Below doesn’t have anything to do with pet food, but having a great deal of experience in the area – it’s a subject that I thought I’d share. I recently read an article about a Dog Day Care who had the unfortunate experience of a dog escaping the facility in the middle of the day and no one noticed. At the end of the day, the dog’s owners (brand new to this daycare) returned to pick up their dog and…no dog. The article did not provide any information if there was a happy ending to the story – so we don’t know if Fido returned home.
But what the article did share was that – after the fact – the owners told the day care that the dog was a fence climber. Everyone assumed the little guy (Beagle) climbed the six foot fence and was gone before anyone noticed the escape.
I used to own a kennel and training facility in Louisville, KY. One time – over the Christmas and New Years holiday – a new family brought me two Cocker Spaniels to board for two week during their vacation. The wife dropped the dogs off and shared with me that both dogs needed to have their ears cleaned every day (Cockers – with those heavy ears are prone to ear infections and tend to need extra care). Since I was not familiar with the dogs – I questioned the owner about how easily the dogs would allow a stranger to clean their ears (things are better these days – but back then many Cockers were very ‘bite’ prone to strangers – add an ear cleaning to the mix and now you know why I asked that question). The owner assured me this gets done everyday and that both dogs were fine with it. They seemed friendly enough, so…day one I get the dogs out and play with them a bit to relax them. With my ear cleaner and cotton balls at hand, I went to one of the dogs to begin the cleaning. I promptly received the worst bite (still the record holder) of my entire career working with thousands and thousands of dogs. I thought the dog crushed my finger actually. And he wouldn’t let go. It was one of those moments (probably would have been comical had it not hurt so bad) where while one hand was locked between the jaws of this dog (he was making a very strong point he didn’t want his ears cleaned!) – the other hand had to pry open it’s mouth to get my hand back.
Fast forward two weeks to when the owners were to pick up the dogs…this time it was the husband who picked them up (wife dropped them off). As soon as he came in the door I informed him that the dogs never got their ears cleaned and that the male bit me badly on my first attempt. His reply…”oh yeah, I’m sorry, they bite us all the time when we do that too!”
The point to my sharing these stories is this – when you take your pet to a Groomer or Vet or Kennel or where ever – PLEASE tell the pet care provider things that you know about your pet’s behavior and/or personality. Had the dog Day Care known the Beagle was a fence climber – they could have (should have) taken precautions to make sure the little guy did not escape. Had the owners of the cockers shared with me that they bite when their ears are cleaned – a quick little muzzle put on them would have kept their ears in good health and my fingers in better health! I’ve got a million more stories just like the two above – and my only guess is that some pet owners are a little bit ashamed of their pet’s behavior sometimes – so they don’t want to tell a pet professional about it! My advice to you is to get over the embarrassment and tell the pet professionals that work with you and your pet anything and everything they might need to know. This information will keep your pet safer and healthier – and keeps the pet professional online to do their job to their best ability.
On the other hand – there are many pet care providers out there that just don’t care enough. I’ve seen many of them – and I cringe when I think about the heartbreak they could cause because of their reckless or careless behavior. I wish I could tell you exactly how to avoid those type of pet professionals – but I can’t. I can however give you some suggestions from the perspective of someone who took care of pets for a living.
1. Everything in the pet business should be clean, clean, clean! I’m not kidding when I say this – my kennel and training facility was cleaner than my home. And I firmly believe that if the pet business owner doesn’t care enough about the cleanliness of the facility – what else don’t they care about? The business doesn’t have to be ‘state of the art’ modern – but it should be very clean.
2. Meet the staff. Not just the person at the desk – try to meet, look in the eye, and talk with as many of the employees as you can. That’s a little difficult – especially from the business owners perspective – but those are the folks that will be caring for your baby, try your best.
3. Get references – and call those references. There is nothing better to calm the nerves of a nervous pet owner than to talk with other pet owners who have experienced the care provided by this pet business.
4. Depending on your state – some pet care businesses are guided by local Animal Control licensing. If that is the case in your state, call the licensing agency and ask about any reports of abuse or misconduct with this business. At the very least, check with the BBB.
Tips for boarding pets.
If you are boarding a pet for the first time – don’t make it a week long stay for the very first boarding experience. Do at least one – one night-er – before any long stay. If you look at it from your pet’s perspective – they don’t understand why you are leaving them in this ‘place’. The most anxious of pets can handle a one night-er and it will give them confidence that you will return for them. And if the kennel allows it – bring ‘things’ from home. A couple of toys and the best is an old towel that you used to dry yourself after your morning shower. That towel has ‘home’ smells on it and it helps to give them a little comfort. I get a little nervous about bones at a kennel – ya never know what could happen with bones (swallowing a big piece, it splinters and is swallowed, and so forth). If you do provide a bone for your dog, make sure it is a pork hide bone – they are the most digestible. Any bedding can be torn to shreds in the blink of an eye – so only take bedding that you can afford to lose (I’ve got stories about this too!). Even my own dogs at my own kennel used old comforters while they were boarded instead of their regular beds.
Many kennels allow pets from the same family to board in the same room. I always did this, but I can tell you for certain, this isn’t always the best thing either. Just imagine if you and your sister were put into a small room together for a week. Everyone can get a little grumpy after a couple of days. And things can get even more interesting when it comes to meal times. If you board pets together – make sure there is plenty of playtime and out of the ‘room’ activity.
I would suggest you bringing your own food – you don’t want to add a change in diet to the stress of being away from home. And do the kennel a favor and put meal servings into baggies – all ready to serve. For cats, I would even suggest bringing your own litter. Keep things as normal as possible.
Always have updated immunizations – provide good emergency numbers and information – and make sure and tell the kennel of any behaviors they might need to know to keep your pet safe.
One more story…A big beautiful Golden Retriever was brought to my business to board (first time). The dog was very friendly and I saw no problems for him during his stay. Several days into his week – all the morning chores were done so I locked the door and took care of some errands. During the 90 minutes I was gone a pretty loud thunder storm blew up. What I didn’t know was that this big gentle dog was deathly afraid of storms. I returned to find blood all over the floor of his room from him scratching and biting the walls, the door, everything to get away from the storm. He was fine – a little shook up – but fine – and yes, his owners got an earful from me when they returned. This poor dog should have not had to experience that much trauma all by himself- all they needed to do was tell me about his fears. He continued to board with us for many years – but after that first stay and the lesson he taught us – we knew how to protect him in case of bad weather.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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