People love their dogs like they love their kids, but the fact remains that every dog deserves to be safe and have a good time at dog daycare. When one dog is difficult to control or otherwise shows behaviors that are extremely concerning, the daycare facility is obligated to act in line with their policies to protect everyone under its roof. Certain dogs may also clearly be upset at the group setting and desperately want to go home.
It’s not necessarily that a dog who gets kicked out of daycare is “bad,” mind you. It’s more that dogs who aren’t having a good time at daycare clearly aren’t a good fit, and they’ll be able to enjoy themselves more in another setting. They may be more of a “people” dog than a “doggy” dog, for instance. Or they may just feel anxious outside their own territory.
In any case, Greenlin will rarely bar an animal from attending our dog daycare except when circumstances force us to. We aim to work with animal owners, and one of the ways we offer to do so is to encourage enrollment in dog behavioral classes. We also make sure to sort play groups into appropriate cohorts of dogs of similar size, age, and/or temperament to reduce the chances of imbalanced interactions. Accommodations are available to dogs that are on the shyer side or who prefer human company, but only up to an extent. At the end of the day it’s up to the dog to tell us whether they like being at daycare or if it causes them too much stress.
All Dogs Undergo an Evaluation Before Introduction to the Group Setting
Our animals can surprise us in many ways. A notoriously picky family cat may suddenly gobble up a potato chip off your plate. A dog who loves going in the water may be afraid of baths. And dogs that seem to love the company of other people and dogs may suddenly present anxiety when introduced into a dog daycare setting.
Make no bones about it: dog daycare can seem chaotic even on the mellowest days. There’s lots of different animals in the room, most of which will be undergoing different activities. There’s also someone new to meet every day. For some dogs, especially those who have undergone socialization at an early age, the experience is exhilarating. For others, they can quickly feel overwhelmed.
We want every dog to enjoy their stay at our daycare. That’s why before introducing them to the group, we perform a multi-point evaluation. Our trained, experienced handlers see how the animal reacts based on their body language, behaviors, and interaction with others. During this period, we strive to understand the animal where they are at in the moment. Above all else, we want to see if they are curious and excited to join the group or if they are apprehensive.
When a dog feels uncomfortable or anxious, they can tell us in a variety of ways. Sometimes, this involves a desire to escape unfamiliar territory. Other times, the reaction is to become guarded about toys or territory. The dog may even seem to enjoy playing but getting too rough for its own good.
Many of these more noticeable behaviors have subtle indicators that let us know they’re about to happen. A dog may fixate on looking at the entry gate, for example. Or they may bristle when a staff member attempts to handle them to bring them to another play area. Where a dog directs their eyes and how they shape their body can tell us books’ worth of information. During the evaluation phase, we look for these signs to form a general opinion based on our past experience about whether the animal would enjoy their stay here.
Other Precautions We Take
- Small staff-to-dog ratio
- Staff trained to monitor group play activities
- Groups sorted by size, age, and temperament
- Small group sizes
- Variety of activity options, outdoor and indoor
- Training classes available
Behaviors We Watch Out for at Dog Daycare
There are certain behaviors that cause us to sit up and take notice, monitoring an animal more closely. If the guest begins to cause us concern, we will take steps to calmly redirect the animal or temporarily separate it from the group. If these behaviors form an overall pattern, we may write down our observations and present any concerns to owners for the sake of transparency.
Highly Reactive or Defensive
Many dogs have quick reflexes and bursts of energy, but reactivity is different. When a dog is reactive, they may assume defensive or aggressive postures in response to unexpected stimuli. For example, a dog being curious about noisy play is normal, but a dog raising its hackles at the sight of someone wearing a hat is not. Reactivity can also occur when the animal is moved from one room or play area to the other.
Self-regulation in young humans is what teaches us to not be too loud or too rough when we play. Many times, our fun leads to us having to be reminded by adults to calm things down a bit, which is normal.
Animals who have difficulty self-regulating are not so easy to redirect. That, or they may quickly go right back to 11 after being asked to dial back. This sort of behavior occurs most commonly in play, but it can also be a general overexcitement or hyperactivity that makes an animal difficult to control and safely monitor.
Protective of Personal Space
We all like our personal space, including our dogs. That said, dog daycare is a group setting. We do our best to ensure our guests remain respectful of one another, but invitations to play and intrusions into personal space will happen. Dogs that seem overly anxious or defensive in response to sharing space with others will have difficulty enjoying the group atmosphere of daycare, even when separated into the calmer play group.
Fixation on or Frustration at Entry Points
Some dogs want to bolt when they feel anxious. Others simply want to explore. These instincts are normal, but dogs that fixate on points like entry gates or doorways will always be more closely monitored in case they get big ideas about going on a solo adventure. Fortunately, all outdoor areas at Greenlin are double-fenced, and indoor areas contain atriums with multiple locked doors to prevent unauthorized egress.
Poor Manners, Including Jumping and Nipping
Some amount of acrobatics and play bites are expected in a group setting, but dogs that make others uncomfortable — including both other dogs and humans — will be monitored closely.
Some toys are designed to be chewed on or dirtied up, but most things in a typical building are not. We take efforts to control the environment so that dogs can enjoy themselves without worrying about damaging anything we don’t want them to. Play equipment is chosen for its ruggedness and durability, for example. But dogs sometimes find ways to damage things like gates, fences, or walls. They may also be big fans of digging holes outside. Again, we do our best to monitor animals because dogs will be dogs, but when a guest has a pattern of destruction, we will monitor them more closely.
Behaviors That May Cause a Dog to Be Dismissed
All of the above behaviors can happen from time to time, and all we may do is monitor them closely to avoid anything leading to a conflict or injury. However, some actions may prompt immediate removal from the group and dismissal from dog daycare.
Patterns of Any of the Above Behaviors That Risk Guest or Staff Safety
If a guest repeatedly engages in any of the above behaviors or has multiple severe and egregious incidents, we’ve moved beyond “it happens from time to time” territory into “it will happen again.” Any guest that we feel is unable to acclimate to the daycare setting based on such a pattern will be asked to not return.
We do everything we can to prevent injury in dogs, including injuries they cause to themselves. Our staff know how to intervene to prevent overexertion and risky activities like balancing on playsets, for example. But in some cases, an animal may cause injuries that require treatment because of an attempt to escape or some other extreme behavior. We will report any such incidents to owners and provide First-Aid, as needed. If the injury requires professional treatment, the animal must be picked up. Depending on the severity of the incident, we may require that the animal not attend any longer for the sake of its own health and safety.
Bites to Humans
Any animal that bites a staff member or authorized visitor will be immediately separated, and their owner will be asked to come get them.
Injuries to Other Guests
When rough play goes into unsafe territory — or leads to genuine fighting — then an injury can result. We are accountable to our customers to keep their animals safe. Any time that safety is compromised, we cannot risk a repeat incident. Instigating animals will be isolated, and the owner will be asked to not bring their dog back.
We Want Every Dog to Enjoy Their Stay at Daycare
Any dogs that have been asked not to return to daycare are not being punished. In reality, they are being understood. Their behavior communicates that they do not like being in the daycare setting with other dogs, even after accommodations have been made.
That’s ok! Not every human being likes going to a concert. Some don’t even enjoy having roommates. When too much is happening or what’s happening is too unfamiliar, we will often show our discomfort in ways that alert others to how we feel.
That same idea drives why we monitor our guests so closely at Greenlin. It’s not about policing behaviors, playing favorites, or trying to filter out one type of dog. Instead, it’s the whole idea of what daycare should be: a fun time for dogs and a rewarding experience for both dog and owner. If we are unable to provide this to our customers, we owe it to everyone — especially the dog! — to be realistic about the situation.
If you have any questions about dog daycare or want to review our policies, visit our dog daycare page or contact a location near you.