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Have you ever traveled to a place where you didn’t know anybody? Especially if the place was busy and you felt pressured to keep moving? Maybe a large conference, or a busy airport or train station? It would make you anxious and uncomfortable to be there in that situation. You would feel stress.

Stress prepares our body to react quickly to possible danger. We might have to defend ourselves, or run. Fight or flight. We don’t have the time to consider our actions. Sometimes our response works out well, sometimes it does not work out so well. Because we are so stressed, we might lash out at an innocent bystander.

Stress is contagious. When we act under stress, we stress out the people around us. Our dogs feel stress too and our stress can definitely affect them. Just like us, dogs will have a fight or flight response when they feel unsafe. But because we keep our dogs in a fenced-in area or on a leash, flight is often not an option. Dogs have sharp teeth, so any altercation can leave punctures and cuts.

Since we have the dogs on the ranch in a kennel free environment and since it is paramount to us that the dogs are having a good experience, reducing stress as much as possible is a priority.

We have different systems in place to make the experience for the dogs as stress free as possible. First of all, we evaluate all new dogs and continuously monitor the behavior of the dogs in our care. Our intake process is also meant to get to know the dogs’ owners and what they are looking for. Having a mismatch of expectations and philosophies is another potential source of stress after all.

Second, we have plenty of space. Have you ever been in a crowded elevator? Being packed in together is definitely stress inducing. We have large playrooms for the dogs and even bigger yards. Even in the winter we will find some time for the dogs to run in the yard. We also have separate playgroups for the dogs, based on their size, age, personality and playstyle. The groups are supervised by staff that is trained in dog body language. The staff continuously educates themselves on dog behavior. We are staffed around the clock.

We enforce an attendance rule. We want to see dogs that come to our off-leash environment at least twice a month. Being familiar with our environment makes visits more comfortable for the dogs. If a dog is used to being at home where he experiences a calm environment from day to day, it is not fair to unexpectedly place him in an unknown environment with other dogs that he does not know.

This goes into another issue I will discuss more another time: how do we as owners see our dog, what expectations do we have of our dog? Should my dog like and be comfortable with every stranger he meets? Should a dog enjoy something just because it is convenient for me? Dogs are living creatures with emotions and needs and fears. They are communicating that with us through their body language and behavior, but often we are not hearing them.

Another reason we want to see the dogs regularly is to give the staff the chance to get to know the dogs really well. How would the staff know if something is wrong? If they don’t know the dog, how would the staff know if the dog is behaving abnormally?

Finally, we want to make sure that the staff is comfortable, because their emotions definitely affect the dogs. We have a client code of conduct and expect all communication to be respectful and non-confrontational. If there is any issue, we can discuss that and we seriously will try to find a resolution. However, we cannot accept rude or inappropriate behavior. We know that stress can cause us to lose our cool sometimes. To make sure we don’t get stressed out, please take care of the following:

  • Plan ahead and make your reservations as early as possible. If there are any issues, we have time to address them. Sometimes the dog’s reservation ends up at the end of people’s to-do list.

  • Check your Gingr account, it contains all necessary information: your contact information, your dog’s information, your reservations and your invoices. Please make sure feeding and medication is up to date. Also, make sure you get notifications from Gingr. The app will send out reminders, like when packages are almost used or when vaccines are about to expire.

  • We have updated our phone menu. Be aware that extension 1 is for pick up and drop off only. The staff is busy taking care of the dogs and cannot answer questions or take reservations. Please choose the appropriate extension to talk to our reservation specialist. If we can’t answer your call immediately, please leave a voicemail. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Also, when the staff is receiving or returning your dog, they cannot take any reservation or service requests. Since they are focused on their task, these requests will fall through the cracks. Please leave a voicemail or email us.

  • Like almost every business nationwide, it was hard for us to find help in the last two years, but we have found a great group of people to join our team. They are going through their training and are doing great! Please be nice to them, we want to keep them!

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On a final note, making sure that all the dogs are healthy is another way we can reduce stress. Our staff does a nose to tail check on the dogs twice daily, in the morning and in the afternoon, to make sure everyone is okay.

We have measures in place to try and keep out conditions like canine cough and other contagious conditions. We require that all dogs are up to date on their vaccinations. We also require negative stool samples every 6 months.

We do not accept dogs that live outside our immediate area, because we don’t know what goes around in other parts of the country. We also have our 14 day rule: if your dog has been to another daycare or lodging facility, groomer, training class, dog park or if you have traveled with your dog out of the area, we ask that you wait 14 days before you bring your dog to us. If your dog was exposed during that time, you will know within 14 days. And of course don’t bring your dog if he shows symptoms of illness.

If we all adhere to those rules, the risk that dogs will pick something up at the ranch, will be greatly reduced.

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Please keep an eye out for our newsletter, it’s how we communicate what is going on at the ranch, policy changes and upcoming events. Till next time!

Dirk Broersma