Walking Your Dog Into Daycare
Walking Your Dog Into Daycare
Having worked in an urban dog daycare, a veterinarian office and now a suburban dog daycare, I have seen the same scenario over and over with numerous dogs and their owners: a person walks into the lobby being pulled by an over-excited dog and seems ashamed or embarrassed that Fido isn’t walking in calmly and sitting attentively. Public places are not the same as your living room. Your dog who sits nicely at home and greets people politely does not necessarily equate that to meeting people in public. In fact, most dogs don’t greet people too courteously at home either – but we will address that separately.
Your dog’s excitement to be at daycare begins way before you pull into the parking lot. It probably begins before you even leave the house, as soon as your pup notices that he/she is leaving with you. The mere sight of the leash in the morning may be enough to indicate that your dog is going somewhere fun for the day. It is important for you to realize that this is where training begins. The beginning of the excited behavior chain is where you need to start breaking down the series of behaviors. Work on your dog calmly sitting for the leash, calmly getting into and out of the car, and calmly walking beside you all individually. Don’t link these tasks together or pair with going to daycare. Once your dog knows what is expected as soon as the leash appears, you can begin to work through the series of behaviors and put the polite behaviors you have so diligently trained together.
The next part is actually going to daycare. Chances are your dog is in daycare because you realize the value of having a well-socialized and exercised dog at home. If you take your dog regularly to the same daycare facility, he has learned that the sooner he gets in the doors, the sooner he gets to play. This practice of pulling you in has been repeated and thus reinforced for a while. Now you get to change all of that.
Prepare to train your dog by giving yourself enough time to get into the daycare doors slowly and tenaciously. This may mean getting up earlier, for which I sincerely apologize and I promise it will be worth it! You have already worked with your dog, gotten him used to a calm leash and gotten him into and out of your car without bolting. Now you get to walk him into daycare and, with the help of a few tasty meat or cheese treats, reward calm body language and behavior. Because you have chosen to use the lure of meat or cheese, your dog will likely focus on you after only a few calm redirections. Use the focus! Ask for any calm behavior that you are reasonably sure your dog will do in any circumstance- sit is a common request- and then reward the sit. Take another few steps toward the door and repeat. Repeat a lot.
Once you are through the doors and your dog is gleefully accepting your treats, you can ask for one final sit and Pez-dispense feed as a staff member takes your dog by the leash. Release the sit with a happy “OK” and let your dog be led away to fun. Over time you will add more duration between treats and expect higher criteria, but step one is getting your dog focused and in the door with a less embarrassed owner in tow.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator