View the facility from the dogs perspective: Is it safe? Is it secure? Is there proper supervision? Do the other dogs seem to be having a good time? Are there plenty of places and times set aside to rest? How long are they in a crate each day? Ask questions and feel confident in leaving your dog to be cared for at the Dog Ranch.
Undesirable behavior management policies: Discipline at many dog facilities is shocking! You should always know what the policy is on discipline and ask exactly how it is enforced. Walker Ranch uses positive reinforcement and is force-free. Facilities should NEVER use harsh corrections.
Education and developmental stimulation: Does the daycare offer a day-training program? What about dogs not in the training program but just the daycare program? What programs are in place to ensure your dog isn’t just spending the day being exercised physically but also mentally and emotionally? Many people think the more they work their dog physically the more tired the dog will be. This is not the case and it is exactly why we choose to spend time working with the dogs mentally so they are also working on manners and learning to work with us. It is important dogs respect us and learn the rules and boundaries at Walker Ranch. Working with them one on one is a great opportunity for that. We also encourage our clients to educate themselves and always keep their dog involved in a training program or activity.
Caregivers ability to communicate and act on the dogs’ communication: You should feel comfortable with the humans at your dog daycare. Staff education in dog behavior and body language is so important! Again, look for a place with an individual with training experience or dog behavior experience. All staff should be trained in the latest scientific findings in dog behavior and body language and should be well versed in the science of positive reinforcement. At the Dog Ranch it is important for us to always keep a close eye on each dog. We want the super social dogs to be super social together, and some of the more neutral dogs to know they do not have to hide or be worried about being bothered all day by other dogs.
Consistent schedule of activities and development: Your dog daycare should be able to give you an exact schedule for the pets in their care. There should be organized play, education, cleaning, feeding, etc. These schedules and policies should be easily and openly communicated by staff members to pet owners. We have a very clear and consistent routine. Dogs get an adequate amount of time to interact and be outdoors as well as interact and relax indoors.
Keeping with your philosophy of care: Dog daycare facilities should only employ positive reinforcement and force free tactics. Anything else is antiquated and scientifically proven to be harmful to your dog both physically and emotionally. It is so important to not just ask if it’s a positive reinforcement facility but to ask exactly what that means. How do they praise? For what? How exactly do they discipline and for what behaviors? Do they know why their reinforcement and disciplinary policies work? Can they explain them to you based on the latest scientific studies of animal behavior and cognition? All of these questions and concerns are welcomed and we want our clients to know exactly what expectations we have of each dog that stays with us and why.
Temperament Evaluations: Every reputable doggy daycare should have a behaviorally sound temperament evaluation system. This is one of the largest weaknesses in many facilities. Ideally, this evaluation will take place over several hours so the dog is not rushed in his interactions or meetings with the existing dogs. A reputable doggy daycare facility should be able to tell you exactly how this evaluation takes place, why the person doing the evaluation is qualified to make an assessment, and what is and is not appropriate behavior throughout the evaluation. It is not enough to simply test a dog for aggression; it should be openly communicated to the dog owner if the dog is simply not having fun, overwhelmed, stressed, or unhappy. A reputable doggy daycare will let an owner know if daycare is not best suited for your dog simply based on the fact that your dog is stressed and not having fun, not simply for aggression. At Walker Ranch our half day of daycare assessment allows us to see your dog indoors and out. We like to see your dog with other dogs and without any dogs present. Some dogs may be stressed or nervous coming in to a new environment and we never want to force a nervous or stressed dog into a more stressful situation where they become too overstimulated or overwhelmed.