As many of you already know, I work with dogs every day in a pack setting. I see dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds interacting in harmony. When I tell people I own a dog daycare without fail one of the first questions I get asked is “Do the dogs ever fight?” People find it hard to believe that 25-30 dogs can co-exist peacefully off leash. I can understand where their bewilderment stems from. Have you ever been to a dog park? It’s chaos! Dogs are running at large with no manners and no discipline. So yes, in those settings there are often conflicts between dogs and sometimes things get ugly.
Here’s the difference between that chaotic pack dynamic and my balanced dog daycare setting. We have rules that keep the dogs safe and they are always implemented, no exceptions. These rules are simple really and are as follows.
1) You must be CALM to enter the pack. We will wait with dogs who are anxious or excited until they relax in order to meet the other dogs. This is CRUCIAL for keeping everyone in good spirits. Now think of how dogs arrive at the dog park…..they are crazy excited! This leads to disaster. Those dogs will no doubt cause a riot and someone may get hurt.
2) You must PLAY NICELY, with EVERYONE. We watch for certain dog behaviour and break up potential issues before they escalate. Many times at dog parks I hear people say “dogs will be dogs, just let them figure it out.” This survival of the fittest mentality is breeding bullies at parks and the learned behaviour of aggression towards another dog to be alpha will create future problems. In my daycare if a dog is out of line he is put in a time out and then reintroduced to the pack once calm. Owners should take accountability at all times in group settings. Parents would do the same if it were their child.
3) NO TREATS. Having treats when you are surrounded by dogs is a recipe for disaster. Some dogs become food aggressive when they feel threatened by other dogs. If you have a dog that will not come to you unless you have a treat, then my advice is do not let your dog off leash. Work on gaining their respect first so you do not have to bribe them with cookies.
Although I’ve never had a bad experience myself I’ve heard dog park horror stories so I tend to steer clear of them. Instead, owning my own daycare allows me to provide my own dog and many other dogs with a safe and structured place to be social. I also host on leash dog walks all around the city. This still is socialization for dogs. It’s important to realize that dogs don’t always need to be off leash to make friends and be social. Learning to walk peacefully beside other dogs is a great way to help calm excited or anxious dogs and is very therapeutic for humans too. Best yet it still has the benefits of being in a pack. My next pack walk is happening TOMORROW Saturday December 13th at 4:30 PM in Waterloo Park if you and your dog would like to see what it’s about. Please be advised that retractable leashes are not permitted.
Please keep The Dog Haus rules in mind when even doing on leash and off leash socialization with your dog. Be CALM. Be NICE and ACCOUNTABLE. And please no TREATS!!!