Just picture walking into a typical day of work at the daycare:
Pups meander over to you as you walk in the door and wiggle their butts as if to say “hello”, you smile at the room of pooches and put your things down to get ready for the day. You recognize happy puppy faces as some wrestle around the room playing or wake up from a peaceful nap. You settle in and your co-worker gives you the low-down on the happenings of the day.
You squeeze through the door to be greeted by a bunch of barking, relentlessly jumping dogs. You try to make your way through the room, but they trip you up at every step. They tear at your belongings before you can make it through, maybe your cell phone drops on the floor and shatters. Their barks are so loud that you can’t hear your coworker say “hi”.
Both are alarmingly possible, but here at Eva’s Play Pups we are constantly working towards de-adrenalization, a philosophy that utilizes several methods in the dog training world that result in having a day like the first scenario.
De-adrenalization begins the moment that one walks into the room. A true pack-leader (as we call our kennel attendants) must walk into the room with an air of confidence. Without even speaking they have to let the dogs know that they alone are in charge. They walk in never allowing a dog to jump on them. We communicate this by giving a firm “NO”, and standing in a tall, upright manner. This way when something is finally spoken they have respect for your superior size and the noises made have true meaning. In these rooms one must always remain calm and purposeful when giving a dog instructions.
Dogs are incredibly tuned into their noses and hearing rather than sight. Their smell is up to 100,000 times more powerful than a human’s, and their hearing is up to a third better than ours (National Geographic, June 2014). We must use this to our advantage - we must attempt to speak their language and only make noise when necessary to maintain a calm environment. It is never really necessary to raise your voice to a dog. They hear everything whether it’s a whisper or a shout. Most trainers will encourage you to find the right pitch of your voice when in command for optimized response from a dog (How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, The Monks of New Skete).
Another underlying philosophy that works towards de-adrenalization is keeping low base stress level in each dog. Sometimes when a daycare is busier this is quite a challenge, but with the right methods it can be done. If and when a dog is acting up - possibly getting what we call the “zoomies” when they zip around the room at high speeds - we need to assess how this dog’s day has been progressing. Does he or she seem stressed from fear of another dog or dogs in particular? Do they seem stressed by their health? Maybe they have a sore tooth. Obviously, when humans have a toothache they are less likely to have tolerance to noise and are less able to concentrate. Why would a dog’s discomfort be any different? Maybe they are stressed because today they did not feel like leaving their comfy dog bed - we all have those days.
No matter the cause this dog with the zoomies may need a brief relaxation period. By studying their body language we can tell if they are in fact overwhelmed or fatigued. If this is the case this dog needs to de-adrenalized by taking a break in the “place” command - lying on a bed for the instructors chosen period of time. This gives the dog a chance to catch up on their labored breathing and to mentally assess how different they feel now that they are taking a moment to relax. Sometimes they just need a nudge in the right direction to calm down.
The third method we use at the daycare is leash relaxation. In this case we could have a pooch who is just not responding to commands and is so adrenalized they may not even stay still in “place”. Although, we have found when many dogs are then put on a leash they instantly calm down. This is because firstly, this is something familiar - they gain confidence because they know what to do on a leash. They also gain confidence by now being attached to a human. Since a human will now walk them around they feel the extra attention they may have been seeking and this placates them. Finally, having them on a leash keeps them mentally stimulated. When they follow the pack-leader who is holding the other end of that leash it mimics a follow-the-leader situation. Of course, this does not work for every dog, but all these methods are shopped around.
When you have a large group of dogs and things unexpectedly escalate it is usually due to the energy of just one or two dogs. If you are able to get that one dog under control the room is entirely peaceful.
In this safe and fun environment that we create at Eva’s Play Pups in Brooklyn and at the Country Boarding in Pennsylvania, the pooches are able to get down to their true spirit of socializing as a dog should. We are simply there to guide them, not to tell them how to do this.
Article Contributed by Natasha Domanski