Maybe, reading this article, you've been there before: You head to pick up your family pup from daycare, and you're met with an uncomfortable conversation. "Your dog isn't welcome here" is basically the gist of it, and it's totally unexpected for you. It's kind of embarrassing, and you're a little bit offended. Your dog LOVES other dogs. They love playing, enjoy every person they meet, and they need the exercise. They're great with 99% of other dogs. "Did he hurt someone?", you ask. "No, he didn't but it's an accident waiting to happen, and we don't recommend daycare for him". You should be ecstatic. You've actually encountered one of the most responsible facilities out there, willing to be honest about the needs of your pup in lieu of a loss of business.
Daycare is the place for the "extreme extrovert" of dogs. Structure is difficult when you have a large group of dogs in a relatively small and fenced space. Some dogs do well amongst themselves, and some dogs show signs of stress and nervous behavior. Only a small percentage of dogs feel primarily positive emotions from the idea of daycare. Sure, even dogs who do belong there or fall into that range as a puppy, eventually mature and find they need time to themselves- which means either daycare with less frequency or quiet walks with a human and a close dog friend instead. Most healthy adult dogs do sleep often, deeply, and a lot--- and eventually become a little less tolerant of younger, less "well mannered" dogs. It's akin to an adult playing with 50 children and teenagers. You're just going to want to do different things. A quiet dinner with 2 or 3 folks, maybe. You become less tolerant of 10 hours of a wild party as you get older (or- errr, well most of us!). Those of us that still enjoy the party life, we'd probably consider 10%? Maybe more or less depending on who you know?
It's not a secret in the industry that some dogs just aren't cut out for daycare. Many dogs would much prefer to be home on the couch with a less stimulating version of their preferred exercise. Rarely, do adult, moderate-drive, average dogs need more than 2 hours of intense aerobic exercise per day. If they do, "practice calm" is probably a tougher mental exercise and more helpful than any athletic pursuits. Out-exercising them at daycare can be a tough pursuit, and over time will actually increase their endurance for more exercise. Mental exercise and the ability to control their impulses and excitement is much more impressive, and a lot of mental work for these pups. Naturally, they can practice "ramping up" for activity, preferably in a place of more structure than daycare, like a dog sport, enrichment, or training. We're much more impressed with the calmness of a "drivey" border collie in our home life, than we are with how fast they can run.
Do we just hate daycare? Of course not! It's incredibly appropriate with the right amount of structure- especially for young dogs that gain a lot from socializing. However, if you see signs your dog is stressed at daycare (excessive tiredness from stress, holding urination and defecation until you pick them up to go home), you might want to think about scaling back, adding more structured activities and training, and evaluating what would make your pup REALLY happy---- Oh, and go thank that daycare who was upfront about your dogs needs, and kicked you out!
We hear it ALL the time: "My dog is not very well trained".
Do you picture:
-A doberman holding a sit/stay for 35 minutes, while all sorts of distractions pass?
-That labrador who is a trained service dog in a restaurant, looking absolutely debonaire?
-A border collie so motivated to work he will keep himself busy training in impressive dog sports, grabbing his owner a drink out of the fridge, and learning an endless stream of obedience cues?
-That Mastiff that never seems to jump or move from the couch?
"My dog is not very well trained. He barks at me when he hears something outdoors, wants to go out, or simply wants attention. He is not very good at listening on the trail, and oh my- I could never let him off the leash! He never sits longer than it takes me to close the treat bag! He'll wait for dinner, but forget it if there's no food around!"
Here's the thing: You are always training your dog... and your dog is very well trained!
I laugh at the intelligence of my dog once I realize it. It's impressive how many of my habits my pup can pick up on... And if you want to talk about some serious intelligence, the scary and uncanny ability of my scarlet macaw, Rex, to pick up on my routines, common phrases, emotions, and frustrations. However, I don't feel like my dog's behavior is controlling my life. Why? Because we meet in the middle and "opt in" to behavior that suits as both (with adjustments as needed!).
It's actually very, very impressive! You've trained him to bark to open the door. You've trained him to bark for his breakfast, and you've trained him to jump on you when you come home from work... and you've probably even trained your pup to sit very well when you pick up the treat bag, or come running for cheese when the fridge opens. You've absolutely done the best job of doing it!
I don't mind begging. I think it's absolutely adorable and I greatly enjoy my dog sitting next to me, occasionally getting a bite of food. But- the game ends if he ends up on my lap. It ends if he vocalizes. It ends if he uses his paws. Often, I eat dinner with my dog staring and sitting politely- we're happy with that. He's great company. But that's surely not a goal for every pet owner; some of my clients prefer their dogs to sit on a rug with the "place" cue, and that is something we will teach them!
Our goal in our trainer-client relationship is to meet in the middle. We can teach your dog an appropriate behavior to get to the route they want. We make their default behavior a harder way to get what they want, and we make the "right thing" (our idea of proper behavior) an easy way to get what they want. In fact, if your pup communicates in a way that you prefer, jump up and work with that communication! We can teach you how to communicate- after all, that's what dog training should be about. It won't take endless hours. But, it will take consistency in your communications, some thought, and potentially a little bit of family therapy together.
You decide what behaviors will work for you, and we work together to figure out how to strengthen your communication to limit and eliminate those habits, by teaching an alternate route.
"What if they see a deer?"
"Won't they just run away?"
"Really, you can do it in 10 days?"
To be clear, we would never advocate unleashing a pet without the proper skills to be off leash. Please contact us for assistance - We're happy to help!
When you're responsible for the safety of your pet, you tend to heir on the side of caution, as a safe dog owner. It's responsible. It allows full control of the situation, and it really ensures your dog is physically attached to you at all times. But, at the end of the day, controlling every situation is not always possible- and we love preparing for the unexpected. Uncle Jim comes over and lets the dog out, your son's friend who is a little bit flaky forgets to latch the gate, and your Mom falls walking your dog, dropping the leash. Accidents happen! We want being off leash to be normal to your puppy, not a one off event that happens when there's an exciting chance to escape.
Basic recall skills are just as important as learning to be a social dog, and perhaps even more important than learning basic obedience. You're inevitably going to end up in one of these "out of control" situations in life, and we want you to be prepared. I refer to the age before adolescence as the "duckling stage". These little darling duckling puppies that you've had since they were young follow you everywhere without a second guess or thought about moving in another direction. This, my dear friends, is the time to start teaching your puppy that being around you is the BEST place to be.
Does your puppy check in with you every 10 feet on the trail? Praise, and treat.
Is your puppy just an expert with the cue "Come!" in the house? Praise, and treat.
Did your puppy get slightly insecure about a new experience and come running back to you? Praise, and treat.
When your puppy turns into a 6 month old adolescent, pushing boundaries and exploring alternate paths to get what they want, you're not going to want to introduce off leash for the first time without proper precautions. Boundary pushing, and a newfound off leash habit is a recipe for a bit of a disaster. We run a popular off leash program, to introduce this concept in a safe, reliable way. This program offers: 1. Consistency, 2. Repetition, and 3. Fun!
From managing the environment (stopping any bolting or distracting behavior with a long lead line attached while we practice) to creating positive associations and plenty of repetitions returning to their human, we create consistency in recall for 2 weeks. My dog will be less motivated to chase that squirrel than they will returning to me if (and only if) they receive plenty of rewards for returning to my side. Alternatively, taking natural drives into consideration will lead us to how many repetitions will be needed, what environments we will need to practice in, and what we will need to desensitize to lead to an off leash trained dog. That being said, in any environment, we can't always predict what your pup will be most interested in. So, starting with some long-lead training is the safest way to complete this training. Alternatively, practicing in a fenced in area can help too!
We run an off leash course at least once monthly. We'd love to help with any pup whose owners are struggling with off leash recall.
***DISCLAIMER: Off leash skills are important for all puppies in training, but we feel that these sessions should be overseen by a professional whenever possible, if your puppy is older than 12 weeks, if your puppy has ever bolted away from you, or if you have an adult dog. If a dog has gained rewards for bolting away from you, that is a much different and more structured process. We need to be careful to work through your dogs natural drives, desensitize them to stimuli as needed, and monitor their personal reactions to stimuli around them.***