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.
So 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…
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!
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
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!
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!!
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-
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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. :>
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.
Please share your suggestions for future articles!