Dog Daycare Dangers
A friend and client had asked me to watch over their gorgeous dog whom I previously trained very well when he was a puppy. I was very excited to see him and to see how well he was doing. When I first saw him he was wearing his standard flat buckle collar and nothing else so I presumed he was doing so well with heeling and loose leash walking that no other “training” equipment (front attaching harness or head halter) was necessary. I was wrong.
When I took him on his first walk, I noticed he had regressed far worse than when we began our dog training Los Angeles curriculum, sigh. How could this be?
I spoke with the parent, and she informed me he loved his everyday dog daycare and boarding kennel facility. Upon further investigation, she informed me he would be picked up and whisked off to a daycare facility (or someone’s home) that had a very nice supervisor but who was clueless to ethology, cognitive ethology, and dog training.
Unfortunately, this is often the case where most daycare facilities (or someone’s home) pander and make it sound great to drop your dog off at a cage-less facility to give them the unstructured, unencumbered, romp with a group of dogs for a few hours or a full day. Nothing will stress a dog out more and unravel a dog’s behavior and training than this type of daycare or dog park free-for-all.
Unlike a carefully thought out and behaviorist designed and operated customized dyadic dog daycare, most dog daycare environments destroy your dog’s training skills, manners, and overall behaviors. But it does worse than that – it reinforces and teaches inappropriate behaviors and manners.
Most dogs and parents should be practicing relaxation and deference protocols. A dog park or daycare free-for-all does just the opposite. It overstimulates most dogs, puts them in an unhealthy state of arousal, and promotes poor behavior and ignoring the parent. All things we don’t want our dog to practice doing.
So not only does daycare not reinforce what a family wants from a well-behaved family pet but most daycare environments enable, teach and reinforce everything we do not want our four-legged friends to do and thus sets them up for failure.
One solution and alternative to dog daycare is one-on-one dog walking and training (with or without dog training) to give your pup the proper play, socialization, exercise, enrichment, and training needed to maintain and improve a dog’s behavior and health.
We always want to set dogs up for success. When they are left unsupervised (which is synonymous with being supervised by an unprofessional, uneducated individual in the aforementioned skill sets) you are setting your best friend up for failure. Your dog doesn’t have the ability to rationalize or to know what is best for him/her. On the other hand, a parent does.
I would no sooner let my 2-year-old son or daughter be surrounded by 20 other hyperactive children of all ages, all with individual physiological, physical, health or behavior issues, comprised of unknown, various ontogenies, and personalities, unsupervised or supervised by someone who had no background in education, child psychology, behavior and not an accredited teacher, then I would my dog.
Only the most well trained and behaved dogs should be allowed to enroll in dog daycare. Ideally, your dog would play in one on one sessions with compatible play partners selected by a behaviorist. Dogs are dyadic by nature and thrive on one-on-one supervised play sessions. Dogs are not pack animals. By being ultra-selective, a dog daycare facility should resemble a very well balanced or private members-only country club dog daycare and boarding park, and hand-select dog play partners.
However, unfortunately, because most businesses are run by individuals who may love dogs but do not have extensive ethology or cognitive ethology background and run on a volume-based business model, dog behavior problems get overlooked or unrecognized and profits get put before the health and safety of the dogs.
This is the first installment in a three-part series of articles called Dog Daycare Problems.