Why do we insist on them?
Before allowing a dog to join in open group play, every professional daycare conducts a thorough temperament test. Temp tests are extremely important to insure all dogs who attend daycare can participate without risk to other dogs. Here at Wicked Good Dog we take it one step further. We make every effort to only accept dogs who will find daycare enjoyable. Just like people, there is a huge difference between tolerating a certain environment and finding that environment enjoyable and enriching.
We often tell customers, if your dog is not actively pulling you toward our door, they are trying to tell you that something about the situation is bothering them. Dogs are social creatures, just like humans. And just like humans, their level of need for social interaction fluctuates by the dog. Some dogs are extroverts and truly enjoy meeting many new dogs and make friends easily. Some dogs are introverts and are content to be with their small group of friends. And, sadly, some dogs are socially anxious or phobic. The daycare environment can overwhelm these dogs and the stress can make these dogs more phobic.
How do we figure it all out?
Each dog that attends daycare must come for a two-hour temp test from 7am-9am by appointment. The time was carefully selected to allow every dog the opportunity to acclimate to the environment at their own pace. This time works for several reasons:
- There are fewer dogs here during this time which makes the environment easier for a new dog to enter.
- Senior staff are available to work 1:1 with your dog to create the smoothest transition possible.
- Our popular transport van has not arrived yet, so the new dog has fewer transitions to handle until they are comfortable.
Once your dog arrives, they sniff around in a yard by themselves with no other dogs. The staff makes friends with the dog and assesses the dog’s ability to be handled and response to basic cues. A dog that can not be touched by staff and will not listen to direction can be a detriment in group play.
Staff are trained to watch a dog’s body language to assess comfort level throughout the process. Once this part is finished, the dog is paired up to meet one of our veteran daycare dogs that we feel would be a good match for your dog.
The dog introduction is conducted in a separate yard with two staff present for safety. If it does not go well, the temp test is over, and the new dog hangs out until pick up. If the introduction goes well, staff will observe the play style and continue to cue both dogs when needed. A second friend may be brought into the play yard to start building a new friend pack for the new dog.
The new dog is graded and assigned a color code. “Red” dogs have failed the temp test due to aggression, signs of extreme stress or complete inability to be handled. These dogs are not allowed to attend daycare but will be offered training and in-home dog walking services.
“Yellow” dogs are on probation. These are dogs that have a deficit in one or more areas that we feel could benefit from attending and a little work. These issues include but are not limited to:
- Shyness with staff that we feel will get better with familiarity.
- Shyness upon meeting a new dog that does not end in aggression.
- A hard play style that intimidates the other dog/no ability to read the other dogs social signals.
- A puppy under 6 months – as they grow they typically require a good deal of staff time to learn the ropes.
- A complete lack of ability to listen to staff cues – no basic manners.
Yellow dogs may attend daycare, but their days and hours may be restricted, or they may be required to do play and train. All yellow dogs are retested in 90 days with a goal of making them green dogs.
“Green” dogs are dogs who pass their temp test with no significant issue and will not need special handling.
As you can see, what appears to be a simple two-hour temp test is not so simple. It allows us the ability to know each dog and what is needed for that dog to be successful and safe in an open group play environment.