Can My Dog Be Stressed? [Part 3]
Here is the third excerpt from my forthcoming book - Building Confidence in your Growly but Brilliant Family Dog - which points out an area which will be affecting your dog much more than you may imagine. You may want to read Part One and Part Two of the series first.
While you’re doing your best to improve the situation and you take a look at what may be making things worse, you cannot overlook stress.
- Stress causes reactions to be exaggerated
- Stress causes us to snap
- Stress wears us out
And here’s another area of your dog’s life that could be building stress that may surprise you.
3. Daycare or a dogwalker
A very perceptive reader sent me this query recently: “My question is, what do you think of daycare for dogs? Are the dogs actually happy about it, or do dog owners just like to imagine they are?”
Some dogs love daycare. And some people love holiday camps with group activities. I have to say that’s not my kind of holiday, and I would find it very hard to cope and not one bit enjoyable.
I am not going to tar all daycares and dogwalkers with the same brush. There are some excellent ones, with dedicated and knowledgeable owners and good staff education programs. But I will say that you'll have to do extensive research to find a convenient, local one that is truly a safe place for your anxious dog to learn and develop. Here's a great read on finding a safe daycare facility.
Think of the skills you need as a parent to prevent open warfare in your own household! Then picture a gang of dogs being thrown together for a walk - or all day in a confined area - in the care of people who may have no dog training or behaviour qualifications whatever. “I love dogs” may help, but it’s not a qualification. And given how long it takes us to learn how to care for our own species - and that a lot of what people think about dogs is wrong - you’re going to be lucky to find somewhere safe for your dog.
I was recently shown a promotional video for a daycare by someone who’s been sending her very reactive German Shepherd pup there for months. Even in this 30-second video - meant to show how wonderful the place was - I could see bullying and intimidation of this pup by other dogs, and no one going to her aid. Imagine what this sensitive puppy is subjected to for ten hours a day, five days a week! No wonder her reactivity is already extreme at only six months of age. What the owner thought as “being perfectly happy at daycare” was in fact a dog that spent all day trying to avoid the other dogs (quite impossible with those numbers of loose dogs) - shut down, in other words. Not fine at all.
For many dogs, daycare is viewed with the same suspicion I view that holiday camp!
If you have a good and responsible dogwalker, you are indeed fortunate! A dogwalker arrived at my regular walking spot recently. She opened her van doors and out flew five or six dogs. One planted his feet on my chest while the others hurtled around the roadside car park alarming other dogs before heading off on their walk. After 20 minutes she returned and drove away again. Would you be happy paying good money for that level of care every day?
My personal solution to an enforced absence from home is to have someone I trust to come in to let the dogs out in the garden and play with them for a while during the day. A “walk” is not needed.
If anything goes wrong in a daycare or with a dogwalker, you will be paying for that for years - possibly the rest of your dog’s life. You can spend time observing at a potential daycare. If they don’t like you quietly watching - move on. Think hard, and do a lot of homework, before handing your dog over.
Regardless of where you live, there will be fantastic, dedicated dogwalkers and daycare facilities that truly put the needs of the dogs in their care above all else. So seek out those above-and-beyond caretakers, and you and your dog will certainly reap the rewards!
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