Four Important Elements
of a Smoothly Run Daycare Program
By Rachel Larson
Stone Mountain Pet Lodge has been running a doggy daycare program since 2008. It started small with anywhere from three to 16 dogs in the first week and has grown into a large and successful program. Now that we’ve been at it a few years, we’ve learned some things along the way. In this article, we will take a closer look at our doggy daycare program to learn about some of the practices we are implementing to help ensure we have a smoothly run program.
Orientation and Assessments
We have found that the use of an orientation day and daycare assessment are extremely important. We use our orientation day to do paperwork, take the dog’s history, and have the owners sign a waiver. One of our trained staff members then conducts a human-to-dog assessment to see how the dog reacts to humans. After the dog passes this first assessment, we slowly introduce the existing daycare dogs one or two at a time to the new dog to see how the new dog reacts. Through this method, we are trying both to acclimate the new dog into the daycare group and to assess the dog to see in which program he or she would best fit.
In the past, if a dog didn’t do well with socialized playtime during orientation, we had to tell the dog’s owner that their dog wouldn’t be a good fit for daycare. We never liked that approach, and neither did the owners. They left feeling like there was something wrong with their dog or the way they were training their dog, and we didn’t like turning away business from people who were looking for a daytime care solution for their pet.
Today, we have an expanded idea of what daycare can be. Our philosophy is that we have a place for every dog. We use orientation as a time to assess the dog to determine not whether the dog is a fit for daycare but in which program the dog would best fit. We have an all day play program; a partial play, partial individual program; small group playtime program; all-day individual program and everything in between. We believe that a group daycare setting isn’t for every dog. Some dogs, like people, prefer to have more solitude or need a slower, gentler pace.
In addition to allowing our program to expand to include dogs that we otherwise would not have allowed into a group daycare program, this new philosophy has made our program run much more smoothly as well. When we take time to assess and orient each dog into the right program, the dogs are happier and better adjusted, which makes for a more smoothly run daycare. Customers respond favorably to the fact that we know and understand their dogs, which in turn increases repeat business.
Grouping similar dogs together helps keep barking and rough play at bay. We have several different groupings of dogs in our daycare areas. Based on our initial assessment for temperament and play style, as well as the size or age of the dogs, we group dogs together to form smaller play groups. We use doggy daycare room dividers to easily divide up our space for these smaller groups. The dividers allow us to configure the room differently and also fold away easily when we want to utilize our whole space. Breaking the dogs up into smaller groups makes managing our daycare program much easier and is another way that we make sure our program runs smoothly.
When dogs are in daycare multiple days per week, they may display signs of boredom, such as barking or behavioral issues. There are many ways to combat boredom in doggy daycare. If you have an option for dogs to spend some of their time inside and some of the time outside, that is a great way to help break up their day and give them an opportunity to get some fresh air.
At Stone Mountain Pet Lodge, we try to keep the day interesting for the dogs and follow a schedule. Each day, the dogs have different games or activities like using bubbles, scent exploration, ice cubes, noisemakers, music, reading, and more. We also have multiple rest times each day, which allow even the dogs in our all-day play program a little time to wind down, rest, and recharge. Playing all day is very stimulating, so we find this rest time is very important. During the rest time, we use our express kennels so each dog has his or her own space. These kennels are stacked into banks of kennels, which allows us to have the space for many dogs to rest at the same time while conserving floor space.
At the end of each day, our staff brushes each of the dogs. This is a nice, relaxing time for the dogs, which allows for bonding time with the staff members. We also use this time to check the dogs over for lumps, bumps, or scratches that might have occurred over the course of the day during playtime with the other dogs.
Having a schedule with activities, rest time, and hands-on time with our staff helps to fight boredom.
Having staff that loves dogs is great. Having staff that loves dogs and is trained well is even better. We train our staff on how to manage barking, combat boredom, manage various dog behaviors, and much more. In addition, our staff tracks incidents that occur during daycare so we know what we need to follow up with, including possibly reassessing the dog for placement into a different group or program.
We have found that orientation and assessments for placement, separating dogs into play groups, working to combat boredom in the dogs, and making sure our staff is well trained has improved our program. What changes can you make to help your program run more smoothly?
Stone Mountain Pet Products is a family-run business, located in the heart of Minnesota. We have been taking our expertise in the pet care industry and applying it toward building better products for our customers around the country. This all started with Stone Mountain Pet Lodge, located in Blaine, MN. During the building process, Dave Larson, president and CEO, realized he needed better kennel equipment than what was on the market. Using his existing business, Larson Systems, and his mechanical engineering background, he created several totally new designs, which are still in use at Stone Mountain Pet Lodge today. Our equipment is still holding strong after many years of use with new customers seeing the added benefits of several improvements. Tim Larson is now heading up the sales effort while Rachel Larson is handling our writing. Many other family members and employees are involved in this business, tackling production, quality, IT, and many other aspects of the business. It has been a challenge, and pleasure, translating real world experience into useful products from which business owners across the country can benefit. If you are interested in learning more about the products Stone Mountain Pet Products offers, visit our website at www.stonemountainpetproducts.com.”