The news stories coming out recently about beloved pets injured, suffering, and dying in the care of a trainer or boarding facility are devastating. It’s evident that poor care at a facility can spread disease, create bad behaviors, and cause harm. Leaving your pet can be scary, especially for the first time. As a member of the professional pet care industry, safety should be our number one priority. Pet parents can ensure the facilities they use are providing the highest quality service by taking a few simple precautions.
What can you do as a pet parent to ensure that your dog is safe while away from you? First, get a referral from a trusted source such as your current dog trainer, a vet, or someone who has used the facility in the past. Second, visit the facility that you will be taking your pet to before booking. Finally, research the training methods that the facility uses.
Referrals are important because experience is the best indicator of how a facility will be. Good facilities work hard to build a strong reputation by providing consistently excellent service to all customers. There are many options for boarding and training, and a referral from a trainer, vet, or other person who has used the facility is a good way to narrow your search.
Visiting the facility will tell you a great deal about the quality of service they provide. Walk around the property to verify that it is as advertised. What is the environment around the facility, how does the staff interact with the dogs, how are the dogs behaving, and do you see anything concerning? Ask questions during the tour. Some examples of what questions to ask include:
- What is the staff to dog ratio?
- What protocols are in place in the event of an emergency, such as a power outage or weather event?
- Do they preform regular head counts?
- Do they accept dog aggressive dogs and what safety procedures are in place to protect the dog friendly dogs, if so?
- What will happen if my dog barks a lot, plays rough, seems stressed or behaves differently than at home?
- What trainings and certifications does the staff possess?
- Will you receive regular photos and updates about your dog while you are away?
Overall, as you’re touring the facility, consider how you think your dog will fit in. Is it too noisy, chaotic, or overcrowded for your dog’s comfort? Is this a place your dog will enjoy as much as your home?
Last, make sure you agree with the training approach the facility uses, and that it meets your family’s needs. Training methods fit into two categories: rewards based and punishment based. You want to look for a rewards-based trainer since that is the healthiest and has the most long-term success for your dog. Punishment based methods suppress behavior, while rewards-based methods address the causes of behavior. Often, if you only change the behavior while ignoring the cause, the behavior will either come back or manifest itself in another way. A pet should never be hurt in the name of training, and your trainer should never manhandle, shock, or jerk your dog around. Beware of overpromises and decide if the methods used are what you want your family to use on their pet. Learn a little about dog body language and watch YouTube videos of the training sessions at the facility you are looking into. Are the dogs engaged, loose, and comfortable during the training, or are they scared of the handler, wanting to get away, stiff and frozen in place? Training should be fun, because learning should be fun.
Pet safety and well-being should be the number one priority in playing, boarding, and training with dogs. Getting referrals, asking questions, and doing research beforehand can set your family up for success. The pet care industry is largely un-regulated and it is up to all of us to work together to ensure the greatest quality services and prevent tragedies.
About the Author: Heather Cole is a KPA Certified Training Partner and Owner of Pop Star Dogs in Lee’s Summit, MO. Whether you need boarding for your dog or your dog needs training, you can rest assured that Pop Star Dogs is a force-free, fear free facility that makes the well-being of your dog a priority. Pop Star Dogs believes that people deserve the freedom to enjoy life with peace of mind that their dog is safe. Call (816) 207-7603 for information on boarding or board and train packages.