Understanding Why Dog Day Care Orientation Is Important

Understanding Camp EvaluationsI read a scathing blog this morning by a woman who was livid over her dog being “rejected” from dog daycare (NOT Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, BTW!). She was angry. After bad-mouthing the entire organization, she decided that her dog was just too good for daycare anyway! Humph! The writer probably felt that her dog had “failed” it’s Camp orientation and she was offended by that. She used the words “dismissed” and “unfairly banned” in describing her dog’s ousting from daycare, concluding that her dog was “entirely faultless” …obviously taking it very personal.

I’m guessing her feelings were equivalent to what a mother would feel if her child was kicked out of school, and I can understand why her first reaction would be insult, maybe even embarrassment. Of course, she took it personally… she felt she had failed somehow, and then wondered what was “wrong” with her dog. Then in her already heightened state of mind, she probably over-analyzed the situation…. growing more and more angry as time went on. Had the Daycare Manager fully and professionally explained the reasons behind her dog not being admitted, there would have been no reason for her to feel slighted in any way.

It happens more often than you’d think… An otherwise wonderful, lovable dog doesn’t make it past Orientation Day at Camp Holiday Barn. Why is the Orientation day important, and exactly what takes place during this time? How do we decide who is admitted into Camp and who isn’t?

What happens on Orientation Day?

In order to give your dog the full attention that he will need on the first day of his or her new adventure, we only allow a certain number of orientations to be done in one day.

Our Camp Manager, or another qualified pack member, will meet you and your dog in the morning of your pup’s orientation day. He/she will discuss your application with you and go over some specific questions regarding your dog’s preferences. This meet-n-greet time with you begins the process of making your dog feel comfortable in his new surroundings.

After you leave, we will take your pup to the “camp pavilion”, a waiting area where each dog has his own private enclosure as he waits for his group to go outside to play. Upon reaching the pavilion, we spend a few minutes one-on-one with the dog, getting to know him and letting him meet the rest of the camp staff before leading him to his enclosure.

When it’s time for him to play, a camp attendant will escort your dog by a leash into a play yard. We give him time to sniff around and get acclimated before we bring another dog into the play yard. The new dog is one we are very familiar with, who tends to be mild-mannered and sociable with other campers. We observe the interaction between the two dogs, noting any signs of fear or anxiety. If your dog is comfortable, we will allow another one of our familiar campers into the play yard. We continue this process until we have no more than 10 dogs in your pup’s first play group.

If all goes well, we let your dog off the leash to play but continue to assess his body language throughout the day, making sure he is enjoying himself.

Why is Orientation important?

The orientation procedure helps to make our daycare safer and more fun for our little Campers. By assessing your dog’s level of socialization and temperament, we are able to place him in a playgroup that will minimize the possibility of injury and maximize the potential for enjoyment. Orientation helps us to get acquainted with your dog, learn his preferences, his play style, and then place him where he is the most comfortable.

We allow only 3 orientations per day so that we are able to give the utmost attention to each individual pet. We don’t rush introductions. This can be a very stressful time for a new dog in camp. It also raises the anxiety level of the Camp Attendants and Campers somewhat too. We don’t know how the dogs will react to one another and must be vigilant in observing the body language and signals that the dogs are giving off. Orientation day is a time for your dog to get to know us as well! We want him to feel relaxed and comfortable with our staff. Rushing your dog through orientation and the accompanying stress it would bring is unfair to the dog and contrary to what we hope to accomplish. We want your dog to find his “happy place” at Camp Holiday Barn.

Why is my dog not a good fit for Daycare?

There are three basic requirements of coming to doggie daycare:

        1)Your dog must be at least 16 weeks old.
        2)All dogs over 6 months of age must be spayed or neutered.
          3)All vaccinations must be current and meet our immunization policy.

      Although there are some dogs are who are not allowed into daycare for behavioral reasons, often it has nothing to do with problem behavior, per se. Being denied admittance to daycare does not label him a “bad” dog. There are many reasons why a dog is not the right fit for daycare.

      Non-Behavioral Reasons A Dog Might Not Be A Good Fit for Daycare

      Let’s take a look at some “non-behavioral” reasons why your dog might not be the right fit for Doggie Daycare:

          1) He prefers people to other dogs. It happens. My dog thinks he’s human himself so his trip to doggie daycare was an epic fail. He was appalled that I would think he wanted to play with a bunch of dogs! He wasn’t miserable, but he wasn’t happy. He would rather play fetch with his human family than romp with other dogs any day.
          2) Some dogs just do not enjoy large social gatherings. As we discussed recently in “Finding the Perfect Playdate”, just like people, some dogs would rather hang-out with one or two close friends than in a large group.
          3) Over stimulation is characterized by behaving somewhat erratically, running around, perhaps nipping at things or playing too rough. They’re overwhelmed. Their adrenalin is maxed-out. They have difficulty calming down. Allowing a dog to remain in this stressed-out state of mind over the period of time he is in his playgroup is not healthy and can lead to reactivity and aggression issues. Although there can be a behavioral component to this type of conduct, we are referring to a general form of overstimulation.
          4) Some dogs become nervous or stressed when there is a lot of commotion and activity. This could be termed over-stimulation as well, but with opposite reaction. The dog may attempt to hide or may hover by the gate. He’s shy. If your dog is familiar with calm, quiet surroundings, they might find the high energy of daycare just too much. Again, if allowed to remain in this type of distress over a period of time, he may become snappy or reactive.
          5) He can leap tall buildings in a single bound! We have 6-foot fences around our play yards, but we have had some dogs that can actually jump that high, believe it or not! If we are not able to contain the dog, then obviously it’s too risky to have him in daycare.
          6) Inappropriate play. This may or may not be a behavior that requires correction, depending on the type of conduct being displayed. Inappropriate play is nipping, biting, attempting to control playmates, overly physical body slamming, etc. His play style may be indicative of his breed, however, improper play is most likely because the dog has not had a lot of interaction with other dogs in the past. He has not learned the “polite” way to play with other dogs.

      Basically, none of the above reasons are cause for real concern on the part of the owner. Aside from better socialization, behavior modification or correction is not necessarily needed. It’s just the way the dog is. It’s what makes him a unique little individual. Could we condition him to conform? Maybe, but if we place our pets in an environment that they do not like, we do them a great disservice.

      Behavioral Reasons A Dog Might Not Be A Good Fit for Daycare

      There are, however, reasons for not being allowed to attend dog daycare that raise some red flags. In these cases, it is recommended that the owner seek council with a Holiday Barn Pet Resorts Personal Dog Trainer.

          1) “Bully” mentality. Yes, dogs can be bullies. Bullies attempt to intimidate other playmates by staring, growling, posturing, humping, knocking around their playmates, etc.
          2) Humping. Many dogs hump or mount occasionally. It’s when it is excessive does it become problematic. There are many beliefs as to why a dog mounts and humps: Domination, displaced behavior, even inappropriate play invitation, but regardless of the reason, it does not make for a “harmonious” play environment. Humping on its own is not a reason not to be denied admittance to daycare, however, excessive humping, or humping combined with other aggressive-type of behavior such as direct stares, or high posturing, is a reason.
          3) Severe separation anxiety. Dogs can experience different degrees of separation anxiety, some of which are not appropriate for daycare. Very severe separation anxiety, where a dog literally has a panic attack, or shows other signs of severe hysteria, cannot be consoled with the company of other dogs or humans. This dog requires professional, medical and behavioral, help. Throwing him into an off-leash group environment will only worsen his state of mind. It should be noted that milder forms of separation anxiety are often relieved when a dog is introduced to daycare, as opposed to staying home alone.
          4) Fear… Fear of other dogs, fear of new surroundings, creates extreme stress. Sometimes dogs have a predisposition towards being fearful, other times it is learned behavior from something in his past. Regardless, fearful dogs will most likely find a group of off leash playmates extremely intimidating and scary. They may cower, tremble, drool, pant, etc… It’s very sad. Compassionate behavior modification is definitely needed… not because he’s being “bad”, but just for this little one’s peace of mind.
          7) Predatory posturing. This could easily fall under the category of “bullying”, the difference being that posturing is more of a “stalking” type behavior, with an intent to do harm. It starts with seeing another dog run, which triggers the “chase” response”. It’s a sudden, impulsive, aggressive action… see, chase, grab, kill. Fortunately, our domesticated dogs more often do a “bite” rather than a “kill”, but even that isn’t too comforting, right?
          8) Reactivity. Reactivity is when a dog overreacts to certain stimuli. It is exhibited by one or a few of the following behaviors: barking, lunging, hyperexcitability, hypervigilance, mouthing, etc. The dog lacks impulse control. If left uncorrected, reactivity can lead to aggression problems.
          9) Toy or resource possessive. We do not allow toys in play yards when we know a dog or dogs in the group is possessive, but if the doggie daycare you have applied to does allow toys, your dog may be not allowed to attend if he is resource possessive. If your dog is possessive, he may snap or growl at other dogs if they get too close when he has a toy, which could escalate into a scuffle.

      Not all Is Lost if Your Dog Doesn’t Do Well in Daycare

      If your dog does not do well at Camp Holiday Barn and you are too busy at work to come pick him up, don’t fret. We will set him up in a comfortable room and do some one-on-one walks, play and cuddle time until you are free to come get him at the end of the day. We will not make him stay in a playgroup and be miserable all day. Pushing him into a playgroup when he is unhappy is the worst thing we could do.

      Camp Orientation can be scheduled by our Reservation Specialists when you call either of our two Holiday Barn Pet Resort locations. In Glen Allen, call 804-672-2200, and on Richmond’s South side, call 804-794-5400. You must have an appointment before bringing your dog in for an orientation.

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