Interview with Dale Ketcham
How to tell if a dog will fit in with other dogs during a meet-and-greet
A Holistic Approach to Dog Boarding
DTC: In the First Part of our interview you talked about finding the best place to board your dog. When someone brings their dog to check out your place, how do you tell if the dog will be stressed in a “pack” situation as you often have many dogs staying with you.
- We do a meet-and-greet, leaving the dog off leash in the yard with humans only so it can sniff around. When the tail position looks comfortable (long straight or up a little), we introduce other dogs.
- To prevent our guest dogs from all charging at the new dog, we toss a cup of kibble to distract them. If the new dog runs, it creates chaos and frustration. If it stands still and allows itself to be sniffed by the “house dogs,” all is fine.
- Avoid allowing a dog to be cornered and never do this with the new dog on leash. He must have total freedom to handle himself in the situation. And in that handling, you will see if he’s balanced and pack oriented or not.
Also, if you’re a seasoned trainer you can recognize the stress signs. It’s all in canine body language and social skills:
- Has it been well socialized?
- Does it play well with others?
- How does it approach other dogs…with caution or glee?
- Does it interpret other dogs’ body language well?
- Does it mind being sniffed?
- Is it toy or food aggressive?
- How does it respond to a play bow?
My best recommendation is a book entitled ON TALKING TERMS WITH DOGS: CALMING SIGNALS by Turid Rugaas. Page 26 — how to identify stress. Worth reading again and again if you want to be an advocate for dogs and their well-being.
DTC: Do you have any tips for trainers who are thinking of boarding their clients’ dogs in their own homes? What can they do to make the dog feel less stressed?
Dale: I’ve got a book in the works, with a subtitle of “how to own and operate your own in-home dog boarding business.” The title is MUST LOVE DOGS and that’s the prerequisite for boarding dogs in your home. And patience. And creating the right environment. And being a calm influence. You must exude calmness and a sense of leadership. Earn their respect through a balance of mushiness and setting boundaries.
With new dogs:
- we usually spend extra time creating a bond
- spend time grooming them
- give them special attention, like reaching out to touch them when they pass by and frequent “Good Girl’s”
- we top their kibble with a special add-on (today it was a sardine), or a raw bone treat, so that they think: Hey, this place is great!
DTC: You give the dogs in your care people food treats such as carrots and bones. How do you convince your clients that these things are healthy? If a client only wants to give their dog dry kibble do you go along with that, or do you convince them that kibble alone isn’t a nutritious diet?
Dale: I deal with this at the meet-and-greet, before boarding the dog. I tell them:
- we may be adding to the dog’s food because we feel they will burn more energy while here. I don’t really try to convince them it’s healthy; it’s real food.
- I usually don’t get resistance.
- If someone did say “only feed kibble,” that would be a red flag for me, unless the dog has allergies. (I do ask what brand they feed their dog and try to steer them toward a better kibble if need be.)
I find those who seek me out are looking for high quality service and a Labs Only atmosphere. If they want to board here, they pretty much accept what we do. And that goes for crating too. If they still crate, I explain we won’t and if their dog can’t be trusted loose, this isn’t the place to board them. I have a list of others who board and are very willing to crate.
DTC: What are your policies regarding vaccinations and Bordetella shots. Do your clients have to have proof of any of these?
Dale: No. I don’t require it. I used to think I should but my first year in business I had a customer who gave her reasons for being very much opposed to vaccinations. It made perfect sense to me. So I don’t broadcast it, but will mention that your vet may suggest Bordetella which protects against one strain of Kennel Cough and there are many. I keep a holistic treatment on hand.
DTC: Do you require clients to put flea and tick preparations on their dogs before boarding with you?
Dale: I don’t use any flea or tick preventative on my dogs. Even though we have a wooded lot over the back fence, neither has ever been a problem. I always feel bad because many will put it on their dog right before delivering it to us and I think, gosh, you poisoned your dog just for me? So no, we respect the holistic approach!
DTC: We love the holistic approach too Dale. Thank you for the interview!
All rights reserved © Dog Trainers Connection and Dale Ketcham, We Board Labs, Huntington, NY.
Dale Ketcham, owner of We Board Labs in Huntington, Long Island, NY, has worked with dogs for many years including volunteering to raise dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation, and she was certified as a positive reinforcement trainer through PetSmart.