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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
2,841 Posts
Hey everyone,

So, I recently started working at a doggy daycare, and I absolutely freaking hate it. Which I find bizarre because I absolutely love dogs of all sizes and breeds. I have been working there for three weeks and have decided to tell the woman I'd prefer to just stick to training.

I was sitting around this morning feeling bad for giving up on it, but I seriously don't like it, so I was trying to think of the reasons why. I'm going to list the reasons I don't like it and maybe someone who works at a doggy daycare can tell me if this is normal at most daycares:

1.There are way too many dogs for the number of staff. Yesterday there were approximately 18 big dogs and 10 small dogs. From 3-6, I was responsible for both groups.
This is super intimidating for me, since I don't have any real "training" other than my limited knowledge of body language from my own dogs and observing at the dog park.
2. One group of dogs is left alone while you watch the other group.
Obviously, this one is one of the more distressing ones. If I go to watch the little ones, the big ones are unattended.
3. If a dog is being too over-zealous or snarky, a gentle-leader is put on them.
I'm not really sure if this does any good, other than they can't really bite. I worry about the other dogs grabbing it and pulling on it though.
4. The facilities are old.
Not really their fault, but it just makes everything more complicated.
6. Nothing for the dogs to interact or play with.
Which is fine, but then all the dogs do is wrestle, and there isn't really anything to distract them from each other.

The other thing I've noticed, is when I bring my two, they are starting into some bad habits, which I don't like at all.

Anyway, that is my rant on my doggy daycare, and I'd love to know from other people if this is normal or not. :)
1) The generally recommended staff to dog ratio is 15:1, I've even heard it's a law in Colorado that there are no more than 15 dogs per handler. But even 15 is overwhelming when they don't properly train you. Heck, I get overwhelmed with 15 in a high energy adolescent/young adult group. My first daycare job put me in a group of about 30 dogs by myself and told me if they even move to spray them with a hose. Of course there was a fight my first day and I had no idea what to do. Luckily a couple months later I learned different techniques to try (through college courses and my own research). But I thought that the way the first kennel was run was the norm for a while. And sadly, that's not far from the truth, there are so many poorly run daycares owned by people who want to "play with dogs all day" and don't know how to actually work with dogs- you're not alone! These things shouldn't be normal, but sadly they are.

2) That is absolutely the worst thing a daycare can do- leave a group of dogs unattended. There was a thread recently about a couple of dogs that died while boarding because the staff left the group unattended and there was a violent fight. I would talk to the owner/manager about this. Does the facility have crates or kennels to put the dogs that aren't being watched? That's what my current daycare does.

3) Do you do anything to either work with the dog or give it a time out? That's what should be done. Are the gentle leaders just left on as muzzles or do you put a dog on a gentle leader and then work with them on lead? That's really bizarre if they're being used as muzzles. What do you mean by "overzealous" or "snarky"- dogs that are snapping? Insecure? Picking fights? Bullying or humping other dogs? Are they wearing collars? If so you can attach a lead to the collar, if not, use a slip lead. (If you are using a slip lead be very aware of the pressure around the dog's neck, it should be loose while you are working but you can subtley increase the pressure to communicate with the dogs- very similar to the "silky leash" method described in Since you don't have a clicker and treats, use praise and the release of pressure as reinforcement.)
Take the dog to the side away from other dogs and work with it until it physically starts to calm down. Walk it back and forth, have it sit and focus on you (I can send you some specific drills if you decide to keep working there that build focus and calm dogs down). Have it sit on a lead for a few minutes so it can take a time out away from the group and calm down a little. Praise it whenever listens to you, plays appropriately, and/or calms down. If a dog is having trouble listening put it on a long lead and practice recall- reel it in if it doesn't come when called and then praise it and pet it. Don't go overboard with praise and petting though, do it in a calm manner, otherwise it will spike the energy of the group.

4) Is that a problem with the layout or just things falling apart? I guess there's not much you can do there. Both of the daycares I worked at have had employees designated for facility maintenance. Maybe that's a solution?

5) That's pretty normal- having toys in a group of dogs can trigger resource guarding, energy spikes, sprinting/keep away games (leading to the pack chasing the sprinter down/predatory drift), fights, etc if it's not done right. My current daycare will have about 50 tennis balls for 15-30 dogs because when a resource is abundant there's less chance of fighting over it. Even then you need to know the dogs really well as well as warning signs. This isn't done most of the time- we play tennis balls a few times a week for about 15 minutes at a time. Many daycares don't even want to take the chance and I don't blame them at all. At least they can play- the daycare I first worked at didn't let dogs play and employees weren't allowed to pet the dogs (though I secretly did both when no one was around- I think a lot of people did).

How have they taught you to handle the dogs? Control the energy? What techniques are you using? How many staff members are scheduled during your shift- is there someone off the floor cleaning or something to help when you need it?

It's really important to remain calm at all times- dogs will pick up on your emotions and reflect them back. They'll also take advantage of you if they know you're not mentally "there." If you are stressed, frustrated, angry, or sad, they'll pick up on that, act horribly, and then you feel worse, they get worse, and it becomes a positive feedback loop. Even if you're not feeling great, fake it with your body language- act confident, carry yourself tall, move deliberately and calmly- don't run around chasing dogs. Don't yell- that jacks up the energy. You can always tell who's new because they start yelling when they get frustrated with the dogs. They just have to be calm. That's really the key.

Anyways, if you don't end up sticking with it, don't feel bad. This sounds like a very poorly run kennel and it's completely their fault for not training you.

· Registered
Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
2,841 Posts
Hey @revolutionrocknroll

They do have crates, but ALL dogs are put in the crates 3x a day. Once for 30 minutes in the morning, two hours over lunch, and 30 minutes in the afternoon.

The leaders are left on as muzzles, all day long. They are mainly put on dogs that are getting overly nippy and stirring up trouble. All collars are removed from the dogs when they arrive, and we do use slip leads, but it's hard because the dogs get so excited when they see the leash. I would love to be able to work with them, but there is no space, and you can't just get one off by itself.

The layout is a problem. It is basically a big warehouse where everything is separated by wooden walls on wheels that you push to open and close the gate. The gates are "locked" with little latches. The only problem is that small dogs can fit under, big dogs/good climbers get over, and everyone chews on them. You also can't close or open them quickly because they are heavy/don't move well, so it's hard to prevent dogs from getting anywhere. I think instead of maintenance they need some serious upgrades.

I'm not too concerned about the toy thing, since I see so many toy-RG at the dog park that I can see the problems. I just feel bad for the dogs that are sitting off to the side desperately waiting for when their owners get there.

No training whatsoever. The only thing I'm going with is my basic knowledge of how to interact with dogs. Basically these are the techniques we are told to use:

If the dogs are getting into it, bang on the walls, bang the water-dishes together, or yell to get their attention. They also use spray bottles with water as aversives. There is generally 2 people on. One in the front office and one in the back with the dogs. Sometimes 3 if the owner comes in.

My current technique is just to whistle or clap and say "let's go for a walk" and then walk around the warehouse.
The dogs can't go in the crates when they're not being watched? Even if they're getting a lot of downtime that's still better than being unsupervised.

The techniques they told you aren't very good- they'll add to the energy and make dogs excited or scared. If there is a fight banging the water bowls on the ground can be a way to stop it- but it should be used sparingly. If you do it every time dogs get a little rough, intense, or snappy, they'll get used to the sound and it won't work to startle them out of a fight. I'm sure you've realized that, but that's just why I wouldn't use them.

Your technique is actually pretty good for redirecting dogs. I use that myself for different situations.

Another thing you could do is step between the dogs who are starting to get too rough and use your body to block them until they show a sign that they've calmed down a little- this could be sitting, looking at you, shaking off, walking away. I say "take a break" and they start to learn that when I say that it means "stop playing for a little and give yourself a chance to calm down." And then I reward them by letting them play again.

Have they told you what to use the leads for/how to use them?

Another thing I like to do is go to dog parks and watch how the dogs interact and how those interactions work out. You can't really let these little experiments play out in a daycare when you're responsible for the health and safety of other people's dogs, but at the dog park it's all on the owners and you can watch which interactions lead to play and which lead to fights, look out for calming signals, etc.

I will send you some videos of exercises and drills to work with the dogs- unfortunately there aren't many videos online for exercises and group management and most of the ones that are online seem to be by balanced and dominance trainers (which sadly are the prevalent philosophies in many daycares). But there are a few good ones and you can modify some of the exercises for your own purposes.
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