Monday, October 01, 2012
Doggie Daycare Can Increase Your Dog's Social Skills
Adopted dogs come from all kinds of backgrounds, but there’s one common denominator. Most have been in environments where there was limited social interaction. At best, foster homes sometimes provide the opportunity to play with one permanent pet; or your new pet may have occasionally romped in a dog park. However , chances are your dog has been crated or caged a good percentage of the time, for example in a rescue organization’s kennel. At any rate, none of the usual situations allows a pup to meet new play pals and new people under the supervision of skilled dog professionals.
In fact, dogs often acquire bad habits when left to play unsupervised, like getting what they want through dominance or aggression. It’s a bit like a school yard: if there are no adults around, some kids turn into bullies. Similarly, dogs with limited social skills tend to jump up when meeting a new person in order to be at the person’s level and to try to monopolize his or her attention.
The role of a dog daycare attendant is to interrupt behaviors that aren’t acceptable, just like monitoring adults on a kids’ playground. With dogs, though, the line between excitement and aggression is quite thin. Rambunctious play easily explodes into a fight - it’s just the nature of the beast. In the wild, dogs use play to practice their hunting skills, and there’s some of that predatory instinct left in pet dogs.
Trained daycare attendants know when to step in between pups who are overly excited before any aggression shows up. The pups get affectionate praise for toning down the intensity of their play, and are separated (and possibly crated for a couple of minutes) if they insist on being rough with each other.
The best environment for your dog to play safely with other dogs and to meet new people is a doggie daycare. Good doggie daycares hire and train their staff with a view to creating just the right environment for maximum fun and minimum risk. There are rules for meeting a new person, like not jumping up on him or her. Dogs learn to say hello by wagging their tail and looking at the new person with a doggie “smile”. Pushing or scaring other dogs away in order to be first in line for attention leads to a “time out” rather than to affectionate attention; as does mounting another dog, excessive barking or trying to monopolize all of the available toys (this is called “resource guarding”).
Appropriate play leads to praise and cuddles and games of fetch with a daycare attendant.
So taking your pet to a good daycare a couple of times a week has the benefit of improving his social skills, which makes him lots of fun to have around. Because the dog has a life outside your home, he will also acquire self confidence. Pup will feel fine about being away from family for the day; and even better about being picked up at night! And the big plus for owners is that after a hard day at work, you come home to an exhausted pup who just wants to curl up next to you in the evening.
Of course, it’s important to check out a daycare before leaving your dog there. Get references from people who are or have been longtime customers. Ask around to see if dog owners have heard of the establishment. Your vet may also be a good source of information about local daycares. Look for one where the employees have lots of dog experience, and the canine guests get to play, without being crated for most of the day.
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