The Dog Daycare Reality Show
By Fernando Camacho
Welcome to everyone’s favorite program, The Dog Daycare Reality Show! It’s where you can tune in every single day and see your favorite characters get into all kinds of different antics and situations.
Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes there’s drama and sometimes there are tears. You’ll see the whole spectrum when you tune in to this particular show—and it’s happening live, every single day inside your dog daycare.
The way to survive this show is to understand the players. If you know who they are, you can better understand what to expect from them so that you can create an environment that’s not only happy for the dogs, but it’s easy for you to manage.
Let’s meet the cast.
This is your super friendly, very social dog who just wants to play, play, play all day. That is his only agenda. His motive for anything is just entertainment and he just wants to have fun. These guys need a playmate. If he can find that match, he’s very happy and will pretty much play all day. The problem occurs if there’s not a dog with a compatible energy level for him. Then he becomes a little tricky because there’s no one to give him the outlet that he needs. So then he becomes a pest to other dogs who don’t want to play and can really stir things up with the pack.
As long as he has someone to play with, he’s happy. He plays appropriately and he reads the other dog’s body language well. He’s actually a dog that is ideal for daycare because he just wants to have fun and you’re doing his owners a great service in giving the pooch a way to release all that energy.
THE FUN POLICE
This is a dog who’s not actively engaging in play with any of the other dogs. He’s kind of an outsider who feels he needs to intercede when other dogs are playing. He’s watching from a distance and always monitoring what’s going on. His problem is that he gets uncomfortable when the energy gets too high or when dogs start moving around too fast, so he feels he needs to come and stop it to feel better. You’ll see him run in, maybe bark a bit and try to stop the dogs from playing.
As the person in there monitoring the pack, you’re going to make sure you’re watching him as best as you can in a group environment to try to stop him before he intercedes. When you notice him getting visibly bothered, step in front of him and cut him off before he engages. You’re trying to teach him that he doesn’t have to react, and if that energy does continue, nothing bad will really happen—he can be okay with it and not have to always step in.
This is an antisocial dog who doesn’t want to be bothered by the other dogs. He’s kind of being forced to go to daycare. The Grump really doesn’t like dogs entering his personal space or specifically getting in his face. He’s got his little bubble of space and doesn’t want anyone to invade it. As long as everyone stays away from him, he’s usually fine. But once they enter his bubble, he is not happy about it and he is not shy about letting everybody know.
Most of the time this guy can be managed, but I would say he might not be the perfect fit for daycare. If he’s not really enjoying his time there and you’re not seeing an improvement over time (like he’s getting more tolerant of the other dogs), then I would make a determination if he should stay there.
This guy is a people–focused dog that tends to follow the humans around like crazy and is dependent upon their attention. He’s there, but he doesn’t cause any trouble with the other dogs—he just wants nothing to do with them. Typically he will just be indifferent to them; ignoring them completely.
We want him to be comfortable on his own, in any environment. This is tough because you might not even realize this guy is stuck to you like glue and that you’re giving affection to unhealthy behavior. So just be very aware of it and give him a little tough love in this environment, and be more businesslike with him when he’s orbiting you. Being at daycare can help him because he’s already been detached from his owner. You just need to cut the cord with you in the pack to begin to improve his human dependency.
This guy just keeps to himself and doesn’t interact with the other dogs. Unlike The Clinger, he doesn’t really care about the people in the pack either. The Loner just wants to be by himself at daycare. If dogs come up to him, he’s fine, but he’s not really going out of his way to interact with anyone. He’s not nasty about it, but it’s obvious he prefers to be by himself. The other dogs realize this too and tend to leave him alone for the most part.
You just don’t want to push him. We don’t want to force him to be interactive with the group or even with you. We want to make sure we respect his wishes, and if he wants to be left alone, that’s fine. Keep dogs from bothering him too much and if you feel he’s getting a little bit more attention than he really wants, make sure that his space is respected. Hopefully over time he may become more social.
This is the friendly, easy going dog that gets along with everyone—both people and dogs. He’s very well socialized and not much really affects him. If the pack gets fired up, he doesn’t get sucked in and fired up with everyone else. If there’s an altercation, he doesn’t pile on like everybody else. If someone’s grumpy to him, he doesn’t get grumpy back. He says, “whatever,” and just shakes it off.
This is a great dog go have in your business. I mean, we wish we had a daycare full of ambassadors because it would make your job effortless. You don’t have to focus on them as much and they’re just a pleasure to be around. This is a great dog to use for evaluations. When you’re not sure how another dog is going to do at daycare (maybe this is their first time at daycare), you want to start him off with The Ambassador.
THE SHY GUY
This guy is anxious, maybe even a bit fearful and is overwhelmed by the dog daycare environment and everything that comes with it. He’s a little tricky because again, we have to ask the question, is this the right environment for him?
When in the daycare environment, this guy is uncomfortable but we can help him feel a little more secure by letting him know that you have his back. If he needs space, you need to make sure he gets it. Make sure that the other dogs don’t do things that he doesn’t like as much as possible and help him keep his bubble of comfort.
This guy is a little tricky—sometimes they’re great, other times they’re nothing but a headache. The annoying thing is that it can be hard to predict when he’s going to be good and when he’ll be a nightmare. Typically these dogs are reactive to what’s around them, so a lot of time their behavior is dependent upon the other dogs in the group. If we have a dog with a lot of energy or that is pushing his buttons, the Wildcard becomes a pain in the butt. If we have a good pack, then all of a sudden he does well too.
Much of the time, making him take breaks at the right times can keep him in check so that he’s not ending up being a jerk at the end of things. This is a dog that is very tricky because he’ll do good one day and not the other. Over time, you’re going to have to determine if this dog is right for the daycare or if he is just stressing out your staff.
THE MAMMA’S BOY
This guy has been spoiled like crazy
by his owners, causing him to become very dependent upon them. The Mamma’s Boy does not want to be in daycare whatsoever. He wants to be basically sewn to his owner’s lap or leg and does not want to leave him/her—ever. A lot of times these guys will just sit by the door. They’ll just run back and forth nervously trying to get out the entire time they’re at daycare. He’s just basically looking at his watch saying, “when the hell is my mom or dad coming back?”
If you can manage them and don’t mind their behavior, you can keep them there. Just understand that it’s unlikely to get better over time. You want to communicate that to the owner as well. Be honest if the dog is not enjoying himself here.
Sadly, this guy is pretty common in daycare groups. He is annoyingly persistent with mounting certain dogs. Typically he won’t do it to all dogs (although they can) but target specific dog(s). Who knows why they pick these dogs to hump and not others—I can’t figure it out. We’ll never know why, all we can do is try to address it.
To get dogs to stop, it really requires close supervision. The good thing about mounting is that you can see a dog getting in position to do it. If you catch them early, you can get them to stand down. You start with a verbal sound and then move in between the two dogs and back the mounter away. Hopefully, over time, just a verbal will stop them, but you’re going to have to intercede in the beginning until you have done enough repetitions for him to get that you don’t want him doing that.
This guy is very assertive and a troublemaker. He’s always causing problems in the pack and is the dog that demands a good amount of your attention. He’s the dog that when he shows up, your entire staff says, “Oh crap,” because they know they’re about to have the longest three hours of their life. This dog doesn’t listen well at all.
This guy needs a lot of structure and a very businesslike relationship—something they are probably lacking at home. When I do consulting at daycares, they always have The Punks come in that day and, at the end of it, I almost always tell them that those dogs are not right for daycare. They are not worth the money they bring into daycare because they’re causing a lot of problems with all the other dogs and they’re putting too much stress on the staff, which can move them to quit.
There you go. Thanks so much for tuning in to The Dog Daycare Reality Show. Look out for these players in your daycare play groups and start experimenting with ways to get them to best fit into your environment. It all starts by understanding them and now you know what to do to best work with each individual personality type.
Good luck and have fun with those pooches
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.