Dear bark: I have a new dog and I want to prepare her to stay at a dog daycare from time to time and to be accompanied by a dog walker. What steps should I take?
It’s so wonderful that you are proactive about preparing your dog for daycare and for being taken out by a dog walker. Thinking ahead like this increases the likelihood that your dog will have successful experiences and the professionals who care for them will enjoy them. It makes a great gift for your dog to help them prepare so that they can enjoy this experience and have the opportunity to use these services.
To enjoy dog daycare, a dog must be used to playing with other dogs both individually and in groups. If your dog is a social butterfly who wants to play with every dog he meets and loves to play, even with multiple dogs involved, he is likely to find a positive daycare experience. If she has no experience with multidog games, it is wise to give her the opportunity to play in a group, from small groups to larger groups, provided she enjoys the experience.
Work on her callback so she’ll come when daycare staff calls. This is important as you may need to call them out of potentially problematic situations. Dogs with better recall may be given more freedom. I also recommend teaching her to sit when greeting people so that staff can enjoy their interactions with your dog. Her good education will make her popular with the people in the day care center.
Teach her to be comfortable in a box when the daycare center is using it. In many day care centers, dogs spend some time playing in groups and some time during breaks to rest in boxes. If your dog is already used to a crate, it will be easy for him to be put in a crate.
Before your dog visits dog daycare without you, familiarize them with the actual setup. Stop by for a quick chat with the staff and to wander around so the sights, sounds and smells aren’t a shock to them the first time you leave them there. If you take them there for their first day, only leave them for about an hour, even if you have to pay for the whole day. It’s far better to make her want more than to get overwhelmed and exhausted from being active for so long – and frankly awake. If this experience is good for her and she seems happy (based on what you observe and what the staff is telling you), the next step is for her to spend a full day in daycare.
Keep in mind that not every dog is suitable for or enjoying a dog daycare. Some dogs find it overwhelming – more like a gladiator’s pit than a party. Other dogs display such a high level of arousal that with all the excitement they are unable to be their best selves. Dogs can sometimes be trained to handle the situation better, but often when they’re scared or too excited they just aren’t good candidates to spend the day with a large group of dogs. If this turns out to be the case with your dog, understand that it is not a fault on your part. It’s about the dog and its special personality and needs.
Dog walking service
Make sure your dog is accustomed to the equipment that will be used in order for them to be run by a professional dog walker. It is important that she runs with familiar, safe, and comfortable equipment that is also suitable for the dog walker.
Dog walkers generally appreciate having their charges taught to remain calm while harness and / or leash is being attached, whether the dog is sitting or simply standing still. If she has a tendency to pull, teach her to walk well on a leash so that it is more likely that she and the dog walker will have positive experiences on outings together.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that your dog is comfortable with a dog walker entering your home. Many dogs are happy when someone comes by at any point. If this describes your dog, great – you are done! If it doesn’t, and you feel like your dog is uncomfortable with a stranger walking in when he’s home alone, set up situations where people come over and toss their treats or toys for them to use feels happy about visitors. If you are concerned that your dog may be aggressive or very nervous towards a visitor, contact a canine behaviorist who can help you with this.
Not every dog goes well with a dog walker. If your dog is afraid of strangers or is very reactive to other dogs, I recommend reaching out to a professional behaviorist or trainer who is qualified to resolve these issues. Such a professional can help improve the situation and let you know if and when your dog is ready to go for a walk with a dog walker.
Your dog is very lucky that you are thinking about how to prepare him for this new experience!