One of the most common questions I’m asked is: “Will my dog be socialized while he’s at your kennel?” Although I do socialize dogs that I know very well and have boarded for years, I’m always hesitant to do so with dogs that are new to the kennel. There is an adherent risk in socializing dogs that have never met before – it may go very well, but it may not. Even though the owners may have had success with socializing their pet in the past, you can never predict how it will go with a different dog in a totally different situation.
If you are adamant that your dog be socialized, a doggie daycare may be a better option for your pet or an open concept kennel where the dogs are together all the time. I recently visited a doggie daycare and asked how they go about judging when and when not to socialize dogs. They told me it is a multi-step process – initially, low energy dogs are introduced to the new dog, followed by higher energy dogs, slowly working the new dog into an appropriate play group. If there is an altercation, the dog drops back down to the first level, then must make his way up the hierarchy again. However, the dog has only so many chances to get it right until they are deemed unsuitable for doggie daycare.
The daycare had a few “time out” areas – small cages where they would place dogs if they are causing problems in the pack. They also had a separate area for small dogs only – a wise move. I was glad to hear there was a process and they weren’t just throwing everyone in together and letting them “work it out.” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard that expression when a customer asks me to socialize their dog! I could have a full-blown dog fight on my hands if I took that advice!
The nice thing about the doggie daycare is that often the same dogs will be there every week, so your best friend will get to know and (hopefully) enjoy the company of his friends. Whereas in a boarding situation, the dynamics of the kennel change daily. The group of dogs I look after today will be different the next time your pet comes for boarding – often a whole new group of dogs will come in Friday and depart Sunday, so to attempt socialization with a constantly changing base of temperaments would be extremely difficult, as well as very risky!
I’d wanted to write a post on this for quite some time and was fortunate enough to read an article on this exact topic several months ago in “Pet Patter”, a regular column in “Snapd Georgina” by my friend and fellow pet care worker, Tricia Soulier (Owner, Pawsitive Approach Pet Services – 905-989-9990, pawsitiveapproach.ca). She graciously allowed me to post her piece as a guest blogger. Although she is referring to a Doggy Daycare as opposed to a Professional Dog Walker, the information also applies to a boarding kennel.
I’m excited to share her article with you here and hope it is useful in determining the appropriate care for your dog.
Doggy Daycare vs a Professional Dog Walker by Tricia Soulier
A really good daycare can be a wonderful option for some dogs, but not others. For some dogs daycare is a terrifying experience where they find themselves hunkered in a corner, big-eyed and silent, or growling and snarling under a chair.
Dogs did not evolve to play in large groups rather play between dogs is primarily between two individuals. Groups of dogs can play well together, but if you watch carefully, there are always two dogs as the primary ‘players’ and other dogs on the periphery, trying to join in. Thus, large groups of dogs aren’t usually “playing together,” they are contending for position, or forming smaller play groups. Daycare staff should be well-versed in reading dogs for signs of stress, discriminating between appropriate versus inappropriate play, and how to effectively manage the behavior of both individual dogs and a group of dogs. Before leaving your dog there go and watch for a few hours to be sure this is the right environment for your dog.
Many dogs are not comfortable walking into, or spending time in a group of 20 or 30 dogs. However, dogs have different personalities and experience. Some canines love being in large groups of dogs and think it is great fun. Others are simply overwhelmed. Often dog owners are pleased because the dog comes home and is so exhausted it barely moves all night. There’s happily tired versus being exhausted from being stressed or bullied all day, and it is critical to figure out in which category your dog belongs.
While doggy daycare is a great option for some dogs, it is not the best choice for every pooch. A mature dog may not appreciate being knocked around but others and a young puppy may not be emotionally mature enough to handle the nonstop excitement. A dog with anxiety, medical concerns or injuries may not be a good fit for daycare and prefers a good walk where they can pick up the news in the neighborhood. In these cases the more suitable option may be a professional dog walker. The dog enjoys anxiety reducing structure, personalized care and a loving bond with the walker. This option comes with fewer health risks or chance of injury and the dog has a healthy balance between exercise, stimulation, rest and a little much needed alone time.
There are many options for our dogs and if you do your research, know your dog, you will make the right choice for your best friend.
Tricia’s article pretty much says it all.
I hope you found this post informative and thanks for reading!
Kathy Carter, B.Sc., Owner/Operator, Home Alone Pet Cottages