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?
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.
Dogs at Camp Cookstown Inc.www.dogsatcamp.com
On 27/01/10 Lori Gray wrote:
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?
From: Dogs at Camp Cookstown
Sent: January 28, 2010
To: Lori Gray
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.
Dogs at Camp Cookstown Inc.
From: Lori Gray
Sent: January 28, 2010
To: Dogs at Camp Cookstown
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.
From: Glen Kowarsky – Dogs at Camp
Sent: January 29, 2010
To: Lori Gray
Cc: Sabrina Nacinovich Dogs at Camp Cookstown
I am the CEO 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.
CEO, 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.
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.