Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dogs at Camp boarding kennel and daycare get a negative rating

Recently the daycare/boarding kennel where I have taken my dog for the last 4 years has closed their doors. I am saddened and miss them dearly. I have gained a dear friend in the owner of the business and deeply appreciate the excellent care they have taken of my sweet boy for the last 4 years. In shopping for a new facility for daycare/boarding services, I suddenly realize how invaluable the great service was! What I look for is someone to trust with the safety and well being of my beloved pet.

Dog owners everywhere can relate how important choosing the right kennel/daycare is for your pets. Their safety, happiness, security and well being are in the hands of someone else when we are not there to protect them. In an industry that is unregulated (pet training, daycare, boarding and dog walking) is “buyer beware” so to speak. None of these services fall under a licensed trade and other than municipal “inspections” there are no real regulations on these businesses. Often municipal inspections do not exist or they are overlooked. You must ask questions and do your homework. Never assume tasks are being performed.

There is no stipulation for credentials ie. background in training or real hands on animal experience. In my opinion a veterinary technician, dog walker, trainer, rescue worker or dog breeders do not necessarily qualify to be well versed in the monitoring of groups of dogs. The reason I say this is because they may or may not be experienced in a particular background but there is no way of measuring the competency level. 

Other than a veterinary technician, none of the backgrounds I mentioned require any formal training. That being said, veterinary technicians are not trained to run a daycare/boarding/training facility. They are trained to be a vet tech. Handy for first aid, but not necessarily the skills needed to run a daycare/boarding facility.

A daycare/boarding facility located near where I live called Dogs at Camp seemed like a good place to start my search for a new facility. It is closest to where I live. They are a franchise with locations in Uxbridge, Ottawa and Cookstown Ontario. I began with an email which I have included in its entirety. I believe you can learn a whole lot by asking several pointed questions.
Here is how things went... 

On 26/01/10  Lori Gray wrote:
Dear Dogs at Camp,

I was just looking over your website.
I have a couple questions.

Do you allow all dogs to attend your daycare/boarding?

What does your temperament test consist of when you are interviewing dogs for daycare? Who performs the test and what are the credentials?

How do you keep short haired dogs warm if they stay in a barn overnight?

How do you keep things clean where the dogs stay?

Thank you,
Lori Gray

Date: Wed,
27 Jan 2010
Subject: Re: Daycare/Boarding
From: Dogs at
Camp Cookstown

To: Lori Gray

Hi there Lori,

In answer to your questions – no we do not allow all dogs to stay with us.

We conduct a ‘visit’ prior to each dogs stay with us. This allows our staff to see how a new visiting dog interacts with our current campers. Assuming all goes well and we see no signs of dog or people aggression and we believe the new dog is suited for camp then he/she is permitted to stay with us. Another reason we do visits is to give you an opportunity to see our facility and you get a run through of what a day at camp is like. How the visit works is, you will arrive with your dog on leash and head down to the field/barn with a staff member who will explain some of the things we offer here. All the current dogs will be in the barn while your dog has an opportunity to take a sniff around our enclosed field off leash. Once he/she is comfortable we start letting dogs out of the barn and into the field one at a time. This allows us to assess a new ‘visiting’ dogs behaviour in a slow and non threatening way. Once all the dogs are in the field you will be taken into the barn where a staff member will run through our policies and procedures with you and answer any questions you may have. While you are inside – your dog will be in the field with the other staff member who will be monitoring your dogs interaction with the other dogs as well as how well he/she does without you there. At that point the visit is complete and we will let you know whether or not it was successful.

We have a fully heated barn and lots of beds – the dogs never get cold inside the barn. However, the winter months can be quite cold outside so we do have dogs jackets here that we will put on some of the shorter hair breeds if necessary. We also have Dogs at Camp dog jackets for purchase if a dog arrives without one.

In answer to your last question – the barn stays pretty clean because the dogs are constantly in and out of the barn so they have ample opportunity to eliminate outside. And since cleanliness is a priority for us we have an extensive daily cleaning schedule. All of the details of how we do this is reviewed during the visit.

If you have any further questions you can email back or give us a call in the office.


Sabrina Nacinovich
Camp Director
Dogs at Camp Cookstown Inc.

On 27/01/10 Lori Gray wrote:
Dear Sabrina,
Thanks for your reply.
So I assume you do not discriminate against breed, judging from your information. I didn't see anything noted on your website either.

My dog has been going to daycare his entire life and he is now 4 1/2. He plays well with all dogs and is well socialized. We do Rally O, CKC
confirmation, and obedience plus he goes to daycare one day a week. I doubt he'll have any problems passing your "visit". If you wouldn't mind answering for me, what are the credentials of the person performing the "visit" or testing.

What is your cost for daycare? What is your cost for boarding?

Lori Gray

From: Dogs at Camp Cookstown
Sent: January 28, 2010
To: Lori Gray

Hi Lori,

The staff that take you on the visit have been through an extensive 80 hour training program which includes several topics such as dog breeds, behaviour, and communication among the pack. They have also taken the steps to become Pet First Aid Certified. All staff are hired based on having some prior experience with dogs in one way or another. For example, our Camp Manager
is a veterinary technician and another employee runs her own dog rescue organization.

Our cost for Day Camp is $25/day or $200 for a 10 Day Camp Package.
Our boarding costs are as follows...

1 – 7 nights - $40/night
8 – 14 nights - $38/night
15 – 27 nights - $35/night
28 nights or more - $32/night

Just a couple questions for you...

What is your dogs name?
Is he neutered?
What is his breed?
Is he up to date on vaccinations?

Unfortunately, we do not accept Pit Bulls for boarding. We are a franchise and because of that we have certain policies we must abide by – this being one of them.

Thank you,

Sabrina Nacinovich
Camp Director
Dogs at Camp Cookstown Inc.


From: Lori Gray
Sent: January 28, 2010
To: Dogs at Camp Cookstown
Hi Sabrina,

Thanks again for your reply.

Please clarify your statement about not taking "pitbulls" for boarding? Is your policy only for boarding and not daycare? What do you classify as a "pitbull"? Are you including purebred dogs? I don't understand what you mean about franchise policy? Are you telling me the franchise is dictating which breeds or non breeds of dogs you can accept? Are you saying that you base behaviour on breed not training and socialization?
Please clarify your policy on this matter.


FW: Daycare/Boarding

From: Glen Kowarsky – Dogs at Camp
Sent: January 29, 2010
To: Lori Gray
Cc: Sabrina Nacinovich Dogs at Camp Cookstown

Hi Lori,

I am the
of Dogs at Camp Canada Ltd., the franchisor - and Sabrina forwarded me your email below, since part of what you’re asking about relates to the requirements by us (the franchisor) of franchisees.
In answer to your questions:
We do of course screen dogs for suitability within our camp setting based on temperament.  The only exception to that is the “pitbull’, as defined below.

 The Dog Owners Liability Act defines a ‘pitbull’ as follows:
· A pit bull terrier
· A Staffordshire bull terrier
· An American Staffordshire terrier
· An American pit bull terrier
· A dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs.

We realize that the last line of that definition is subjective, and as business owners we make that call to the best of our abilities in each case.

Our policy with respect to the dogs who fall within this category applies to both day campers and overnight campers, and at each of our locations. The reasons for our decision not to accept these dogs at camp have to do with two concerns:  Firstly, we are dealing each and every day with large groups of dogs, and our clients have been very clear with us over the 8 years during which we’ve been in business, that given the nature of our boarding environment - we adhere to the same laws put in place for the sake of the ‘public’ by the Province.  Additionally, in our early years in business - we did accept these dogs, and though some of them are and were wonderful dogs, we saw some unprovoked and unpredictable behaviour in enough instances  to decide not to continue to accept these dogs.  Even if it is rare, un unlikely, and has not been seen by the owner, the fact is that the jaws of these dogs are particularly strong, and on the occasions on which we saw the behaviour to which I’m referring, it was very difficult to separate the dogs because of the strength of their jaws, and, the resulting damage they can do (and did) was and is of enough concern to us to have made that decision.

In terms of the requirement we have in place for each franchisee:    As a franchisor, by way of franchise agreements, we do indeed dictate all aspects of the operations of our facilities to franchisees, who must then abide by all of our policies and our procedures, without exception.

Lori, I realize based on your email that you may have one of these breeds, but if not, please correct me.  In our minds, there is no such thing as a ‘bad dog’.  Dogs are innocent and wonderful animals...each and every one of them.  If there is behaviour that we see in a breed which is of concern, it can at times come from characteristics resulting from many many years of breeding dogs for particular purposes.  The dogs are therefore doing exactly what human beings have bred them to do.  In our minds, therefore, there is no ‘blame’ and as I said, no ‘bad dog’.   Our policy is simply a business decision which we feel is best for our type of business.

If you don’t have one of these breeds, please – as I mentioned – correct me, and if you’d like to visit with your dog, we’d be happy to arrange that.



Glen Kowarsky
, Dogs at Camp Canada Ltd.

I have chosen not to respond to Glen’s email response to me. I feel it is a better use of my time to inform you, the public since none of this information is on their website.

There are a couple points I would like to make.

The jaw pressure reference is urban legend known by anyone who is “hip” to dogs, and has been disproven by no less than National Geographic. That tells me quite a lot about the knowledge of dogs in general or lack thereof. 

-There is no such thing as a “pitbull”. NO ONE is qualified to determine the breeds of a cross bred dog. The four pure breeds mentioned are so incredibly rare in this province that I doubt anyone at Dogs at Camp has met one. What Glen is telling me is that if I own ANY OTHER breed or cross breed of dog other than the ones he has mentioned, they have no problems accepting them, based on their “visit”.  Is Glen telling me is they are equipped to deal with any dog upward of 250 lbs that decides to behave aggressively with any other dog or person but they aren’t equipped to deal with a 25 lb to 75 lb well-socialized dog?

- Glen mentioned they had “unprovoked and unpredictable behaviour with these dogs” in the past. An experienced dog handler can "read" a dog and know the dog's next move.  Does 80 hours of training give a person sufficient experience with different temperaments and types of dogs to allow them to call themselves "experienced" dog handlers? 

- “Our clients have been very clear with us over the 8 years during which we’ve been in business, that given the nature of our boarding environment - we adhere to the same laws put in place for the sake of the ‘public’ by the Province”. I find it quite the contrary.  Most dog owners would rather leave their dogs in the care of businesses that base policy on knowledge and experience, not discrimination and myth.

Do you feel safe taking your dog to Dogs at Camp? It is entirely up to you just as it is any establishment's prerogative to write their policies.

Have you had an experience with a dog related business good or bad? Please email me at brindlestick@gmail.com

This has prompted me to do an in depth investigation into dog related business around the province. I think dog owners regardless of breed may be interested in checking my results before shopping around.

Stay tuned for more investigations.


  1. 25 years operating a boarding and grooming business in Eastern Ontario, I would never put a pack of strange dogs out together within the time frame that they say they operate. It is okay to see Cesar Milan and his pack all running the hills of LA, but he has spent countless numbers of hours with each of those dogs ensuring its' suitability for pack acceptance. A short visit such as this 'camp' are talking about leads me to suspect that these people know absolutely nothing about pack behaviour, dog hierarchy and social dominance or training. That they have already seen 'unprovoked and unpredictable' incidences confirms in my mind that they know not what they do, for if they did they would not have had an opportunity to 'see' these incidences in the first place because they would have forseen problems and not allowed them to occur!

  2. Appropriate that the security word I had to type was 'MISBUL' ;-)

  3. Exactly the sort of comment I was going to make. I am a groomer who working in a boarding kennel for years.

    It really bothers me to see so many kennels following this type of model - letting all of the dogs run wild together. It's an incident (or several really) waiting to happen. The paranoid side of me says, don't leave your dog - any dog - but especially a targeted breed in a situation where anything could possibly happen and you will never know what really did occur. It only takes one
    person working there who either has a breed phobia or just isn't as good with dogs as they'd like to be to create a problem.

    Unfortunately the vast majority of boarding kennel operators (not all but many) have precious little experience with behavior. Many seem to get into boarding because
    they think it's easy money, just play with the dogs all day. Until something happens. And it does. All of the time. Not only are dog owners putting their dogs at risk of being traumatized and possibly injured by
    other dogs during play or fights, there is also the disease factor. Extreme
    contact with a revolving door of strange dogs just doesn't appeal to me, and
    just last week I was told by two different dog owners who went to two
    different kennels where the dogs run and play together, that their dogs came
    home with serious eye infections (which btw went unnoticed at both kennels
    and were only noticed when the owners picked the dogs up).

    Quite frankly I would be hard pressed to leave my dog in any kennel at all. At least I'd be very, very picky.

  4. Well, if they're going by the "Similar appearance" idiocy, I assume they're not taking Labs, Bostons, Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, Boxers,... etc etc

    I'm not sure what that leaves - poodles, maybe?

  5. Here at TopDog K9 services, We run a dog daycare and provide homestyle overnight care
    We do an two hours assessment on dogs that come into attend daycare, during that time all the current dogs are taken to the outside playarea with a dog daycare attendent. Then either Kacy or myself or both of us start the assessment. We let dogs in one at a time and watch and monitor the interactions between the "new" dog and the current dog(s). Fights start long before the fur flies and it is of paramount importances that staff are aware of the cue's given.
    We discrimate based on the dogs behaviour not lineage. We have more then one of the "banned" breed times or crosses in our data base and have yet to fail one for dangerous or inappropriate behaviours. It is usually one of boxer or lab hertiage that requires special scrunity.
    Any time you have a group of dogs running and playing together it brings potential for trouble. HOwever under careful watch it also provides dogs with a wonderful opportunity to release some engery and learn good canine interaction skills. We have been directly responsible for more then one dog being either re-homed or put to sleep by coming here for exercise and play times.
    BTW we have had Lori's dog Justice here for classes on severval occasions and I would not hesistate for one second to bring him into daycare or for overnight care.
    Kathy Currie Eyers
    TopDog K9 Services

  6. I think something we can take away from this is; it is important that each person be responsible for their own actions be it training or socialization of your dog. Most people who are actively looking for training, daycare etc are likely good owners. It is counter productive to discriminate against a person based on what breed of dog they own but rather lead by example. It is a responsibility of people in the "dog business" to educate and provide dog owners with factual and useful productive information. I try my utmost to expose my dog to as much as possible and provide him with the stimulation necessary to give him a balanced and well adjusted life. It is also my responsibility to look after his safety. I follow my instinct for that and will continue to do everything I can to protect him from harm and ignorance.
    The CKC offers CGN (Canine Good Neighbor) certificates for dogs that pass the CGN testing. Justice has his CGN and the DLCC participates by hosting testing days often. Possibly some dog facilities would care to incorporate a CGN certified dog into consideration for patronage? Seems like a better place to start than by breed or non breed ("pitbull").
    Thanks for your comments everyone. Very good points are brought up.

  7. A couple of small points:

    1. The jaw nonsense was scientifically disproved by Dr Lehr Brisbin's Postdoc and appeared in 1989 in the Proceedings of the South Carolina Academy of Sciences. It followed a rigorous scientific methodology and remains unchallenged. The Nat Geo test was a little more 'pop' in that it showed dogs gripping a 'bite-o-meter' but was still acceptable. Anyone who is still spouting the superstition about preternatural strength 21 years later should refrain from commenting on any aspect of the 'pit bull' (lol) situation in future, since they don't have any facts at hand.

    2. Small correction, there are 3, not 4, breeds banned in Ontaristan.

    3. These wankers have been in business for 8 years (supposedly) and have followed the Ontario govt's policy for that period. The law has been in place for 4 years and 6 months as of the end of Feb, so these clowns were idiots even before the Fiberals jumped on the ban wagon.

    4. The fact that one says they have no problems with dogs and the other says they've had incidents of aggression should be straightened out. Sounds like the left hand doesn't know the same story as the right hand.

    I wouldn't leave my dog with these clowns for several reasons.

    Thanks for the heads up, Brindlestick!

  8. More questions to ask any boarding place:

    How many staff are on duty during the day, and at night? Get a specific number for each time frame to see if there's enough staff to feed, water, exercise and care for the dogs, including evacuating them in the event of emergency.

    What are their evacuation procedures in the event of fire, a gas leak, any emergency?

    Does the vet come to the facility in the event of emergency? If not, how is the dog transported to the vet?

    What anti-theft and anti-fire safety measures are in place?

    How old is the wiring in the barn, and is it encased in metal pipes to prevent mice chewing?

    Thanks for the headsup on these operations. These Dogs At Camp people have NO freaking idea of what they're doing, allowing packs of dogs to run free with no control. I wouldn't leave a Liberal MPP with them, and that says a lot.

  9. I have been taking my dogs to this camp for years and they truly do run a fantastic business. Regardless of this pitbull talk or not, we are discussing if the camp itself is safe and I as a dog owner, and doggy foster mom have never had any concerns nor have I ever heard of concerns. We clearly have a number of pitbull lovers on this board, myself being one of them, but to attack the integrity of the camp for not accepting this "breed" is a stretch. Clearly, a number of misinformed people have posted here, people who have never visited the camp, and are writing with their hearts, not their heads.

  10. First of all Anonymous, I am happy for you that you are a "pitbull" lover. "Pitbulls" don't actually exist. They are not a breed nor are they likely to have any of the 3 purebred banned breed lineage in their history due to the rarity of all three of the breeds. They are a type of dog that are cross bred dogs of unknown origin. There are approx. 96 breeds commonly referred to as "pitbulls". Dogs at Camp do not accept any of the purebreds named as banned in DOLA nor do they take any short haired mutts which I guess is what you are referring to as "pitbulls". People who spout BS about "pitbulls" being different or characteristically similar to each other with "breed" traits are full of BS themselves. I judge people on their knowledge of dogs and capabilities in dealing with dogs on how much they know about this issue. It is glaringly apparent that Dogs at Camp are uninformed on the issue of breed discrimination. There is no emotion involved, simply stating the facts. The email speak volumes. If anyone is misguided by irrational thoughts it would be those who call themselves "pitbull" lovers yet choose to discriminate against dog owners based not on their dog's behavior, but how they look. This speaks volumes about the integrity of the business. Because of the anti dog legislation that exists in this province, businesses like this can legally discriminate until such time that we have the ban repealed. Don't you worry, I wouldn't trust anyone with my dog, that is willing to discriminate based on looks instead of judging the possible visitor based on how the dog behaves. That applies to any dog regardless of breed or looks. I highly doubt visiting the camp would change the mindset of those running it or my opinion of them. Too bad so many people still believe you can actually judge a dog's behavior based on how they look as opposed to giving every dog a chance to prove themselves. It sure makes sense that my dog that is a purebred American Staffordshire Terrier who has a CGN certificate, agility training, Rally O training, obedience training and has attended daycare his whole life cannot attend Dogs At Camp because he is an American Staffordshire Terrier! One of less than 30 CKC registered AST's in Ontario!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Tried to email you but it bounces back so here it is. I read your blog posting today while I was online looking for a dog boarding facility for my two dogs for the new year. I have to tell you it was absolutely humorous. As a business owner myself I often find myself turning clients away for one reason or another when they come across as potential "pains in the ass". I find that it's often better to avert a potential problem before it gets to that point And I've learned that turning down the client and their sale (aka profit) is better than completing the sale and the nonsense that ensues. So, have you considered that the daycare/boarding facility was actually rejecting 'you' and using your dog as an excuse? I can tell you that if you sent me emails like that I just quite frankly wouldn't want you as a client. Your emails were sent as though you were looking for confrontation from the moment you hit the send key. I just booked my dogs in there for January. It's a fabulous place!

  13. Anonymous, I was well aware of their policy before I emailed Dogs at Camp. Have you ever heard of discrimination? I am happy it worked out for you. I suspect Dogs at Camp is encouraging people to comment on this post. I expected that but the fact still remains that they should be ashamed of themselves for judging dogs based on looks as there is NO evidence that dogs are dangerous or predisposed to aggression based on breed or looks! This is a fact and I don't care how much wanks want to yap on that this is true. Furthermore there is no such breed as a "pitbull" and I am not sure how they are identifying them since nobody else in the world seems to. I guess they just turn away all short haired mutts.
    I would never have trusted this business with my dogs since the questions I asked in the email were legit questions that I am entitled to know prior to choosing where to board my dog. I have used several other boarding kennels in this area that do not discriminate such as Top Dog K-9 in Barrie, Pampered Pet Lodge in Tottenham, Arctic Light Kennel in Tottenham, and M & M Country Pet Resort in Rosemont. None of these kennels seem to have a problem discriminating against dog breeds or shapes so yes it is a free world but I choose to put the word out there so people are aware of business' policy to save them some time and embarrassment that they may be turned away for their dog's breed or "looks".
    I suppose if there was a business in town that turned away people from shopping there that were of a certain race you would continue to shop there based on someone was being a "pain in the ass" or confrontational to call them on it?
    I wonder why you chose not to sign your name to your comment? You may have got some extra coupons or discount for mentioning your ignorance on this blog post...

  14. Lori,
    Who peed in your cornflakes this morning? Dogs at camp provides a great service to dogs and their owners that want a clean, safe and fun place for their dogs to stay, without being caged. My dog has come home happy, well exercised, and not showing any of the stress he would exhibit if caged. I choose to support this business, and want my dog to be safe at all times.
    I bet your dog is a great dog and would never do any harm. However you have chosen a breed with a reputation. Your choice. Bitching won't change the rules. Go visit a kid that has to live with the scars from a vicious dog bite. You sound a bit crazy. Tone it down. Why don't you start a dog camp for Staffordshire Terriers? With the attitude you have shown in your emails, I think it is you they should be concerned about, not your dog.

  15. Anon, I am not sure what point you are trying to make? Nobody peed in my cornflakes. Discrimination against dog owners that own a certain breed of dog no matter if there is an unjust propaganda campaign against them or not, simply is not just or right. I personally base my judgement of people's knowledge in the dog business, who I might add should damn well know better, on what stance they take on breed discrimination. The huge majority of kennels, daycare facilities, training centers etc do not have discriminatory policies.
    This is an old post so I went back and re-read my email to Dogs at Camp. In my opinion I was not confrontational at all. I asked straight forward questions that required simple answers.
    You are the one being confrontational and for that matter left of center! Calling me crazy and your last paragraph quite frankly shows your complete and utter ignorance.
    If I started a camp for American Staffordshire terriers it wouldn't be very damn busy since there are less than 30 of them registered in the whole province. What you are referring to are mutts of unknown lineage and YOU are also discriminating yapping on about your bs about kids and bites. If you really had some knowledge you would know that the breeds responsible for the most severe and common bites/attacks are not ones named in the legislation. I won't mention them since I prefer to blame the owner not the dog or breed.
    I do far more than bitch about the rules. We have a Bill tabled up for second reading Feb 23rd to repeal the ban. It is tri party supported and there never really was much support for this ridiculous ban in the first place. All other jurisdictions are repealing such as Holland that also did a 10 yr study proving breed discrimination did nothing to prevent bites/attacks nor did it help public safety! If you would like to have a rational conversation where you might actually learn something, email me. Attacking me personally on my blog is not acceptable and doubly so since you do not have the balls to post your name. You must be "neutered"? :)
    Run be free now.. I'm super happy for you that you love DAC. I guess it's a free world? at least unless you own one of the "dogs with a bad reputation"? Quit ragging on me for speaking my mind, you are sounding a bit crazy...