Why You Should Kick Dogs out of Your Daycare
By Fernando Camacho
You need to hear something and you might not like it. You have to get rid of some customers. Sounds harsh and maybe a little crazy. I know. Why on Earth would you turn people away who want to spend money with you? Nuts, right?
Well, it’s actually necessary if you want your dog daycare to run smoothly and prosper. These could be super nice people, who you genuinely like and who happily pay you on a regular basis. They could even be friends of yours who have been bringing their dog to you for years.
The problem here isn’t the people (although I would also argue you need to get rid of anyone who is a pain in your business’ you–know–what), it’s their dogs. Their punk dogs to be exact.
You know who they are; the problem dogs. The ones that cause you to get that bad feeling in your gut as soon as you see them walk in the door. The ones that stir up the pack, cause problems, get into trouble and stress out your staff.
Yeah, those guys. Every daycare has a few. They are the 5–10% that make your work day a bit of a hassle. You know who they are, and I think it’s time you said goodbye to them.
I’ve been consulting with daycares across the U.S. over the past year, and in just about all of my visits, I’ve had to recommend they let about three dogs go. Many of these dogs have been coming there for a long time and their humans are good customers.
Doesn’t matter, they gotta go.
Why, you ask?
Well, it’s simple. Those few dogs are ruining your entire environment, causing unnecessary altercations and making good employees consider quitting their once joyful jobs. Those few troublesome dogs are poisoning your business in more ways than you probably realize.
When I’m on–site working with these problem pooches, business owners are expecting me to pass along some special dog trainer mojo that will enable their staff to stop the offending dog from all his wrong doing and make him a happy member of the pack. Wish as I may that I could do that, what always happens is me recommending the offending dogs not be allowed back.
You can’t let a few dogs muck up the great place you’ve created. And you will be amazed at how awesome life can be without their negative presence in the building.
Just last month, I was at one daycare working with their staff to try to control the pack of twenty four large dogs that were there that day. As soon as I walked in, I saw it on their faces—both dogs and people—they were stressed and tensions were high. I showed them how to do their best to manage not one, not two, but three problem pooches. All while also keeping a watchful eye on the rest of the pack, making sure they were behaving appropriately and having a good time.
In about an hour it was obvious to me what must be done. They had to cut those three dogs loose. Once we removed those three from the pack, the energy immediately lightened. It was like every dog and person in the room took a deep, much needed sigh. The collective mood improved, dogs played happily and the staff didn’t have to intercede much at all. It was how daycare is supposed to be.
There were two shy dogs there, that when the “punks” were present, showed visible signs of anxiety as they cowered against the wall. Now, however, with those punk dogs gone, they started to move around and come out of their shell a bit. With those problem dogs in the mix, daycare was making their anxiety worse—doing the opposite of what dog daycare is supposed to do.
These problem dogs are not bad necessarily, they’re just not right for a group environment. They might do fine one–on–one or in a home setting, however, the energy of a play group brings out the worst in them. So it’s not personal with these dogs, it’s just something that you need to do for the good of your business. You see, when you’re dealing with a group of dogs, it’s never about what’s best for one individual dog but what’s good for the pack as a whole.
Given the group setting, where your attention is divided greatly and your resources are limited, it’s not the place to try to address behavioral issues—even if you want to. You can’t treat the problems, so it becomes a question of can you (and do you want to) manage them long term.
Kicking dogs out of daycare is not something you might do without first exploring all your options to try to make it work. Once that’s exhausted, it’s time to be honest and do what is best for the pack. This includes looking at the effect on your staff. I once watched one large hound dog trying to pull off the clothes of the staff—all day long!
Sorry, he’s gotta go. Or eventually your awesome staff members are going to have had enough of that treatment and quit.
When it’s time to let a dog go, you want to make sure you do it in the right way so your customer doesn’t take offense and get too upset. The best way to have a client be understanding about their dog not being allowed back is to give them honest feedback from day one.
If the dog is causing trouble, you need to communicate that to the owner the day it happens. Tell them what’s going on each visit and how it may be a problem if it doesn’t improve. They may not want to hear how their furry little baby is causing trouble, but they need to know the truth.
If you never told them about the problems their dog has been causing for weeks or months, they will be blindsided the day they’re not invited back. That will piss them off and make them go on a social media rampage at your expense. However, if you keep them in the loop, explain to them why their dog’s behavior is a problem and that there is a possibility that he might not be able to stay if it continues, they are more likely to be understanding.
When the time comes to have that difficult conversation, start by saying how much you like their dog but that the group environment is just not right for them. Blame the circumstance, not the dog. If you’ve done a good job of communicating with them along the way and are nice (but firm) at their dismissal, they should accept it without any problems. Then you, your staff and all the dogs in the pack can relax and enjoy the play groups like they were meant to.
The cool thing about getting rid of the bad seeds is that it now opens up room for the dogs that are a good fit for daycare. You will fill their spot before you know it and it will be with a dog that you enjoy and that enhances the experience for everyone.
Now go assess your packs, be honest with yourself, get your staff’s opinion and do what you have to do. It’s for the good of everyone involved and will make your daycare a much better place for everyone. n
Fernando Camacho is a dog behavior consultant, author, speaker, educator and all-around dog guy. With The FernDog Trainer Academy (www.FernDogTraining.com), his online program to become a successful dog trainer, he helps people realize their dreams of working with dogs as a career. Fern also created an online dog business coaching program, The DogBiz Rocketship (www.dogbizrocketship.com), where he works with dog daycares, boarding facilities and grooming salons to take their businesses to new levels of success.