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Canine Behavior/submission urination and doggie daycare

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Question
Jody,
Thank you so much for your time. I have a 2 year old golden retriever, black lab mix. Bruno is a great family dog. He gets along well with our female chihuahua and neighbors dogs. We are going out of town for a few days and need to board him. He went a few times to a doggie daycare last year and some dog obedience. He hasn't been to a daycare setting in over a year, so I am a little nervous about him going now. He is neutered and not aggressive with other dogs (unless they are in our yard). He is if anything submissive. The other day at the vet when getting his annual shots and exam, he urinated on the floor. For a dog like this, would it be better to board him with our vet or would a doggie daycare be worth trying out? I know it is hard to access the situation well without having met the dog yourself but in general do dogs with urination submission do well in daycares? Thank you so much.

Answer
Thank you for your question and for putting Bruno's emotional comfort at the top of your list of priorities as you prepare to travel.

His urination at the vet is not unusual. Vet's offices are high stress environments. Most dogs are nervous to downright petrified when at the vet and every other animal there can feel/sense that anxiety and stress from the other animals. If Bruno senses the stress of another dog at the vet then this could easily increase his own anxiety about being there - "so there is a good reason to be scared because that other dog is clearly scared too!!"

It's important, though, that we not take a stress reaction in a high-stress environment as a "tell" for how Bruno might respond in a more relaxed and social environment.

If I were getting ready to go out of town and wanted to board my dogs, I would first make plans for my dogs (I have two) to be evaluated at a local dog daycare/boarding facility that I trust** to see if my dogs are a good fit in that environment. Do they get on with the current clientele. I would have my dogs spend a couple half-day sessions at day care in the week or two before going out of town so they can acclimate to that environment and I have time to make other arrangements if they're not enjoying the stay.

The other arrangements I would make would be to find a pet sitter to stay in my home while I'm gone. In fact, this is my first choice and the one I've made most often. Sometimes it's been a friend who just stays over, other times I've paid a professional to take care of my dogs. In the past, I've paid for someone to just come over for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to feed and love my dogs for a while. I have a dog door and a fenced back yard, so my dogs have ready access to potty. This choice worked for me years ago when my older dog was a very confident and comfortable dog. She has since passed away. The younger dog (now the oldest) and his little "brother" are a little less confident, so now I would pay to have someone stay overnight so they're not alone all night long.

My going away is stressful enough for my dogs. Keeping them in their familiar environment (home) and having a friend (actual friend or paid pet sitter) stay with them is my first choice for keeping my dogs comfortable while I'm out of town. I've done some pet sitting for some of my clients as well. Sometimes their dog stays with me at my house, others work out better when I stay at their house - that's mostly an issue of their dogs and my dogs getting along.

I would choose the vet for boarding only as a last resort because the vet, by nature, is a much higher stress environment. And at the vet, the dog will stay all day in a kennel, with 2 or 3 potty breaks per day and little opportunity to run around, play or de-stress.

**Choosing a good dog daycare/boarding facility can be a bit challenging. I encourage you to do some drop-in visits at one or two local facilities (or more if you have the time). Any legitimate operation should have no problem with you watching for a half hour or longer so you can see how the dogs behave, and more importantly, how the employees interact with the dogs. There should always be at least 2 humans in the space where the dogs play. The humans should be watching the dogs, not chatting with each other. If they are chatting, their eyes should still be on the dogs. They should be moving around the space periodically, disrupting and redirecting dogs whose play is getting a little too intense or going on for too long without self-imposed time-outs. They should be able to tell you how they break up fights if they occur. They should NOT be throwing dogs around, yanking, keeping dogs on leash in a leash-free area, etc. They should have quiet spaces where dogs can be put for rests if they need a break. There should be a schedule to the day. It should NOT just be 8 hours of play. Dogs will get overly tired and this can trigger aggressive outbursts. Instead, play time should be for 1-2 hours followed by snack and nap time for 1-2 hours. They can rotate this kind of schedule simply by pulling dogs that have been there for 2 hours into another, quiet space for nap time, then rotate those dogs back to play while other dogs are pulled for a break. They should be doing temperament assessments to properly place dogs of similar play style with each other, in different groupings and in different physical spaces. You don't want a dog who is overbearing and bully-ish hanging out with a group of fearful dogs. You don't want a tiny chihuahua hanging with a group of sight hounds with high prey drive who may see the little pup as a rodent worthy of chasing, etc.

The facility should be able to answer any questions you have about routines and safety protocols and should be comfortable with unannounced drop-ins for observation (without your dog). If you feel comfortable with what you see, then arrange an assessment for your dog (have his most recent shot records available as they'll require them for admittance). Then do a couple of half-day sessions or a half day followed by a whole day a few days later.

Ask about how they manage boarding dogs. They should NOT be in the play group all day long - as mentioned before, dogs normally rest about 17 hours of every 24. To be in a high-stimulation environment for 8-12 hours straight can lead to behavioral issues which may linger after he's back home.

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance. Have a nice trip!

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://GoodDog-DogTraining.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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