Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Puppy Class~ day I

Last night Brees and I attended our first puppy class. It has been a long time since I have been a student of a 'family dog' style class and I have to say, its nice to be on the other side for a change. My instructor, who is also my friend, is a person I really admire. The class had 2 goldens, a lab, yorkie, JRT and PWD and all are freak'n adorable!

Brees has a very busy week...besides his Monday class, he is attending Gimlis Thursday comp ob class with me to watch crate-side. I want to get him used to watching me work the other dogs while staying settled. Then back to herding ducks on Saturday!

I also found out that the Fetch-Dog catalog company wants Liam to attend a photo shoot in December and is a candidate for their next catalog. I am pretty excited for my old guy! Even if he doesn't make the cut, the shoot will be fun, and a good experience for the both of us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dangerous Daycares

I decided to write about daycares after I heard of a local daycare, who also does boarding, is scheduled to have over 100 dogs in its facility for the holidays. It made me cringe. As a former manager of a daycare, I know that 35 dogs in a facility is a lot. A group of 15 dogs in a playgroup is a lot. However if a facility is run correctly, daycare is the perfect place for a young exhuberant dog to get its needed exercise.
The problem with most daycares is that they open with the best intentions, but usually take in more dogs then what is safe, don't create playgroups based on play style, age and size, don't educate their staff on canine behavior and don't give the dogs enough breaks through out the day.
Daycares should ALWAYS do a temperament test on every dog who is considered. A test is only as good as the person who is giving it, so ask questions of the experience of the person (s) giving the test. Daycare should be a place where your dog is safe. Look for a daycare that has a ratio of 1 human attendant per every 6 dogs . Playgroups should never exceed more than12 dogs and should be based on age, size and play-style.
Dogs shouldn't be allowed to play for more than 45 minutes without a break. Breaks should be given in a quiet room preferably with crates.

In a well run daycare, the playroom would be lined with crates where dogs can get mini 'time outs' during play bouts. These time outs are great at keeping the arousal levels low and minimize dogs getting over tired and cranky.
Obedience training should not be ignored. Pulling on leash and door darting are common problems with a lot of dogs that attend a poorly run daycare. The staff should be in partnership with you to help curb these behaviors.

If you or someone you know is considering taking your dog to a dog daycare, here are some things to think about

  1. Visit the daycare without your dog during their 'pick up' time. Is the lobby chaotic? Are the attendants bringing the dogs to their owners in a calm controlled manner?
  2. Does the building have a odor? What is their disease management? What vaccines to they require?
  3. What is their protocol if a dog comes down with kennel cough or tests positive for giardia (an internal parasite)
  4. Does each dog go through a temperament test? What does the test involved and do you get to watch
  5. Are there breeds they don't allow?
  6. How many employees do they have and what is their training? Do they know first aide?
  7. How many attendants manage a playgroup ?
  8. What is their employee turnover rate? (an ill run daycare will have a high rate of turnover)
  9. What is the protocol if a dog gets bit? Is the biting dog excused from daycare? (may seem like a strange question, but I know a lot of dogs who have a bite history who have been allowed to stay in daycare)
  10. Have they ever excused a dog and what were the circumstances?
  11. Is there a vet clinic close by?
  12. Do they allow toys? Snacks? why or why not?

This is just a short list. I suggest anyone considering a facility that they visit a few times and interview them prior to bringing their dog and ask for at least 5 references. If you are able to do so, watch the dogs playing. Are the attendants paying attention to the dogs or are they texting or talking on their cell phones?

Dog fights certainly do happen in daycare, and its a risk that a dog owner should know before they take their dog. However, a well run daycare will have policies and procedures in place to minimize this from happening.

One last note. I believe that if one chooses to bring their dog to a facility they should only attend once, maybe twice, a week. Although a dog may come home tired, daycare is not a substitute for training and can minimize the human relationship. If your dog has separation anxiety, then daycare can help in between training, but is not a substitute FOR training. Daycare should never be a 'lifestyle' for any dog. PS...100 dogs is too friggin many!! There is NO WAY this many dogs can taken care of properly in a daycare setting! ok..rant off...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Keeping my Joy

It was a very exhausting week at the shelter. Too many dogs, and more than that... too many aggressive dogs. We had an incident were a sweet beagle snuck out of his kennel during water bowl fills, and tangled with a dog aggressive dog going for a walk with a seasoned volunteer. It wasn't a fight more than it was a 'grab and shake' of the beagle. The sweet guy never had a chance against the catahoula mix. I used all my 'dog separating' skills, to get the hound to drop the beagle with no success. Luckily, the walker and I stayed calm and finally after what seemed like hours, the dog let go and I rushed the beagle to the office. He had 1 puncture and road rash, but no broken bones. We gave him antibiotics and pain meds. He saw the vet the next day, and was fine & back to his happy beagley self.
The adrenaline rush was extreme and I left work exhausted. It was the second time in a week I faced a line of snarling canine teeth. The first was a JRT who decided my upper legs were fun to hang off. Thank god for jeans...I only escaped with bruising, where my co worker in scrubs suffered a worse bite on her calf. Neither of these dogs are currently on the adoption floor.
My only salvation was my herding fun day with Brees. I made a promise to myself that I would only take the kennel manager position as long as I remember the joy of my own dogs. Compassion fatigue is a huge problem among shelter/rescue work, and I refuse to be consumed by the tragedies of the job. Its not all bad, but it is all exhausting. Its dirty, loud, physical and emotional.
Wednesday I spent the day in company of a peaceful sheep farm with my funny little puppy and a good friend. It gave me a glimpse in what I hope I will have someday.