Tag Archives: day care

A death at doggy day care

News broke this week about a dog being mauled to death at a doggy day care operation, Valley Dog Daycare, in West Auckland.

Winston,  a Huntaway/Doberman cross, was found dead by his owner, lying in a pond at the day care’s property.

Winston

A photo of Winston, supplied by his owners to the media

Auckland Council’s animal management team is investigating and this is a good thing  because such a vicious death – apparently Winston was mauled and suffered many wounds – means something went majorly wrong at this property.

It has also been reported that the day care operator didn’t notice Winston’s absence, and that’s why his owner ended up searching for him on the rural property, a shock that most of us can only imagine.

It’s important that we look carefully at the investigation’s findings.  There are already calls for the doggy day care industry to be regulated and it’s hard to argue against that in these circumstances.

I’ve said it many times when it comes to hiring anyone who is going to work with your dog in any capacity –  find out their qualifications and experience and commitment to ongoing developments in their industry.

In larger operations, it’s possible that the ‘lead’ employee or proprietor has qualifications but the staff have only had in-house training (at best).   Find out if the dogs on the property are ever left alone or unsupervised.  Be sure that there are staff to supervise dog-to-dog interactions at all times.

Sadly, accidents do happen because animals can be unpredictable.  Every facility should have a standard operating procedure to investigate and de-brief on findings of any near-miss or accident.  This is what is expected under the workplace health and safety regulations when humans are involved and in my opinion it would be a practice easily adapted for facilities working and caring for animals.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Choosing the right day care

Over the last couple of months, I have taught a number of massage workshops for dog owners.  I ask each participant about their dog’s daily routines as part of the pre-workshop questionnaire.  I was pleased to hear about the steps most had taken to provide their dog with daytime stimulation and care.

My customers tend to consider their dogs as family and they put their dog’s needs very high on their importance list.  They also know their dogs very well – in terms of likes, dislikes and temperament and so they chose day care arrangements based on their dog first.

Animal Medical Center in Tuscaloosa AL

Here are our collective tips about choosing a doggy day care:

  • Layout and facilities

Commercial operators should allow inspection at any time of the day.

Does the facility smell and look clean?  What are the noise levels?

Does the facility have adequate outdoor exercise yards and indoor areas where dogs can rest in peace and quiet?  Are there comfy beds that are regularly washed for dogs to rest on?

Does the facility use natural cleaning products? (ask to see the labels of what they use!)

  • Who works there

Caregivers at a doggy day care are no different to caregivers at a child’s day care facility.  You should be able to meet with them, have a chat, and understand their qualifications and experience.  Get a commitment to staffing ratios.

By far the best successes of my customers are with facilities staffed by people their dog already knows – and that can include family members (more on this below).

  • Are special needs catered for?

If your dog has a special diet, is the facility able to deal with it?  How do they keep treats and foods separated for their different clients?

If dogs are elderly or recovering from an injury, will the day care be able to isolate the dog for rest periods?

  • Temperament testing and ‘admittance criteria’

With the rise of commercial day care businesses has also come standards that some facilities adhere to.  Quite often, this means that dogs are temperament tested and if they don’t pass, they are not allowed in.

Don’t despair, however, this may mean that the facility’s operations aren’t for your dog as much as the reverse.  It’s not a criticism of your dog.

It’s possible for dogs to become overstimulated or over-tired in facilities that rely on group-play operations.  These facilities tend to be the most profitable for their operators because they can have one handler supervise a larger number of animals throughout the day- and so the temperament tests are geared to assessing dogs that will cope in the group environment.

But is that right for your dog? – there are a range of operators out there and so biggest is always best.

So here’s where asking around, networking and being creative become important.

  • Small, niche and family arrangements

Here’s what I found the most interesting amongst my customers.  Their arrangements for day care relied more on retired family members (usually parents) and smaller operators offering in-home care for a few dogs.  Day care operators with individual kennels for dogs and supervised play time were also favoured.

Why?

Well, in the case of family, they loved the dog and were prepared to offer day care for free or  in exchange for help around the home.

Smaller operators offered in-home care arrangements similar to the family home and there was a high level of trust in terms of the care and attention given to the dog (although often these arrangements are more informal – so understand what contractual arrangement you are entering into and what recourse you have against the operator if something isn’t right).

In smaller care situations, there were reduced chances of dog fights or aggression since only a few dogs were involved.

And in the case of operators with kennel-type arrangements, the staff tended to smaller groups at play sessions and so a higher level of supervision and personality matching could be achieved than through ‘temperament testing.’  Dogs were also allowed to rest for periods of the day in private (as they would be if left at home).

Since I incorporate enrichment techniques in my own practice, I think day care has its place for some dogs.  Most dogs don’t require full-time care throughout the week, particularly if they are exercised daily with enrichment and bonding time at home.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Trends in US travel for dog owners

DogVacay, the online site the connects dog parents who need home dog boarding, pet sitting and day care with qualified caregivers, has released its second annual State of U.S. Pet Travel survey.

dogs and travelIt shows that dog parents still face obstacles when needing or wanting to travel.

For example:

  • 60% of dog owners say arranging accommodation for their dog adds complexity to travel planning
  • 34% of owners say they often struggle to find a pet sitter when they need to travel at short notice
  • 22% of owners have delayed or skipped a planned vacation because of challenges in arranging care for their dog(s)
  • 50% say finding a good kennel or pet sitter has affected planning for their vacation
  • Another three in ten (27%) say financial challenges such as kennel fees or paying a pet deposit at a hotel have impacted their vacation plans

Also, 46% of dog owners agree that worrying about their dog(s) while they’re away makes it harder to enjoy their trip (I admit that I worry about Daisy when I have to travel for work or vacation, even when I have made arrangements for her care with reputable caregivers).

What’s your travel story?