being barred from the play
area. It helps us establish a sense of community, and hopefully, it helps dawg
parents to understand how daycare actually works.

Daycare is not just a dog park in a bulding – daycare really is about creating a
well-behaved, cohesive pack, and that pack includes you, the parents!

Thank you for being a part of our daycare community!

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Since summer’s just about upon us, here’s a few thoughts on WATER INTAKE for dawgs:

Sometimes people say to us, “Spot is so thirsty when he gets home! He drinks and drinks and drinks!” When dawgs are at daycare, they have different habits. We always have lots of fresh clean water available, but some of them just don’t have the time to bother with it – they’re too busy playing! Other dogs follow you around when you bring in fresh water and would drink the whole thing if you let them.

Even when dawgs do spend the day alternating play and drinking, your dawg
will go home thirsty. They play for 5 to 12 hours, which is an unusual amount
for any dawgs normal life, and this works up quite a thirst! There is no risk of
dehydration over the course of several hours in a climate-controlled
environment.

Some dawgs are “water-hogs” and they’ll drink until it’s gone and look for more. Thing is, these guys will start drinking because they’re thirsty but won’t stop when they’ve had enough–yay fresh water! For these dawgs, we try to break up their water breaks. If you let a dawg gorge on water, it will fill up their stomach before it gets absorbed; as soon as they take off running again, the water will often shoot straight out of their mouth in a big puddle, doing them no good (and making a huge mess). It’s better to monitor their intake and make sure they get what they need a little at a time.

Water is always available at Dawg House. We make sure everyone gets a turn at the bowls, and we try to prevent anyone from gorging. If you do ever keep your dawg outside on days off, especially during summer, please do make sure they have lots of clean fresh water available – being outside make a dog much more thirsty!

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We often get questions about various dawgs ILLNESSES and ATTENDANCE at daycare.

It’s wise to check with your vet and make sure your dawgs are always up to date with their BORDATELLA (Kennel Cough) vaccinations. This vaccine protects against the most common and general forms of Bordatella, but you should be aware that new strains develop constantly. you should also be aware that Bordatella is an airborne disease and can be contracted just about anywhere that other dawgs have been present. If your dawg exhibits a dry, hacking cough, you should avoid daycare and immediately see your vet for a checkup.

Coughing can be an indication of many different things in dawgs, but Bordatella is the most common answer. Don’t hesitate to get that cough looked at!

GIARDIA is another common illness we see from time to time. Unfortunately with Giardia, it doesn’t often present with symptoms and the only way to diagnose it is with a stool sample taken to your vet. Giardia, however, can be difficult to diagnose because often times the protozoa don’t appear in every stool. However, since many dogs can carry the disease and continue to be asymptomatic, we recommend regular stool tests. Symptoms will include diarrhea or abnormal stool, and weight loss regardless of maintaining a normal diet.

The absolute BEST way we can all avoid outbreaks of these types of disease, and passing the illnesses on to others, is to KEEP YOUR DOG HOME if he/she presents with potentially contagious symptoms—coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, goopy eyes (green in color), etc. We do the absolute best
that we can to keep Dawg House clean and disinfected, but when these illnesses are airborne (like Bordatella), there is nothing we can do but keep sick dogs home!

Thank you for understanding and helping us out in keeping everyone healthy and happy!!

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TIME-OUTS and TIE-DOWNS: REDIRECTION and POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Here’s another installment to answer the question “Why are you guys doing
that??” This particular installment addresses a training tool called tie-
downs.

If a particular dawg is playing too rough with another of his/her friends
and will not be redirected–rather than crating that dawg for an extended
period of time, or constantly scolding and squirting the pup with our spray
bottle, we use a tie-down. This way, the dawg can calm down and continue to observe and be a part of the pack. Other dawgs can approach the dawg that is in tie-down and play, and as soon as the play returns to an appropriate level,
the tie-down pup is set free.

This gives the other dawgs in the pack the option of pursuing play with this
particular dawg, or removing itself from interactions. This technique will
only be employed while we are in the dawg area and we never leave a dawg unattended.

When used correctly, this gives the dawg the opportunity to continue
observing polite and acceptable play energy and levels, and to try to
imitate this level to entice others to play with them.

More often of late, we use time-outs instead of tie-downs. Since we have a nice ‘lounge’ area that is separate from the larger daycare playroom, this is an ideal way to separate a dawg from the pack and still allow them freedom, rather than just putting them in a crate. Especially at pickup and dropoff times, dawgs can get excited and sometimes aggressive toward the pack or the particular dawg being picked up or dropped off. Time-outs are a safety measure that helps us maintain order and prevent injuries.

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TRAINING During Daycare

Although we spend the majority of our time at doggie daycare allowing the
dawgs to “speak their own language”, we also need for them to mind ours a
bit. This is for the safety of all the dawgs, plus (we hope) it encourages
dawgs to go home with a bit better manners as well as exhausted.

The most useful part of dawgs understanding what humans are asking of them
is for all the humans in their lives to be consistent. Every dawg has it’s
own training “issues”, and those things that are more challenging for us,
the humans in their lives, to cope with. Some dawgs are barkers, some dawgs
play a little too rough, some dawgs are chewers, and some are even
(reddening face here) humpers.

We have all of these issues and more at Dawg House, and have introduced a
common language that we try to be pretty consistent about. A common mistake among uis humans is to repeat a dawgs name and not follow with a command, and expect that they know what we want from them. In doggie
daycare, we definitely do a lot of that to actually get the dawgs attention,
however we then try to follow with a command of what we expect from that
dawg.

During daycare (and most likely at some of your houses), dawgs will bark excessively out of habit.  A little bit of barking, of course, is okay and
acceptable. But, for a dawg to stand in front of another dawg and bark
consistently is not okay and is grounds for a verbal command. “Fido, no
bark.” That is the command we use at Dawg House. Get their attention by
saying their name and tell them “no bark”. If that is not working (which is
often the case until they know what “no bark!” means, we reinforce it with
a “sit” and “settle”. If the barking continues, we either use the spray
bottle or the crate to redirect the dawg. For consistency, if you are
having issues with barking at home or elsewhere, the “no bark” command
should be used, and therefore the dawgs will actually understand the meaning.

The “sit” and “settle” commands are used frequently throughout the day at
Dawg House also, mostly in hopes to redirect a dawgs energy without having
to give a dawg a time out. However, issues such as constant fence barking
at pickup and drop off time, when dawgs are unable to be redirected,
may warrant for a dawg or two to be crated or put in the small dawg area
during those transitional periods. Again, this does not mean that the
dawg is naughty or in trouble, it just means that their arousal level is too
high and that the nice folks that try to run Dawg House can’t hear what the
clients are saying =).

In conjunction with all of these commands, when the dawgs are playing nicely
together, wrestling quietly, and when they actually obey us they get
mountains of praise. The second piece to having a dawg understand what is
not wanted is praising a dawg for a behavior that is acceptable. Plus, for
us and for you, it’s MUCH more pleasant to say “good dog”, “good sit”, “good
quiet pup”, then it is to be frustrated and yelling.

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DOG DAYCARE is a fairly new concept here in Tucson. We sometimes forget,
while we’re soaking up dog daycare industry news and shared stories from
fellow DDC (Dog Daycare) owners across the country every day, that this is
all pretty new stuff! In an effort to create a clearer picture for you of
what DDC life is like on a daily basis, why/how we do what we do, and just
to share information, we’re going to start including some of this stuff in our
newsletters. Here’s the first two bits…

DAYCARE IS DIFFERENT
Daycare is different from training classes, different from dog parks,
different from kennels or boarding facilites, and your dawg behaves
differently in daycare than they do while at/in any other places/activities.
Dog daycare actually combines all of these activities, but emerges with its’
own unique identity and value that we generally refer to as “socialization.”

Daycare is also different because it is the place your dawg explores their
personality and boundaries outside of the presence of you, their “parent”.
When you’re at the park or in training class, your dawg constantly checks in
with you for guidance and approval. Daycare is the place your dawg is free
to explore the world of their peers and learn the genetic, inherent language
of their species. They look to their peers for guidance rather than their
“parent”. It is a unique situation.

Daycare is not all play! It takes a lot of work to get a large group of
dawgs to mix well, play well, socialize properly, and still have a great day
of fun and exercise while operating within appropriate behavior boundaries.
The best compliment we receive from you is when you say “it looks like fun,”
or “how do they all get along so well?” because that means we’re doing our
job properly. Daycare supervision is often likened to being a lifeguard or
playground monitor: you have to allow the group to have fun, but you also
have to be able control the group when neccesary. Group supervision means
being “on point” and looking for potential danger while allowing play to
happen naturally.

Daycare different because it is a “group training” class each day, and the
daycare dawgs are being trained – and training each other – to become better
socialized within an ever-changing pack.

INS AND OUTS: GREETINGS and GOODBYES
For a dawg, greetings are the most imoprtant thing in the whole world. Our
dawgs are excited to see us when we come home because that is the biggest
part of their day (aside from sup-sup-suppertime!). When dawgs meet, they
smell each other to see where the other has been, who they are, what sex
they are, and they absorb tons of other vital information about each other
by smelling smelling smelling.

Dawgs also need to (re)establish the pack order every time a new dawg enters
the group. Once they’ve absorbed all the vital info on each other by
smelling, a dawg group will begin to sort out the pecking order from Alpha
to Omega. Introductions are both an important and busy time in the dawg
world!

For a human, this may look like chaos. For the owner of a dawg entering a
large group, it may look like a dogpile on the new guy. It can be a tricky
time if there is a large pack, and if there are several dawgs vying for
Alpha.

Part of the service we provide is to try and make this process of entry and
exit as easy as possible for dawgs (and their owners). Dawgs on BOTH sides
of the fence need to know that no transitions will occur unless they behave.
In the best scenario, a dog can only leave or enter if they exhibit self-
control and “check in” with us. It’s important that dawgs check in with the
group Alpha (whichever human is leading the playgroup at the time); the
human Alpha and the new dawg must make a connection and establish their
relationship first. Then, entry into the pack becomes a reward that the new
dawg has earned by obeying the proper rules and paying attention to the
group alpha (us!). Gooood Dawgie! Praise praise praise and the dawgie learns
what we need from them.

Exits are tougher because your dawgie is very excited to see you, and 30+
excited dawgies is a lot of excitement! Many dawgs feed off of each others’
energy at exit-time, so every time a parent arrives at the outer gate, the
group goes nuts. Some dawgs exhibit “fence aggression” at this time, which
is a common dawg behavior. Fence aggression is this: Spot and Mutt are great
friends all day; Spot’s Mom arrives and everybody goes nutso; Mutt (and most of Mutt’s little buddies) respond immediately to Spot’s arousal level, so
Mutt starts beating up on Spot a little in the dawg area where everybody is
pressed against the fence to look at Spot’s Mom; Spot’s Mom comes into
the “intro” area to pick up Spot, and as soon as Spot and Mutt have a fence
between them, they start barking and looking like they’re going to beat the
other up right through the fence. That’s fence aggression. It doesn’t mean
that Spot or Mutt is a mean ole jerk; it’s a very common dawg behavior.

So:
It’s even MORE important at exit time that parents help us to keep
excitement levels down by helping us to “control the flow.” It’s very
important that we calm the dawgs inside the play area before any
transactions happen, and before any parent enters the “intro area.” Once the
dawgs are calmer and the owner and dawg are reunited, it’s important to get
the collar and leash on quickly and move out of the intro area into the
lobby.

Again: entering and leaving the play area are REWARDS to your dawgs, because they want to come in and they want to leave with equal parts enthusiasm. By treating these as mini-training sessions, the pack learns to behave to get what they want, both coming and going. Socialization is not easy to learn! That’s why we work with dawgs instead of at jobs with other humans…we’re not proerly socialized yet. :>

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Our INTRO/TRANSITION AREA (the place where we let dawgs into the main play area) is becoming increasingly busy as our pack continues to grow. In order for things to continue to run smoothly as we check dawgs in and out, here are a few RULES OF THUMB to follow for pickups and dropoffs:
– Please make sure your dawg wears a flat collar and is on-leash in the lobby area.
– If there’s another dawg already in the Intro Area when you arrive, please wait in the lobby until they’ve made their transition to the main play area.
– Similarly, if someone is waiting for their dawg to be brought out of the main play area, please wait for all that to happen before coming into the Intro Area.
– There can be more than one parent in the Intro Area, but it’s a good idea if there is only one dawg in that area at any given moment. This helps us to cut down on the perils of “fence aggression” and make for smoother, happier transitions.
– Please let Dawg House staff operate the gate and handle dawgs as they make their way in and out of the play and intro areas.

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Please share your suggestions for future articles!