As we start a new year, it is the perfect time to reflect on our business and confirm that we are providing
the very best in daycare services. As our industry continues to grow, we have had time to see various impacts of attending
daycare on dog behavior. For the majority of dogs daycare is a positive social experience.
Unfortunately, there are
instances where a dog can learn to become a bully by attending daycare. Now this is not the intent at anyone’s daycare,
but it does happen when the staff supervising the playgroups does not fully understand dog body language. Most of us have
over time honed our observation skills to the more subtle movements of dog communication.
As daycare owners and operators,
we have an obligation to the clients and their dogs to ensure that we focus on this issue. We have a responsibility beyond
the safety of the dogs to not get injured physically. As daycare operators we must err on the side of caution and safety.
It is important to also focus on the responsibility we have in the behavior of the dogs in our daycares.
Both of the
daycare speakers at the ABKA national convention in Arlington, Robin Bennett and Nana Will, discussed this topic in their
presentations. The dogs in our care should leave better behaved than when they arrived, or at least equally as well as when
they arrived. Robin and Nana are very experienced behaviorists/trainers and consult in our industry. Both of them share a
concern that daycare operators understand the potential negative impact on a dog from the social interactions of daycare.
The impression of trainers/behaviorists of our industry is dependent on the number of behavior cases they see from
dogs that actively attend daycare. Other industry professionals also make decisions and influence their clients based on their
personal experience with dogs that attend daycare. During the convention I met a new kennel owner who said a vet in his area
indicated he would stop referring dogs to the kennel if they added daycare as a service. Daycare dog tragedies are also making
the news across the country. The reports I’ve seen have involved a very small dog being seriously injured or killed
by a larger dog during play. As more incidents get reported in the media, trainers work behavior cases and vets treat physical
injuries related to daycare, our individual businesses can be negatively impacted.
The reputation of our industry
rests upon the actions and decisions we make every day in operating our facilities. We have a responsibility to each other
to make honest assessments of the dogs seeking admittance to daycare as well as revoking privileges of dogs that pose a physical
or behavior risk to other dogs. We also need to ensure that we are providing good training for all staff in the subtleties
of dog language and behavior.
This is an important time for responsible facilities to set themselves apart and be
the example of all the good daycare can provide for well-socialized dogs. Your membership in ABKA provides a great resource
of information and training. The seminars from the last convention are available for purchase in the General Store at www.abka.com.
Also check out the location and dates of your regional meeting; let your director know that you’d like a local seminar
on dog daycare.
This year you should also be able to have your daycare facility accredited through the ABKA. Over
the past year a committee has been working on developing minimum standards for operation of daycare services. These will be
published in 2006 as part of the revised Voluntary Facility Accreditation (VFA) program. Key areas covered in the standards
for daycare include: temperament-testing, staff to dog supervision, facility design, operator/staff training and sanitation
procedures. There is a general section of the standards that cover business practices, record keeping, personnel and much
more. The standards will also cover other services your facility may provide like pet boarding and grooming.
the past two years the Daycare Section committee has worked with ABKA staff members to ensure resources are available to support
you in your business operations. We’ve modified the standard contract, Bill of Rights for Pets and Code of Ethics to
incorporate issues related to daycare services. We have created a brochure for the Let’s Talk About series on how to
select a daycare and Puppy Warts and also provided input for updates on the one for Canine Cough. We have provided a comprehensive
survey of questions for the daycare industry that was used in the last annual survey with a plan in development to obtain
more specific daycare industry-related data. A large part of the committtee’s focus has been on development of industry
standards that will be added into the VFA Program. Dozens of daycare owners from across the country have been involved in
these efforts. A few have stood out with their contributions and I want to recognize them with a special thank you: Heather
Staas, Cristal Newell, Tommy Fleming, Marilyn Marks, Amy Gamache, Janet Galante, Mark Corner, Susan Ferry and Gail Fisher.
Crystal Newell tragically lost her life this year (2010) in an auto accident. She will be remembered
always for her contributions, candidness, mentoring and humor.