I have been working at a doggy daycare since 2017. It is such a unique environment to learn about dogs. There are such a mix of breeds, ages and personalities all brought together. For anyone who wants to work with dogs the idea of a dog daycare will seem like their dream job. And so it was for me.
And when the conditions are just right, it is heaven. The conditions are: a hot sunny day as they just love to chill out sunbathing; the dogs know each other and all get along; no excessive barkers; and all of them are happy to be in the crates at rest time. That’s not to say I dislike the barkers, some of them I love a lot: thinking of you Princess Shouty Face and Absolute Weirdo (not their real names!). It’s just that I can hear their barks ringing in my ears long after they are back home, and I am lying in bed trying to sleep.
If the group has teenagers in it (under 2, sometimes 3 years old) or puppies (under 6 months) then the job kept you on your toes. They have so much energy, get into everything and bicker with each other like human teenagers! And if the weather is bad and we are all stuck inside the dogs seem to get cabin fever and misbehaviour goes up 10x.
Obviously when you start a new job you don’t have skills and there are few if any courses that teach you what to do in a daycare. So, although I went on to do plenty of courses in dog behaviour, body language and training, I mostly learned from the other workers at the daycare. I learned a lot from them and the different ways they dealt with the dogs and the stresses of the job. From seeing everyone progress and get better at understanding the dogs, the people that can keep a calm and level head during the chaos, to singing when it gets stressful, I am really grateful to have worked with some fantastic people.
In my first year on there I would encourage the dogs to play as much as possible thinking that a tired dog is a happy dog. As time went on I learned that really it is a calm dog that is a happy dog. Yes it is fun to play. Just not all day. And not high energy play for too long. That leads to overtired dogs. It is much better to encourage sniffing games, training games or just lying about having a cuddle.
The daycare environment doesn’t suit every personality of dog. It can be a high energy, stressful place. Especially if you have a timid or nervous disposition. Some shy dogs blossomed in daycare, others can easily get overwhelmed. And the dogs closest to my heart are the more nervous ones. The ones that need extra TLC, or don’t want touched or are too scared or don’t know how to play. It can be a balancing act trying to bring them out of their shells while simultaneously not attracting the other dogs in the group over to them if that was something that would overwhelm them. And when there was a high energy group, interacting with these dogs had to take a back seat.
But helping these dogs became a passion of mine. There are so many dogs that feel nervous, shy or fearful, not just at daycare but in many areas of their life. And while dogs that don’t have the temperament for daycare don’t have to be there, dogs do need to go to the vets, and groomers too. So, just before Christmas, I handed in my notice to the daycare. It is time for me to concentrate on helping nervous, shy or fearful dogs with cooperating with their vets and groomers.
Dog daycares attract some brilliant people to them. I am so fortunate to have worked with, watched and learned from some really caring, passionate and talented people. I hope that e-mail, phones and social media will help me to keep in contact with them for a long time to come. I just wish that the dogs could work Facebook too!
See you later guys,