Updated: Jul 2
Here’s a controversial post that may offend a few people and businesses.
Every week I get emails of new clients that their dog struggles with leash reactivity, barking, lunging on lead. But, not when they’re off lead.
My first question is always: Does your dog go to daycare?
99% of the time the answer is Yes.
Newsflash: Daycare is causing your dog’s leash reactivity.
What? But my dog loves daycare? He loves his friends! He loves being out and about. It’s great.
And I’m sure your dog loves it (most of the time).. but lets have a look at this.
Most daycares (not all of them) are not very structured, for example some No No’s for me:
Dogs get to run around all day long ‘having fun’.
There is no dedicated rest area or ‘forced’ rest time.
It’s a lot of dogs constantly barking all day long.
There are no training moments to learn something new and engage their brain in a different way that full speed ahead all the time.
Puppies are often put with other puppies which seems great but also teaches them nothing because puppies learn manners from older dogs.
Dogs overexcited or hyper behaviour gets rewarded with a lot of play instead of impulse control.
What is actually happening from a training perspective?
Your dog never learns to just be around dogs without needing to interact or ‘go say hi’. Often this is what’s causing the frustration on leash.
Your dog gets overexcited, over aroused and over tired which leads to irritable behaviour.
Your dog learns that seeing other dogs is a free for all to always have ‘fun’ or to feel overwhelmed if your dog is more on the timid side.
Your dog never learns to just ‘Be’. To Relax. To sleep. To be bored. To do nothing.
Where is the connection happening with YOU? After your dog comes home all ‘tired and worn out’, where does the training happening with you to build a connection and a relationship?
Ever since Covid people seem to have the idea that their dogs can’t stay home alone. They CAN. They SHOULD. There is NOTHING wrong with leaving your dog alone for a full work day if it’s not a 6 day a week type of thing.
I am not against daycare for occasional socialisation or a fortnightly fun experience, but going to daycare several times a week is unnecessary and just too much for most dogs.
It’s unhealthy for a dog to constantly be on the go and not learn how to settle. It can create a hyper or neurotic or an anxious dog because he’s lacking sleep and is constantly in overdrive. An adult dog sleeps on average 13.5 hours a day!
An adult dog also DOESN’T NEED FRIENDS. It’s actually quite unnatural for dogs to constantly mingle with dogs outside of their circle/pack. A lot of dogs are actually quite stressed at daycare because there is nowhere to hide, get a break or just chill. So even though you see some fun photo’s of your dog ‘smiling’, that doesn’t mean he’s having fun all day long.
There is nothing wrong, bad or sad about having your dog stay at home whilst you’re at work if they have access to a backyard or some space to walk around.
Even the crate for several hours a day is NOT an issue and not sad or awful IF trained properly.
If you can’t leave your dog alone because he destroys the house then invest in some training and teach him how to be alone (unless its ACTUAL separation anxiety) or invest in a space they can stay in in the house where they can destroy something (like a cardboard box in a bathroom you don’t use).
If you think you can’t leave your dog alone the whole day invest instead in a good dog walker or pack walker so they get structured exercise and some activity and they go to sleep afterwards again.
Honestly, most doggy daycares are marketed as the perfect day out with all your dogs friends and they make you feel bad if you don’t do that to your dog.
You may be surprised but with some dogs you’d do them a favour taking them out.