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I have a 4 month old lab puppy. He's always very happy-go-lucky, as most puppies are. Gets very excited around other people and other dogs. I thought an occasional stay at doggie day care would be great for him, to allow him to socialize with other dogs and generally have more fun than he can have at home. So I took him in this morning to see how he does, and he freaked out at the other dogs. They brought in dogs of various sizes, one or two at a time, and while he was indifferent at best at the little dogs, he was very fearful and growled and snapped at the bigger dogs. So they won't let him stay, nor would I want him to stay if he's that stressed out.

But why? Why is my typically happy dog so different all of the sudden? And more importantly, what can I do to help build his confidence up around other dogs? We have not been to an off-leash dog park before, because I have not been confident in his recall were he to start heading toward something he shouldn't get into. Would being in a dog park even be a good idea at this point, given his reaction to the dogs at day care?
 

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Has he ever been in that place before, or any place like that with a LOT of dog smells? It's sometimes a lot for them to handle.

It's hard to say without being there to see all the cues the dogs give too, he could have just not been sure how to say 'back off, I'm new'. Depends on the daycare and their rules, I'd lean towards one that would allow him in with the smaller dogs if he's not bothering them, till he's adjusted to things and then move to the bigger dogs. When I was working at a boarding place we'd put the 'new' dog in a run by themselves, with dogs on one or both sides, and let them settle for an hour if needed, till everyone was past the 'new guy' excitement, then move them into a group.

If you haven't done so, start off with some group classes where he's around other dogs/pups but not having to deal with out of control ones, and keep it fun and positive.

Lana
 

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Socialization. He needs to be exposed to about 100 different people over the next month or two, as well as one or two calm pups or dogs his own size (Lab would be good but not needed), then lots of other dogs and puppies to gradually get him used to as many people and animals as you can over the next two months.... it's a developmental window of opportunity... that will help avoid what you just ran into.
 

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Try another daycare. Choose one that has employees that know dogs & behaviors, not just kids employees for simply having a job. Example, the one we go to is owned by a lady that breeds frenchies & boxers, most of her staff are professional handlers for confirmation or agility, many have dogs they show that they own. The majority of the staff is well trained in dog behaviors. Our youngest can be high strung & picky with new dogs, they took time to learn what works for him & his personality so there is less chance of issues for him when introducing a new playmate. He has been going since he was about 4mo old, now is 2.5yr old. My dogs go nuts for daycare &act like they own the place. Keep trying until you find one with a program that fits your pup.
 

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I have a new puppy too... she's about the same age.. 3-4months old... I dont take her to doggy daycare but do take her to doggy park.... and I always keep her on leash(its a off leash) when we first enter to allow the other dogs and her to say "hi" then when everybody is a bit calmer, i release her... Dont really worry abt recall issues as long its fully fenced in. My local doggy park has a 8 foot chain link fence on all sides... Sasha recalls pretty well... and when she doesnt. i make it into a game... i catch her attention then i start running in the other direction and make it into a game of "tag your it"... and i do this on a regular basis sparodically as possible... She enjoys it and she's learning recall at the same time without realizing it... and when its time to go and she doesn't want to go, i do this trick and i do it the same way so she doesn't know which is time for us to leave and which is a game and so she thinks its a game and its like "whatja do that for?" when i snap the leash on her(which i keep slung around my shoulders like a un-tied necktie. .... Maybe this will help... and he's just a baby/puppy and sometimes it takes time for puppies to get used to new doggies... they should have only did it one or 2 doggies that day instead of so many.. spread it over a months time.. give the puppy time to adjust to new place, new place smells, new people, and new doggies and new doggy smells.... ((used to do pet sitting and run a small time doggy daycare and dog walker 'n taught basic commands)) .... Hope it helps, on what everybody has said...
 

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was he on leash? That can make a huge difference to a dog. A leash limits his options and makes him feel a little trapped.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
thanks for all your replies so far.

pawz, no, he was off-leash. The lady at the day care said that being off-leash might have made him feel insecure, but I don't know how much I believe that (versus just believing he was overwhelmed).
 

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Do not take your puppy back there. I am honestly shocked that they would reject a PUPPY. I worked at a daycare for three years, and yes, sometimes puppies are scared. She should not have tested the pup with larger dogs which was her first mistake. We do not take puppies in with big dogs until they are ready or unless we know the large dogs are mellow, bulletproof in temperament, and will give the pup confidence.

Definitely find a new daycare!
 
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