Choosing a walker, groomer, or daycare for your dog can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many options out there, and because these professions aren’t regulated, anyone could call themselves an expert. The wrong choice could be bad news for the safety and well-being of your dog. From a dog trainer’s perspective, behavioural issues can develop or worsen if the dog is regularly exposed to a daycare, grooming, or walking experience that is less than ideal.
Along with reading reviews and trusting your gut, it’s important to also screen potential dog care services with some questions. We’ve compiled a handy list here of some questions we think are important from a behavioural soundness point of view. Feel free to pick and choose the questions you feel are most important, or go ahead and ask them all!
What are your staffing ratios?
Tons of dogs per staff member means a higher chance of things getting out of control, and fewer hands on deck if there is ever an emergency. For dog walkers in Toronto, the maximum is 6 dogs at a time. For daycares, while it does depend on the facility and specific dogs, one person watching 20 dogs is going to be risky.
What are your temperament assessments like?
The doggie friends your dog is spending time with at daycare or on walks will have an effect on his/her behaviour at home. If temperament assessments aren’t thorough, or aren’t even done at all, you might want to cross them off the list. An appropriate temperament assessment would tell the staff about your dog’s behaviour around strangers, other dogs, and maybe other stressors (loud sounds, etc).
What kind of behaviour could get a dog ejected?
A dog’s dangerous behaviour should never be tolerated in a daycare or walk environment. If a dog is aggressive or constantly in a state of high arousal, they should be transferred to a more appropriate service. Daycares and walkers should have a specific set of guidelines that regulate when a dog is bumped out of group walks or playtime.
What would you do if…. What is your procedure when….
Some good situations to ask about would be medical emergencies (“do you have a first aid kit?”), dog fights, dog gets loose, and dog “misbehaving”. This last one is particularly important – make sure you check with staff about what kind of dog training they ascribe to. Aversive training techniques, such as leash pops and squirt bottles, can leave you with a dog displaying deep-seated behaviour issues. The only situation where these kinds of methods would be reasonable to use would be in a life-threatening situation (a serious dog fight, or a biting dog that won’t let go).
What kind of training do your staff members receive?
Appropriate staff training is essential. Depending on the service, this could include basic first aid, dog fight interruption, dog body language, and basic behaviour theory. Policies around safety precautions should also be common knowledge to all staff members. For dog walkers, this could include safety straps on leashes, locking carabiners, and double attachment points.
Can I visit your facility?
In the case of groomers and daycares, a clean and tidy facility is a good sign. For daycares, facilities should have enough space for the number of dogs they take on at any one time. Crowded facilities increase the risk of accidents. Dogs should also have appropriate spaces to withdraw from the action if they need to (ex, a crate). Fencing and crates should be secure and free of any sharp edges.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, it should give you a good idea of the aspects of service providers that may have an impact on your dog’s behavioural wellness. You may have to shop around a bit for the right fit, but I promise it’s worth it!
(Photo Credit: A Couple of Mutts Dog Walking)
About the Author:
Claire is an Associate Instructor with When Hounds Fly Dog Training in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in the dog training world since 2015 and has loved every second of it.
Claire is the founder of Scout Me A Dog, a consulting service dedicated specifically to helping potential dog owners on the breed selection, breeder selection, and purchasing process.