By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
This is an article for those who need to send their dogs to daycare or boarding facilities.
As dog owners, we need to leave our dogs in care of others sometimes. Be it dog daycare, boarding place, the vet or the groomer, etc.
We may feel bad or even guilty. It is a human nature to feel that way, but I think most of the times it’s a selfish act.
We think about our own feelings because we will be missing the dog and I know some dogs miss us too, but we have to teach them just the same way we need to teach ourselves that it is OK to be separated sometimes. I believe the hard part is letting go and the separation itself.
I see many of my clients being emotional as they leave their dogs at our playcare for few hours.
Recently my wife and I needed to take a trip overseas where we couldn’t, well, actually we didn’t want our dogs with us so we had to leave our dogs in someone else’s care. This meant finding the appropriate place that we could leave our dogs with. Unfortunately, we don’t have family members who can look after our dogs and we feel bad to leave 2 handful dogs with our friends. It’s just not fair to them.
First, we had to find the place and then we had to deal with the emotional part of it. Years ago, I did a research to find the best kennel or boarding place for our dogs in greater Vancouver area and we were surprised by the results we got. That itself is a different article.
Finding the place
The first part is finding a place. When looking for dog daycare, boarding place, vet or groomer you need to find a place that you really feel comfortable leaving your dog. You want to find a place where your dog would be really safe and you are not going to worry about your dogs(s) while staying there. You need to do your homework well in advance. This is a very important part and many dog owners have failed in doing a thorough job in this part.
You can’t just make a decision based on emotions and the looks of the place or what you see on a website or even based on the front desk of the place that you visit. Most places are designed and marketed to entice dog owners, the humans not the dogs. Remember, the place that you are selecting is not for you to stay. It is for your dogs to stay and it should be safe and configured for dogs.
What I mean is that the environment and the facility should be dog friendly and designed with dog’s safety and comfort in mind. Although many places claim that their facilities are or feel like home setting, the reality is that it is not your dog’s home. It is a place that your dog is staying temporarily.
Just imagine, when you go for a day trip or vacation, you are not in your home setting. Actually, that is the fun part of it where you are not at your home and you get to do things that you usually don’t do or wouldn’t do at your home.
The same thing should be considered for your dog. They are smart enough to know that they are not in their home and they are also on a day trip or on vacation and their owners are away. Think of it this way, as you are going away on vacation, your dog is on vacation too. With this kind of mind set you will make it easier for yourself and your dog to let go of the emotional attachment.
I have visited many boarding places or daycares for dogs, which I will not leave my dog for a second there but the business is always full and dog owners are flooding in. The reason is because most of these places cater to the dog owners and not to the dogs. Some of the places that I visited in order to select for my own dogs were horrible, dirty, jail like and signs of dogs that have been stressed and frustrated to stay there were visible. I need to emphasize that the way I researched for my ideal place for my dogs was different than any other dog owner. I looked at it from a dog owner, a dog expert and a person who is in a dog related business point of view.
After researching and visiting several places, I learned that in these day and age you cannot believe what you see on a website. You need to go and check out the place with your own eyes and trust your guts. Since all dog related businesses are not regulated, people can operate any type of business and claim anything. The results are that you get an industry that is somewhat falls which makes it complicated for dog owners and impossible for them to know and trust individuals. I am sure there are some businesses out there that provide the best service but you need to do your homework to find them.
I also think dog owners should be more open minded and be aware of what kind of service they expect and should ask for it. Dog owners need to know what their dog’s needs are and try to find a service provider that can deliver that level of expected service for their dog.
Dog owners need to ask more and require better service so the industry can produce it and improve it. I can’t believe how and why some of the businesses that I visited had clients and were in business in the first place. The things that bothered me were simple things that should bother any human being and especially any dog owner. From what I saw, some of the businesses should not be operating.
But finally, we found a place that was in our likings and provided the ideal environment and service for our dogs. We were happy that we could leave our dogs in a safe place and not worry about them.
The Mind Game
Once you find the ideal place, the rest is a mind game that you need to work on. What I mean by mind game is that you need to let go of your dog. If you have done your homework and you are confident in leaving your dog at certain location you need to go over the second important part which is to understand that dogs live in the moment and go with the flow.
Let me explain what it means when we say dogs live in a moment. It is not that dogs don’t have a concept of time but they don’t focus on it as humans do. We keep track of time constantly but dogs don’t. Every moment for them is now and every past moment is past, gone and forgotten. They are not even thinking about an hour from now. They don’t even know how long an hour is. They may know a day concept based on rising and setting of the sun and moon but they don’t measure it. Therefore, all they think about is this very moment and now and maybe few seconds from now.
So, they have no idea or don’t plan that they will miss you in 5 minutes or in 5 hours. Their focus is usually on few things especially if it involves play, food or sleep. These can distract your dog’s mind so much that they do not even realize that you are not with them. So, they kind of forget about you which is a good thing and you should not take it personally.
The last thing for you to understand is that dogs are not multitasker which means that they can only focus on one thing and one thing alone. When they focus on one thing, they do a great job on that. They will put all their heart and soul into it which is a good thing and a bad thing. From dog’s point of view if they focus on certain thing, it would be hard for them to focus on anything other than that thing. Let’s say if your dog focuses on you leaving him, he will focus on that task rather than let’s say play or sleep.
But fortunately, most dogs focus on play or socialization and other fun stuff when they are dropped off at a daycare or a boarding facility but some dogs due to lack of social skills and not having spent enough time away from their owners have a hard time focusing on the positive part of the experience. If your dog is one of them, you may want to begin teaching and working on your dog’s socialization and their tolerance level.
So, how are you supposed to feel when you drop off your dog?
First of all, you need to be confident that your dog is going to stay in a well-managed, clean and safe place and it will be fine. If you are not confident, it may mean that you need to work on it by finding the right place. Then if you need to, make some changes in your dog’s life and your relationship by adding some form of training to your dog’s life so your dog can gain confidence in its ability to tolerate your absent.
Once you and your dog have gained confidence in those matters, you need to work on your emotions to let it go.
When you have the confidence and you feel positive about all the aspects of the experience, then you need to let go of your dog. Don’t be a helicopter mom or dad. You will see your dog soon and everything is going to be fine because you have done your homework. There is nothing to worry about. If everything is fine and you are having a hard time letting go, then you are thinking about yourself only and you are being selfish. That is not the proper way of thinking or the right state of mind. You are ignoring your dog’s feelings and you are focusing on yours. The only reason that you can be selfish is to think about why are you taking the time off or why are you going on holidays. Are you trying to relax? Are you trying to refresh your mind and soul? Are you taking some time off from dogs? Whatever the reason it might be, focus on the reason you are taking the time off rather than your dog. If you don’t, you are wasting the time, the effort and the money that you are spending to get away. You don’t get the benefit of the time off.
I also want you to start believing in something called “the energy”, if you don’t believe in it yet. In most cases and with more sensitive dogs, there is this invisible energy that is shared between dogs and their owners. These dogs tend to be emotionally focused on you while you are absent and as you think about them while on your trip, they feel the energy and think about you which causes them be stressed out while you are away.
Have you ever experienced that your partner maybe out and all of a sudden your dog gets anxious or excited, maybe starts walking around, being more alert and few minutes later all of a sudden your partner arrives home? That is the energy that I am talking about. How does the dog know that? How do they feel that? Are they psychics? No, they are very connected to your energy. Something that not many humans practice and experience but dogs always do.
This is why you need to focus on positive energy rather than negative energy so you can have positive results. Always make sure that you think about everything logically and not with your heart. Most times dog owners make mistakes when it comes to their dogs and the decisions that they need to make for their dogs because they made them with their hearts and not minds.
Your heart can make the wrong choice but your mind will always make the right choice.