Policies & Procedures
We operate transparently and encourage you to ask questions and discuss any concerns so that we have the opportunity to address them before they fester. You will find us open to reasonable and mature dialogue.
People often comment about how quiet and relaxed our facility feels. The calm, fun energy is no accident. Dogs get into more altercations and become sick more often when living in a loud, frantic, out-of-control environment. This is why we work very hard to manage the behavior of our guests so that everyone is happier and healthier.
Although we are maniacal about health and safety, anywhere dogs play in groups there is the potential for fights, injuries, and even death. Our handlers cannot have eyes on every dog every second; however, they have been trained to keep an active lookout, to observe body language, and to intervene at the first sign of a problem. Precious few boarding and daycare businesses provide this level of oversight.
Problem behaviors, to list just a few, include jumping on people, playing too aggressively, showing domineering body language, barking, chewing or scratching on bedding, doors, etc. The same behaviors a responsible dog owner would correct at home.
Because we’re focusing here on negative behaviors, I point out that our main focus isn’t on correcting negative behavior but on rewarding positive. We don’t use treats because with dogs in a group they can cause disagreements and altercations. Instead, we use lots of verbal praise and physical affection.
Striking or Kicking
We never use physical violence—striking, punching, kicking, etc. If an employee is observed abusing an animal physically, he or she will be fired on the spot.
The exception: if, for example, two dogs are fighting and in danger or injuring or killing one another or a person. If no other methods have worked to stop the altercation, we have no choice to do whatever we must. Because of how we screen new clients and manage the behavior of our pack, this is extremely rare.
Voices, Energies, and Bodies
A person always has his or her voice, energy, and body to use as tools to correct inappropriate behavior. We will say, “No!,” clap our hands, stomp our feet, perhaps use a finger or thumb to give a poke to redirect his or her attention to us and away from the behavior. We might slap a rolled-up newspaper on a counter, rap on a wall or door, etc. The main idea is to, without causing physical or mental harm, show the dog he or he is doing the wrong thing.
We use water bottles as a benign but effective method of correction when a dog is behaving poorly. This works especially well when dog is several feet away and able to ignore us. Spraying a water bottle is a way, without causing stress or physical harm, to get a dog’s attention and stop a bad behavior.
We do not use them for boarding or day play guests. Our trainer will use an e-collar for certain specific situations with dogs in training. Please see E-collars document for specifics.
Vibration Collars (for Barking)
If a dog barks continuously, and no other methods has worked to quiet him or her, we will, at our discretion, place a vibrating collar on him or her. It vibrates like a restaurant pager and serves as way to distract the dog so we can then reward it for being quiet. If this doesn't work, we can try a bark collar (see below).
In the rare occasion a dog barks incessantly and ignores all appeasement and correction, we use a bark collar with the owner’s permission. We use a specific model that is the most gentle on the market. It gives an audible warning and then, if the dog keeps barking, the collars emits a very slight static electricity as if someone had dragged his or her feet on the carpet and touched him. The correction level increases slightly as the dog continues barking but after a few stops it resets and starts again from the beginning with the sound.
We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to have us show them how our bark collars work and feel. Again, their use is only a last resort with permission. If a dog continually barks or behaves poorly despite our repeated efforts to teach him or her, we will politely decline to host him or her again.
E-Collar & Bark
Over the years, several people have criticized me for using e-collars (“shock” collars). I can understand their position because I myself used to be very averse to them. Who would shock his or her dog? How cruel! But I noticed that, without exception, no critic ever asked me how I use the collars. Their criticism seemed based at least partly on assumption and conjecture.
Here’s how I use them.
Because I had never seen an e-collar in person and had not observed one in use, my past reaction to them was also based on what I imagined and assumed. When I moved west twenty-plus years ago, I noticed many people using e-collars to recall their dogs from long distances. A few people demonstrated their use to me, including the “shock” feature. I was amazed to learn the process was not as I had imagined, and eventually I began employing using the collars.
Today I employ them mostly for long-distance recall when a dog is too far to see me or hear my command. Though one may exist, I'm not aware of a more effective tool for this situation.
Mine is a 1-2-3 process: 1.) I give the “come” command, 2.) If the dog ignores me or is too far away to hear or see, I press the vibrate button which feels identical to a restaurant pager. And that is what they learn: Come when paged. 3.) If the dog doesn’t come then, I tingle him by pressing the shock button at a low level. (“Tingle” is the word my clients most often use to describe the shock.) The sensation does not cause pain, but it is a bit clearer than the vibrate and tends to get the dog’s attention when he is distracted by, say, a deer.
My use of e-collars is not about hurting; it is about getting attention, about being able to recognize a command is being given. And I accomplish that using the lowest stimulation level possible.
Is there ever a time when I will truly shock a dog? Yes. If he or she is about to cause physical harm to a person or another dog, I will use whatever stimulation level I must to stop that behavior. Of course, if other means are available (separation board, water hose, etc.), I will use it. For example, if the dog is on a leash, I have control and do not need an e-collar. But I will use a collar when necessary to avoid serious injury or death to me, another person, or another dog.
98% of the time, my e-collar use is command-vibrate-tingle. I use a stimulation level one would describe as a “shock” only when life and limb are at risk. Occasionally I will also use a shock when teaching a dog to stop other life-threatening behaviors such as chasing wildlife, cars, etc.
Before I train a dog using an e-collar, I explain its use to the owner and have him and/or her feel the vibrate and stimulation levels. This is mandatory or I will not teach a dog the e-collar. The owner needs to understand what their dog will experience.
I want note here that e-collars, like any tool, can be used abusively. Many times I’ve seen people truly shock their dogs to the point that are yelping in pain. Most of these instances have been a result of ignorance, of owners unfamiliar with e-collars and their use. I’ve also seen a few trainers, those whose methods are more militaristic than mine, use them often and harshly. This is hard to watch.
There’s no doubt e-collars can be abusive, but so can a collar, leash, or any tool. As a horse trainer once told me: “It’s not the bit but the hands that use it.”
I understand that some trainers and dog owners are adamant that e-collars are categorically harmful. And some believe not only their belief is correct, but that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong and must believe as they do. I do not practice bigotry; instead, I respect and honor their views though they differ from my own.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact me. You’ll find me open to questions, suggestions, and discussion.