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Dogs are just dogs, right? They like to play together, wrestle and chase each other. You put a number of them in a room together and they just have fun, right?

Not necessarily.

Most puppies are what we call dog social, they enjoy meeting new dogs and are very comfortable in social settings.

As dogs get older, they tend to become what we call ‘dog tolerant’. Just like people enjoy playing with all the kids in the neighborhood when they are young, dogs get a little pickier when they become adolescents and adults. These dogs are more neutral about meeting other dogs but they might still play and are generally comfortable around other dogs.

Some dogs become ‘dog selective’ and only like a limited number of dogs. These dogs can become leash reactive and react strongly to new dogs they meet, by barking or lunging.

And finally there are dogs who are ‘dog aggressive’. These dogs will not do well in group play and trying to force them to do this will not ‘socialize’ them or help them overcome their aggression.

What we have learned over the years is that the ‘all day play model’ of daycare is not necessarily helping the dogs. We have learned that dogs need structure. They are a social animal and for that to work, there needs to be direction and cooperation.

The unstructured characteristic of most dog daycare playgroups, where there is a constant coming and going of dogs, leads to high levels of arousal. This constant arousal keeps stress hormone levels high and this will lead to dogs making poor decisions and becoming intolerant.

Some young, adolescent dogs can become bullies. Some dogs start to dislike the environment because of the constant arousal. Some dogs are just too smart and will become bored because there is no direction, nothing new to learn, no variety in this type of environment.

Most dogs will become either dog tolerant or dog selective as adults. Part of that is genetics, part of that is their experience outside of daycare. But while with us, we want to do everything we can to keep them comfortable around other dogs, keep them curious about the world and keep them excited about their willingness to work with our handlers and follow directions.

When dogs are with us, we do want them to be able to focus, be able to pace themselves and regulate their own excitement level. They do have to sit and wait at the door and gate and not burst through. We do want them to know their name and be able to come when called. We do want to offer different activities and challenges that keep them engaged and curious.

To do this, we have make a number of changes to our program and some of those demand more of you as pet parent. We want to be there 24/7 for the dogs, so you have peace of mind that your dog is well cared for. But understand that we are ‘dog-centric’ in our approach. What the dogs experience during their stay affects their behavior. We want them to leave us with a better state of mind and with better habits.

We all love our dogs. We know how important your dog is to you, because we have dogs too. You provide good veterinary care, you buy them high quality food. Now give them the best daycare experience too.

In upcoming newsletters I will discuss some of the changes we made. I understand that some of these changes mean that there is less flexibility for you as owner. There are ‘more rules’. But we thought long and hard about these changes and have had very good reasons to implement them. They will benefit your dog, and that is the most important thing.

Dirk Broersma
https://awalkintheparkoftoledo.com