Why we Chose Enrichment Play Daycare
What is Enrichment Play Daycare and why have we chosen this for our facility?
Short answer, our program is like choosing Yale University over a State University.
Old Daycare Model
We have been part of the International Boarding Association for decades and have seen Daycare become something that dog owners really wanted for their dogs. Owners wanted their pets to get out of the house while they were working all day, get them some much needed exercise and to have them socialize with other dogs.
As a behaviorist, working for over 40 years in the animal field, helping in rescue and with many dogs owners, I have never been fond of the play all day model. It sounds wonderful. Nothing to do but run around, play with buddies and get tired. Owners loved this concept and felt as a dog parent that this was beneficial for their pups.
Some pet parents found their dogs did well in this environment. It did have some benefits. It helped with boredom, got much needed exercise to pets that may not have received it. Dogs went home super tired.
Sleep Requirements for Dogs and Puppies
Let’s talk about tired. Adult dogs require 12 – 14 hours of sleep per day. Puppies 18 – 20 hours. Dogs are sprinters, not long distance runners. This means they require lots of rest times in between their bursts of play. In large groups, dogs are pushed to play by their buddies with no rest times.
Why Behaviorists do not Like the Old Daycare Model
In the past 5 or so years, dog behaviorists found the play all day model and crate free models were not the best model for a dog’s health and well being. Most play all day groups have anywhere from 30 – 40 dogs in one group. Some had upwards of 60 or more. There are a few facilities near us, that have 75-90 dogs in ONE GROUP!!! With that many dogs, it is very stressful and many dogs do not show stress outwardly. It is internalized which can come out in other ways, like health and behavior issues. Many dogs regressed in their obedience training and house breaking. Some dogs did not like having no personal space all day (dogs love having their own space like humans). Some dogs pushed others to play and play and play, until dogs became over tired, grumpy and started to snap (or cause fights). There is always risk of injury when dogs are playing, but when dogs are over tired, the injury risks are significantly raised. There were other negative things noticed as well.
New Daycare Model
So, the Boarding Association, started to be concerned of this daycare model. Members came together and created a model that is a step above. As a behaviorist, I was very intrigued about this model and studied it.
This model incorporates activities throughout the day to mentally stimulate dogs. Play is still part of the day but so is obedience, lots of different stimulating activities and rest times. Dogs use their senses more with doing nose work, listening exercises, touch as well as other new experiences. They learned boundaries and how to figure things out.
Less Dogs Equals Better for All Dogs
In this model, there are less dogs in each group, in some case significantly less. Dogs are put together with other dogs of similar capabilities and play styles as well as learning styles. Smaller groups allow for shy dogs to step out of their shell. It allows for dogs to calm down and not always be on. It allows dogs to be successful.
Of course, with less dogs, means that each dog gets more individualized attention and encouragement from the Enrichment Play Counselor. Less dogs means there is less stress. Less stress means more relaxed happier dogs. Less dogs means a safer environment. Less dogs means that facilities will have a price difference to give dogs a better whole mind body experience.
Better Way to Burn Energy
So, what about burning off energy. Well, this model actually burns off more energy and does it in a healthier way. Remember that dogs are sprinters, by playing, resting, then doing mental activities in between, dogs are not being pushed over the edge. We all need down time to heal in between work (mentally and physically). Even at work we have rest breaks as well as lunch breaks.
It was found in this model, that dogs who were mentally stimulated throughout the day in short bursts, became more confident, happier and tired in a good way. As a human, when I have done a mentally stimulating project and completed it, I was tired mentally, but it was a good tired and for me, that tired was better with a sense of accomplishment. It is the same for most dogs. Dogs who are mentally stimulated, then praised for a job well done, makes for a happier more confident dog.
Step Above Play
At the Animal Care Center of NH, our facility is a step above (if you have not seen our facility, it is beautiful).
We naturally, wanted to offer a daycare experience that was a step above as well. We have created and structured our Enrichment Play Daycare Program to be just that.
First, we have been mentoring with experts in this field. We have our staff trained in this program, including learning body language and how to mentally and physically read each dog. We have been researching different exciting programs and activities.
Our Enrichment Play activities include many structured activities with equipment, using all senses, obedience, play, rest, snuggle-times, treat times, parties, lots of surprises, FUN and so much more. We are working with other facilities, out of state, who are also doing this type of program, are also a step above others and we are learning what is working for them. Our programs will be changing and evolving all the time as we all grow.
Our Enrichment Play counselors also work with your dog’s breed to naturally use their instincts to learn. If possible, we encourage owners to do a DNA test to know what breeds each dog has. This knowledge is very helpful and helps dogs learn quicker when we know breed traits, however, we will work with all dogs without this knowledge.
Smaller Groups Equals Higher Quality Experience
Our smaller groups allow for higher quality play – Play with a Purpose. This also allows our Counselors to focus in on each dog, get to know them, see how they learn and then create ways to make the day successful for them. However, this model does not allow for drop offs.
To make the experience for each dog better, all dogs enrolled in these groups MUST make reservations for these groups to allow us to ensure we have the adequate Counselors. We need to ensure all dogs in a group are grouped well. Knowing how many dogs and what each of those dogs needs and capabilities are, we can make their experience much more enjoyable and rewarding. This model uses equipment and products, which requires us to make sure we have everything needed for each enrollee on each day.
Ideally, for each dog to gain the MOST from this program, we suggest a Monday – Friday schedule. Dogs learn much faster and relax quicker when they are in daily classes. Daily attendance helps them quickly adjust to counselors and the different activities. This program does benefit with less attendance, even if it is 4, 3, 2 or even once a week, however, dogs do better the more days they can attend on a weekly basis.
This program may also have a price difference from other daycares using the old model that most people are used to. The higher cost is due to LESS dogs in each group, more activities, individualized attention and personalized work. Our research of dog breed will enhance each dog’s qualities in learning and play. Each breed has unique instincts and tendencies. This information in invaluable in training.
Owners with dogs already in our Enrichment Play Program are happier because their dogs are getting a higher quality experience.
What to look for in a Daycare for a Step Above – Enrichment Play Program
- First, the facility will need room for more groups with less dogs. Look for a facility with square footage of at least 10,000sf with at least 2000sf outside. The Animal Care Center of NH has over 13,000sf inside and over 3000sf outside.
- The Registration process should ask many questions about your dogs past experiences, personality and training.
- Staff should be interested in learning about your pets by having conversations with you
- Staff should research your dogs breed or breeds to learn their instincts and traits
- The facility would NOT encourage drop offs
- Groups will be smaller, in some cases much smaller
- Prices will be higher. Price ranges are from 35 – 60 per day. Cheap prices are not what you will receive in a step above program. Higher quality programs with lesser dogs generally cost on average of 50/dog. Animal Care Center of NH has been able to bring that 50 down a lot with our M-F discounted program at 35. We also have many other levels to choose from to fit other budgets.
- Activities will be structured. Some daycares try to incorporate one or two activities however, days are mostly play. Animal Care Center of NH has structured activities throughout the day.
- Look for individualized activities. Animal Care Center of NH likes to incorporate individual time as well.
- Facilities will be more focused on a dog’s individual growth. The Animal Care Center of NH wants to work with owners on behaviors that are less then desirable. This makes for happier Owner/Dog relationships for a better quality of life.
- Dogs will receive health checks. Animal Care Center of NH does health checks on a periodic basis, checking weight, eyes, ears, coats and body. We do this because sometimes those slight little things go unnoticed in our busy lives. This is just one more way the Animal Care Center of NH goes a step above.
Clients already enrolled, LOVE our Program
Clients who have taken advantage of our Enrichment Play Program are enjoying what they are seeing in their dogs. With just a few session days, we have heard these owners are noticing a positive difference in their dogs. One owner noticed that her two dogs were barking significantly less at everything and everyone. They were calmer at home. This may not happen with all dogs but dogs do seem happier and more confident, yet relaxed.
Again, our program requires a limited number of openings because we are taking less dogs for our Enrichment Play Programs. We advise signing up now. Every facility running similar Enrichment Programs, we are mentoring from, are full, with long wait lists. We are told, this will happen for us as well.
If you want to provide a step above for your dog’s well being and give them the most for their mind, body and soul, contact us to register and start your beloved pet with the best there is –
Enrichment Play Daycare Programs
at the Animal Care Center of NH