Dogs have access to the backyard all day both for play and for washroom breaks. Reinforcing and maintaining outdoor washroom training is important, we completely understand that. Because we encourage play in the space, dogs are drinking constantly throughout the day, so we give them consistent opportunities to go to the bathroom in the yard. The yard is kept clean; we clean as the dogs go and we monitor bathroom behavior/patterns. Our cubby system outlines their washroom behavior for the day and any information important to note (diarrhea, constipation, expelling foreign objects (yup, that happens)). Puppies will get extra attention to ensure they learn to go to the bathroom outside and not in the dayare. All dogs are monitored closely for indoor washroom behavior; we try and reinforce that dogs cannot go to the bathroom inside the daycare. The occasional accident happens (we clean it up right away), but repeated inside accidents affects the other dogs in the daycare (since they are running and wrestling and playing); no one wants their dog coming home smelling like urine! If a dog is still learning not to go to the bathroom inside, we stop them as quickly as we catch them starting, rush them outside (not scolding them, just rushing them outside) and we encourage them to finish and wait outside until they do. Once they do, they get a lot of praise. We will keep doing that until it clicks.
The way we operate at Woof! is that the number of dogs we take each day is based on the group itself. We have a base number of approximately 15 dogs per room and anything after that is done by a case by case basis (how much energy they have, their size, their confidence at daycare, etc). If we have more large high energy dogs, we take less dogs; if we have more mellow dog numbers we can take a few more. The staff is well versed in the play styles, energy needs of each dog so they take daycare spot reservations based on that after we hit our base number.
Our daycare operates differently than most, we employ both positive reinforcement and constructive correction. Maintaining a large group of dogs without correction can be very dangerous and often times will have good dogs that have mild issues in group play booted out of daycare when it can be easily overcome or managed. How we oversee our play groups is with a combination of correction, redirection and positive reinforcement. Dogs will hear the word "no" along with quite a few other commands such as "collar" (when dogs are grabbing other dogs collars during play and need to stop), "Not your party" (when dogs are jumping into other play groups, which can overwhelm the dogs playing), "Too much" (when dogs are getting over-excited) and so forth. Anytime a dog is corrected, such as being told "no", they are immediately praised when fulfilling the correction. There is always a balance, dogs need to both respect the staffs authority to call the shots but they should also trust them and see their presence as a positive, not a negative. We work with each dog based on their personality. What technique might be best for a timid dog is not going to be best for a more confident high energy dog. Aside from the standard correction commands (such as the "Not your party"), there really isn't any one blanket rule for all dogs on how to get them to heed our direction; and we found being flexible in our techniques has been incredibly positive and successful for the dogs. Each and every one of our staff has been paintstakingly trained (3 months of working side by side with a senior staff member) before being able to take the reigns with the group. Staff are consistently inputting play and behavioral notes for every dog in our daycare and sharing this information with each other which creates a more consistent experience for each dog.
We have been asked by some clients about an seeing a dog in a muzzle in the daycare and farm photos; and its true, we do have a few dogs who use muzzles to participate in daycare. This is NOT because they are dog aggressive. We use soft vinyl (stretchy) muzzles as a positive way to work with dogs who suffer from things like "over-excitment" during play or lack of tolerance for puppies etc, which can lead to potential fights and ultimately stop them from being able to be social or come to daycare. This is not a punishment, but rather a positive and constructive way of allowing dogs to continue to be social but removing risk of a fight/injury. We use soft very light vinyl muzzles which are slightly oversized which allows pups the ability to pant, drink water, play, wrestle and run and be comfortable. We always praise dogs before its put on and promote play with it on. Its been a really positive technique for both the dogs, owners and our staff at daycare; often times dogs graduate out of needing to use it as they mature and gain more experience in things like tolerance, self control or their energy levels level off. Dogs who get overstimulated or going through a phase are often very dog friendly and social, and this is a fantastic way to help them get their behavior in check.
The beauty of having a backyard in the city is that it allows us to walk dogs for the sake of the walk, not for a bathroom break. It also allows us to do solo or pairs walks, no large groups so we can give the dogs the attention they need. Walks are used to help give dogs a break from the energy of the daycare, bond with the staff members, reset any anxiety that might be at play or bond with another dog. They are not a guarantee for each dog each day because they aren't necessary for outside time. This allows us to really focus on the dogs who need it, or who enjoy walking more than running around and wrestling in the daycare etc. We ensure when walking any dogs that good walking behavior is reinforced. Dog should stay by our sides, not lunge or pull toward any stimuli and keep their eyes on us when we need them too. They never go off leash while on a walk. Walks are approximately 20 minutes or so each.
At Woof! we do have cameras recording all day while the daycare is running. We DO NOT however broadcast them live. The reason we don't broadcast is the most honest of answers, its uncomfortable for the staff and as such we don't get the most out of them and neither do the dogs. We would rather the staff be comfortable and not feel like they are being constantly watched so that they can really engage the dogs in play and be silly and have fun and have the dogs have fun with them. We have 22 cameras to get all angles/areas of both daycare rooms, entry ways, backyard and stairwells. If ever there is an incident or concern from a client, we can make footage available. Often times, we use this footage to show clients any areas of concern with play style or behavior or if something really entertaining happened we wanted to share with them. To allow clients to check in on their pups, we post pictures of dogs on our City Daycare Album almost daily as well as our bi weekly instagram posts, so there is no shortage of ways to check in on your dog at daycare.
To help keep your pups stuff organized, we have a cubby system for all dogs. Like human daycare, each dog is designated a cubby with a chalkboard sign in front. Any walking aids, leashes, coats, boots, food containers, treat totes etc all go in their cubby on arrival and are put back on them when they go home. The chalk board sign in front of their cubby has symbols that outline their bathroom status (so you know if they need to go again once you're home) and any points of note for us to pass on to you.
The spay and neuter policy at Woof! is in place is for your dogs safety. We do not have the ability to separate intact or pubescent males or intact females who may be going into heat. Mixing them all together with fixed dogs can risk fights that are triggered by nothing more than the smell of hormones (which unlike dogs, we just don't have the ability to smell). When dogs are unfixed, they produce a greater amount of hormonal output which fixed dogs are able to smell. Dogs that have been fixed are extra sensitive to this hormone smell because it is greater in strength and can be interpreted as a threat to the pack. For unfixed male dogs, this can result in one or more of the fixed male pack dogs to attack them, seemingly unprovoked. It can happen in an instant and it can be very dangerous - without the ability to separate we can not control safety properly. For female dogs, unfixed females will experience something similar with spayed females, but only when they are starting to go into heat (or are developing the hormones for their first heat). Because we can't always see the signs that 'heat' is coming until its too late, it becomes very unsafe to have spayed and unspayed females together in a group. Intact females will also still attract neutered males causing those males to fixate and 'hump' the intact female obsessively all day; which is just no fun for that pup. We respect owners who chose to wait to spay/neuter, but after a dogs hormones start to kick in, they will need to take a break at Woof!.
Walk throughs are currently suspended due to COVID safety concerns. When this pandemic gets under control, we will post information on booking walk throughs again. If you have questions about daycare (things normally addressed during your walk through), feel free to give us a call and we'll answer any questions you may have. You can get a great sense of the daycare space and the groups we have in regularly by checking out our photo albums on the site or our City Daycare Album, which we post to several times a week.