- Preventing Dog Fights in Your Doggy Daycare
Yet, sometimes "things" happen. Whether it's resource guarding or feeling grumpy, even laid back dogs can act out if the stars align. What can you do?
The Best Way to Prevent Dog Daycare Fights Starts Before You Accept the Dog
As a doggy daycare owner, you do intake questionnaires, meet and greets, and temperament tests before you welcome a potential new four-legged daycare guest.
You know the questions to ask and the cues to look for. You also probably separate the puppies from the older dogs and the less active from the very active. Many doggy daycares separate on size too since some smaller dogs can feel intimidated by larger dogs.
Yet, despite your best intentions sometimes there's something that causes a dog (or two) to get his hackles up.
One dog daycare owner even told me they had to stop accepting their best four-legged customer! The dog was a daily daycare visitor and was great - for awhile. But eventually, he became very territorial. The daycare put him on a two-week break to see if it would make a difference. It didn't. When he returned and hit the playground, he went full-on territorial with a "this is MY yard" attitude.
In such a situation, you have no choice but to ask the dog's parents not to return. It's painful losing a good customer but far worse to put your other dogs at risk.
But what if it's not so obvious? Everyone seems to get along fine together until…they don't.
Watch Dog Body Language
Safety is paramount at dog playgrounds and daycares. You wouldn't have broken equipment out or slippery floors. You also want to have the right ratio of dog daycare staff to dogs.
Dog trainer Mark Forrest Patrick and owner of Tuxedo's K9 Training Camp says, "We offer dog day care boarding and training. We only accept 35 dogs/ day and maintain a 1 dog trainer to 12 dogs ratio."
The Rochester, NY based doggy daycare owner says, "Some places accept upwards of 60 dogs a day and only one person supervising." That's not safe environment.
Unlike human daycares that have a legal adult to child ratio when it comes to doggy daycare, it's up to the daycare owner to implement such policies.
Besides making sure the dogs are well-supervised, every pet professional wants to ensure the dogs are a good fit for their daycare. That starts with the initial intake and assessment.
Patrick says part of their assessment is based on playstyle. "We test them with different size dogs too. We organize playgroups on play style and energy level rather than size. Then, we supervise the play closely to make sure we only have dogs who are play-appropriate."
He also says he makes it a point to not accept dogs who usually go to dog parks. He says such dogs are accustomed to open runs and free playstyle without supervision. As you probably know, it's common for pet parents at dog parks to chat with other pet parents rather than watching their dogs and sometimes dogs will gang up on another dog at the dog park.
Besides the human-to-dog ratio and careful assessments, there's also training on dog body language for the daycare staff. "Every employee has 16 hours of tandem scheduling to train them. We address play style, dog to dog interaction, what is a proper introduction from dog to dog. And what do we do during a dog fight?"
His methods work because they've only had 2 dog fights in ten years and he says they were minor.
As a pet professional, you want to be prepared for any possibility. Hopefully, you have excellent pre-screening methods and well-trained staff, yet, what do you if you or your kennel technicians pick up on a vibe?
First, if you sense a potential problem, you want to redirect everyone's attention. A quick redirection can often stop a potential dog fight before it starts. A look, a stiffened tail, baring of teeth, low growl, these are all signals a dog is unhappy.
Patrick says, "We have all employees trained and there are two people with the dogs at all times. If there's a dispute, we start by making loud noises with water bowls and if necessary splash the water on them. If that doesn't work, we can use a high-energy voice to say, "Come on, let's everyone go."
Once you have the dogs separated, let them cool down in a separate room if possible. It's important to have a visual barrier so the dogs don't see one another. Give them a cooling off period and redirect their energies with quiet time.
Do fights happen at doggy daycare?
Hopefully, not often. If the dog daycare staff handles the entry assessments, has a proper dog-to-human ratio, and good training on dog body language, those things can go a long way toward preventing dog fights. Managing dogs in doggy daycare requires paying close attention.Patrick says more pet parents are asking about the potential of dog fights. "Due to media attention, more people are asking what do you do if my dog is involved in a dog fight? Tell them we'll notify them immediately and if they need medical attention, we'll contact their vet. Pet safety is our primary concern."
However, when you monitor your dogs, rotate them through different activities, and know how to read their body language, you can redirect their attention when needed.
Preventing dog fights in doggy daycare starts with three things:
1) good assessment
2) proper supervision
3) staff training
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