Fear and Force Free Doggy DayCare Serving South Portland and Surrounding Areas

How do you know a doggy daycare is safe?

Did you know that the doggy daycare industry is an unregulated field?

While you DO need a kennel license in the state of Maine to operate, that’s achieved at opening and barely investigated afterwards…and has NO bearing on how the daycare is actually run or how safe it is- for staff OR dogs.

Raising the bar for how dogs and staff are treated in the doggy daycare industry is a passion of ours at The Bark Yard.

People who aren’t actually in the industry have no idea about the horror stories we’ve heard (or how to avoid having something happen to your dog at a poorly run daycare).

So we wanted to share a series of tips and tools to finding a SAFE daycare where your dog’s emotional and physical well being is top priority.

1. What is the staff-dog ratio?

Here are some of the KEY SAFETY QUESTIONS we, as folks in the doggy daycare industry and dog parents would make sure to ask before ever leaving our dogs at a daycare.

At The Bark Yard, we never have more than 8 dogs to one well- trained counselor. We consider anything over 20-25 dogs to be stressful for the majority of dogs and potentially dangerous when a scuffle breaks out (notice we didn’t say “if…” with over 20 dogs, a potentially dangerous scuffle WILL happen from time to time- more if the staff is overwhelmed, undertrained, etc).

If you’re bringing your dog to a daycare with playgroups over 15 dogs per group, make sure you are monitoring your dog for stress- if you can watch them during the day check for them seeming overwhelmed, trying to leave the play room, excessive panting, drooling, yawning, or averting their eyes.

Ask your daycare for details on how they’re doing during the day, and how they’re playing with other dogs. And if your dog seems stressed entering the daycare, or at the end of the day, ASK QUESTIONS. Remember- no one knows your dog better than you do- LISTEN to them.

2. Are dogs ever left alone unattended during play or with other dogs?

The answer should be NEVER. It is 100% unsafe for dogs to be left together unattended EVER.

At The Bark Yard, we won’t even leave ONE dog alone in a yard- even while we are running to bring another dog back to their cabin, fetch a toy from another yard, or get more treats. Unless they’re safely in their cabins, eyes are never off a dog here.

We interviewed someone for a position who previously worked at a daycare near TBY, who asked us how often she’d be left alone with dogs if we hired her.

When I asked her to clarify, she meant alone in the building WITH a bunch of dogs in playgroup. When I looked horrified and said “NEVER,” she explained that at her last daycare job she was left to groom but also was the ONLY person there during her shift, and had to leave TWO rooms of unattended dogs LOOSE while she groomed. 

She had to listen for fights and run in and break them up when they happened. 

This. Happens. More. Than. You. Think.

So please- ASK this question. Ask how many dogs per staff member. Ask how many people are employed during the day.

3. How are staff trained? What training are they required to have to work with the dogs?

ALL staff handling dogs should be thoroughly trained to read and understand dog body language, dog group dynamics, altercation protocol, and how to identify and address basic behavior issues such as resource guarding, nipping, and shy dog handling.

You will want to know how much training counselors receive, including but not limited to shadowing/training with expert current staff before leading their own play groups.

At The Bark Yard every single person who works here (even our new teen intern) has to complete a 4 hour training (with excellent test scores) on dog body language. We are building in more training including:

*Canine CPR and First Aid certification

*IBPSA Cleaning Protocol

*IBPSA How Dogs Learn

*IBPSA: teaching basic behaviors

*Staff training on administering and recording medications

*and IBPSA Canine Development and Health

**Over the next year we’re including certification for Fear and Force Free dog handling, as well as certifying everyone through this amazing organization: https://paccert.org/

4. What is your dog’s day like? How much time are they out of their kennel? How long are play sessions? Can they have a break or skip play if they don’t want to play that session?

For your dogs’ mental well being they should be getting breaks from play during the day, but also not spending excessive amounts of time in their kennel (after all, you can have them at home alone for free, amiright?).

At The Bark Yard, we give every dog rest periods between enrichment sessions/play groups, however, we also make sure that no dog is in their cabin for more than an hour or so during the day. 

If a dog doesn’t want to do what’s on their schedule next (whether it’s an enrichment activity or going out to their next playgroup, we NEVER force them- we find something else for them to do.

One interview applicant had ONE question during her interview with us:

“Will I have to forcibly drag dogs into playgroup if they don’t want to go?”

At her previous daycare, it made her sick to have to force frightened or resistant dogs into large rooms of other dogs, but she was ordered to by management because they only have ONE daycare program, and that’s all dogs in group. So they have to go to group whether it’s fun for them or not.

We assured her that we will never force a dog to do something they’re afraid of or resistant to. If a dog doesn’t want to go to playgroup… (which happens- have you ever been energetically drained after a busy day and wanted to skip a social function? That’s my average day, personally 🙂

…we simply find something else they enjoy- a game of fetch? A cuddle session in the break room? A sniffari walk?

Are you enjoying this information? Is it helpful?

More tips coming in the next post…

Let us know if you have questions, or want to see more tips by emailing us at TheBarkYardMaine@gmail.com or messaging us on FB!