Rest, Work, Play
By Annalisa Berns
Photos of Wanderlust Canine Services, LLC By Erynn Connors
In today’s world, some boarding and daycare facilities realize they need a new way to manage all the dogs and their diverse needs. There are more problems now with lack of socialization and training—especially with unexpected quarantines, a boom in new pets and many people working from home.
With reduced demand and increased cancellations, some facility owners have to be more flexible and willing to cater to individual needs. One element to consider is how each dog gets enough diversity in their day while staying safe. Rotation of dogs in a flexible pattern does just that.
This management practice customizes a pet’s experience by giving special attention to each dog. Schedules can be adjusted to leave dogs for a long snooze, more playtime or keep them outside longer. Pet owners appreciate when businesses acknowledge and respond to pet quirks.
A concept called “Crate and Rotate” is part of an amalgamation developed in rescue and in households with multiple dogs. It means periodic rotating of dogs in and out to different areas during the day. In households with dogs that don’t get along, this practice helps keep the peace.
“Crate and rotate is a common practice in the rescue world. It can be used to help acclimate new animals or as a management tool to prevent aggression/predation until progress is made with training,” commented Laruen Stamatis, CPDT-KA and owner of Harmonious Hounds, LLC. in New Bedford, Massachusetts. “It gives the animals the chance to get comfortable with each other’s scent and lets them both get familiar with the space without the pressure of the other’s presence. It also clearly prevents altercations as the animals are kept separate; you can’t fight if you aren’t in the same place at the same time.”
At Grand View Canine Care in Arkport, New York, Cassandra Bauer has successfully adopted this method, calling it “Crate, Gate, Rotate.” At Grand View, “gate” refers to confinement in an area using a barrier or baby gate.
“Crate, gate and rotate is so simple and safe, and [the dogs] love it. And, I have the ability to help dogs in need. Crate, gate and rotate is basically rotating around my different groups that have varying social needs either by crating or gating,” Bauer explained.
To clients, Bauer says, “Our focus is on the dogs as individuals. Is your dog a social butterfly? Super! Fenced-in, supervised playgroups for that. Are they more of the quiet, shy, reserved type? Perfect! They will enjoy extra leashed walks through our woods, private playtime and cuddle time on our couches. Somewhere in the middle on the social spectrum? They get a taste of both, coupled with downtime crated or gated to make sure they aren’t overstimulated. We throw in lots of enrichment too!”
The idea has helped Grand View Canine Care grow. “Crating, gating and rotating has allowed us to grow quickly and live happily. We are able to foster as well as board safely and effectively. It takes some scheduling, but rotating playgroups, walk buddies and nap times with dogs is the best thing we ever did. We have available all types of crates, free-roam areas separated by half-doors and larger lounging rooms for visitors,” Bauer explained.
She jokingly calls it “living in a gated community.”
Bauer isn’t alone in using this idea and adapting it to their dog daycare facility and client needs.
Erynn Connors of Wanderlust Canine Services, LLC. in Rutland, Vermont uses the idea, but with a twist: “I am calling it Rest, Work, Play. I do a bit extra with the dogs. I do one-on-one leash work, rest time is downtime in the crate, playtime is out with a group. I do a rotation of that all day. Towards the end of the day, I can have the entire group out together since they have their listening ears on from the first half of the day.”
Connors came up with the idea by accident. “It was just easier than having everyone out at once! All-day, straight play is a lot and you can see when the dogs get tired, some will get cranky, so I wanted them to get some downtime.”
Connors doesn’t use a set schedule, but finds on average their dogs get around six hours a day of play with training and rest to break up that time. She finds a flexible schedule is best to adapt to the individual dog’s needs.
If you are considering using the “Crate, Gate, Rotate” or “Rest, Work, Play” management system at your facility, there are a few things to consider.
Looking at your facility’s space, identify and create different “stations.” Usually, the spaces include a private spot for naps (crate/rest). Ideally this would be a kennel, suite or enclosure, but a crate will work if you are not set up for overnight boarding. Another station would be an outside play yard, possibly with socialization opportunities (play). Some facilities might have a home-type environment with a room with a sofa for relaxing (gate) or with an area specifically for training (work).
It is important that all dogs get outside playtime, rest time, free-roaming time and interaction with people. Space can be divided simply with fencing or gates. One critical piece in this system is that all dogs must have a safe, designated space in case of emergency.
The idea is to give each dog time in one space, then rotate. For example, give a dog 30 minutes of outside playtime with other dogs, then 15 minutes of rest time in a kennel or crate for downtime, and then 15 minutes in a living room-type area with a baby gate up for cuddle time on the sofa, or, if you want to add in “work” time, a brief 15-minute training session. However, there is quite a bit of variety in the actual timing of the rotations, but from about 10 minutes to an hour seems to be average.
While most facilities using this management practice follow it every day as their standard operating procedure, not all do.
Robin Massey of FYDOLAND Canine Activity Center in St. Charles, Illinois deploys the concept on an “as needed” basis. They use it to separate dogs that aren’t getting along, and yet give them socialization time. They rotate every hour.
“It gives them time to relax and they can each enjoy their time with all the other dogs without focusing on each other,” Massey explains.