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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Isobel is almost 7 months old now, and in preparation for boarding her this fall when we travel for a week, it was suggested we put her in doggie day care at the place in which we will board her. The idea is to make the place less strange and scary and for her to associate it with fun.

At any rate, there are 3 dogs with whom little Izzy socializes fairly frequently, although not at the facility. One Aussie Shepherd, one Standard Poodle, and one Rottweiler. Isobel only weighs about 19 lbs but is energetic and playful and seems to enjoy her interactions with the other dogs. We didn't think daycare would be a problem at all.

So we took her in and were told there would be a period of evaluation with the staff before she was introduced to the group. The understanding was that the evaluation would be approximately 45 minutes and if all went well, she would spend the remaining half day with the daycare group.

I returned to pick her up and was told she had not been introduced to the other dogs because her hair stood up on her back when the staff approached her and she growled. They decided this was a sign of aggression and kept her isolated from the other dogs.

Now, the thing is that Isobel usually has her hair stand up when first encountering other people and animals, but she quickly settles once she's acclimated to the new face/scent.

I was a little troubled to hear my peanut (yes, I said it, she is my peanut) didn't do well and was actually surprised the staff deemed her aggressive. They offered "lap time" sessions for her to get to know the staff one on one, and said she *may* integrate, but she seems to love other dogs once the initial fear and strangeness is overcome...it doesn't make sense to me.

That being said, she has NEVER been away from us (my husband, DD and myself)...she is always with her people, and I wonder if the growling and fearful behavior is more separation anxiety than aggression.

Not sure what I'm asking exactly but I want her to be comfortable in the facility when it's time to go away in November and I thought the daycare environment would help. I guess not.

Anyway, she IS skittish and fearful no doubt...she was a rescue and we aren't sure what her background is, aside from the fact that she and her littermates were dumped at approx 5 weeks and mom was badly abused.

Anyone have thoughts or insight on how to get her to calm down a bit so she's able to meet the other dogs at the facility? Like I said, she plays frequently with these other dogs outside of the facility, but it took time for her to warm up. It seems like she isn't even being given the chance to get her bearings. What can we do to help her?

I want to know she'll be OK with boarding overnight and I want her to feel secure. Suggestions?

Thanks for any advice.
 

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Growling is communication that usually means "If you keep doing what you're doing I may bite". It doesn't necessarily mean the dog wants to bite; most times it means that they are in a situation that they are very not okay with and would like to get out of without having to bite. (Offensively-aggressive dogs, the ones who.... for lack of better words, enjoy attacking, don't usually give any warning - they are usually totally silent.)

It's very likely that the variety of factors - being away from you, being surrounded by strangers, being in a brand new building, being surrounded by a large number of dogs, and/or new dogs that's she never met before are all stressful things for a fearful dog to experience. It is possible that she might acclimate to the environment with additional exposures, and especially going slow: only meeting staff on one visit and not other dogs, playing with only 1-2 dogs she knows in a visit, meeting 1-2 new dogs who she doesn't know, etc.

But it is also possible that she won't and in that case, have you considered other types of boarding? There are boarding facilities that are not daycares, or pet sitters that either come to your home and house-sit while you are gone, or take your pet into their home, giving your dog a much calmer and less chaotic environment.
 

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I would suggest staying with her for the 45 minute evaluation. Or at least for half of it, then just leave the room for the last half and see how she does with that. I could understand how a young dog being dropped off with strangers would be nervous. She probably just needs some time to adjust to the new surroundings.
 

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I would drop the hard core lables and give her the best opportunity to adjust to a sudden new place, new smells,sounds and a group of strangers, with you no where in sight..
 

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Hackles up and growling show the dog is AFRAID. Hackles up make the dog appear bigger and the growl is a warning.

Honestly? With that reaction I would just board the dog in the kennel, no "doggy day care." Not every dog is up for "doggy day care." Advocate for your dog and do not push her into this. She is telling the world, "I am afraid and this is not fun." WHY would you push that threshold? Fear in most dogs is hard wired and you need to be the one thing she knows she can rely on. If you board her a kennel with an indoor/outdoor run works fine. In fact, no one even needs to touch your dog at the kennel.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hackles up and growling show the dog is AFRAID. Hackles up make the dog appear bigger and the growl is a warning.

Honestly? With that reaction I would just board the dog in the kennel, no "doggy day care." Not every dog is up for "doggy day care." Advocate for your dog and do not push her into this. She is telling the world, "I am afraid and this is not fun." WHY would you push that threshold? Fear in most dogs is hard wired and you need to be the one thing she knows she can rely on. If you board her a kennel with an indoor/outdoor run works fine. In fact, no one even needs to touch your dog at the kennel.
Thank you so much for this. I don't know that the daycare is a good idea, it was just a way to make boarding less traumatic for her. It seemed like a good way to get her to associate the kennel with good things and make it not scary. But maybe she will be better off if we just board her overnight and be done and not worry about playtime.

Maybe she's one of those dogs who just wants to be with her people and isn't interested in "socializing".

We are actually boarding her overnight this weekend so it'll be a chance to see how she does. We aren't actually going anywhere so if it's too much for her, we are available if needed. The facility has a webcam in her suite so that should help ease my own fears a bit, I'll be able to see her.
Will let everyone know how it goes after the first overnight.
 

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does the boarding facility offer different packages.. I started off working in a common short term boarding wing, the dogs had indoor out door areas, feed, medicate per instruction. No physical contact from us except making sure they were ok, keeping their areas constantly clean through out our shifts, having full access to in and out door areas during the day. Longest stays were usually no more then a 2 weeks stay. The dogs did fine.. Smaller breeds were housed in one area of the wing and the kennel size got bigger and bigger . They were solid walls between kennels indoor and out, so they could see but not directly at each other. Was a really nice set up.

In different packages You could have it set up for one on one Daily walks or play sessions (there wasn't any doggy day care in those days) I honestly found that no matter what the dogs background was they did fine when no one bothered them. That is what we were trained , don't bother them, our job was to care for the essentials , follow safety protocols of no contact. And everyone was happy and went home safe and sound. Short term dogs don't need anything more then to be kept safe, feel safe, have a constant routine they can anticipate for a sense of well being.

Am sure your pup will be just fine. I don't care for people giving dogs labels in first time experiences , and it gets in the owners head and stays there and really screws up a dog that was always just fine, nothing wrong with them in the first place..
 

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Thank you so much for this. I don't know that the daycare is a good idea, it was just a way to make boarding less traumatic for her. It seemed like a good way to get her to associate the kennel with good things and make it not scary. But maybe she will be better off if we just board her overnight and be done and not worry about playtime.

Maybe she's one of those dogs who just wants to be with her people and isn't interested in "socializing".

We are actually boarding her overnight this weekend so it'll be a chance to see how she does. We aren't actually going anywhere so if it's too much for her, we are available if needed. The facility has a webcam in her suite so that should help ease my own fears a bit, I'll be able to see her.
Will let everyone know how it goes after the first overnight.
I usually board a dog around 6 months old for 3 days. Not going anywhere.. just board the dog. Of course the dog is crate trained and I have kennels but that experience in a good kennel can make future need to board situations much less stressful.

I also have an excellent kennel where the dogs have privacy panels and the staff is not in the dog's face with "oh pooky your Mommy and/or Daddy will come get you." The dog is put in the kennel, looked after daily, taken out to an exercise yard for awhile every day, fed and cleaned up after. They also pay attention to who is next to who in the kennel runs. I trust this kennel.

Socialization is NOT interacting with other dogs or people. Socialization is poorly named. It is actually simply getting out and seeing new things and learning that the dog's handler is their safe place. It is not touching, playing with or personally interacting with dogs, people, kids.. and so forth.
 

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It seems like the members here have been making sound suggestions. Sometimes we forget that dogs don't think like we do. The trick is (obviously, with no news here!) that it's necessary to get inside their head, before they outsmart us (right!). So you're thinking "vacation time" (fun time for you) and so you wanted some kind of fun time for her. Except that your last comment says it all. Meaning you "want her to feel secure." And to that point, as long as she is safely cared for with no added stress on top of your absence, then that's all you can expect. I would put her in the kennel you choose a couple of times before you leave for real, however. First, a short time like overnight. Increasing it .... so she learns you will be back, without triggering separation anxiety. She'll need to become very familiar with those surroundings. It will be about noise, scents, feeling vulnerable, no touchpoint (you) - so she'll have to learn how to navigate independently. And though it doesn't seem like a complicated situation to us - dogs are very much driven by routine and familiarity (pertaining to most everything in their environment). So in this case, you want to widen her experience gradually. You are teaching her about expectation and reassurance!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Isobel did OK last weekend, she didn't seem to love it, but I didn't think she would. Her room had a webcam so I was able to keep an eye on her. Mostly she paced and slept and chewed her toys. We requested two lap time/cuddle sessions with the staff (it is a service they offer) and she seemed to enjoy that. She also had a nail trim and an extended walk thru the park on Saturday with a staff member in addition to her regular potty breaks and outdoor time.

She squealed and screamed and even piddled a bit when we picked her up but she really was OK.

She is going back again in a few weeks, probably for 2 nights l, and we will have her board for a couple nights over the summer, a weekend here, an odd day there...and then hopefully she'll be OK with the weeklong stay in November.
 

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I'm glad she did okay! It's also a good idea to bring a doggy blanket from home that she can sleep on. It'll have all the familiar smells on it and might help her feel more secure.
 

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Wow, you are such a considerate pet owner! How fortunate your Isobel is to have your family! What you're doing is exactly the desensitization process many dogs need. She's getting to know the staff, the smells, the noise, the routine. And even though (maybe) those basic activities seem mundane to us (as opposed "playtime w/dogs") she's getting the one-on-one opportunity with cuddles, walking and care. What a nice facility. Hope you write them a review so other owners can benefit!
 
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