Today, February 20th, is National Love Your Pet Day! If you’re a CNL client, from the moment you pass the leash to our dog handlers at drop off, we’re sure you can tell how much we love the dogs that visit the Lodge. You may see how much fun we have when checking in during daycare on our live cameras, but today we want to share in more detail a special method that is woven into all that we do. The philosophy behind the Fear Free initiative is absolutely the heart of how we express our love for the pups.
Fear Free, an initiative created by “America’s veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker, focuses on the importance of the emotional well-being of our best friends in addition to physical well-being. It’s goal is to alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets and educate and inspire the people who care for them. It certainly has inspired pet professionals everywhere, with more than 43,000 veterinary and pet professionals committed to becoming Fear Free Certified. Fear Free goes further than just providing tools, procedures, and guidelines on how to alleviate anxiety, stress, and fear. Fear Free is accountability. Every certified professional has taken a pledge to practice these kind methods that pets deserve. We are so happy to see the list of Fear Free Professionals in our area growing! See who is on the local the list here!
You can find us making use of this philosophy from your first visit to the Lodge during an introduction. We use introductions to make sure that each dog that comes to the Lodge for daycare and boarding is comfortable being here. We want to make sure that the Lodge is a “happy place” for all dogs that visit, one that an owner can feel good about when they leave their dog in our care. After meeting you and your pup, we begin with a full tour of our facility, not only to show owners what we have to offer, but also to allow the new dog to take some time to sniff around and gather information about what is a strange new place to them. We then enter one of our playrooms and again, allow your dog to gather information through exploration before bringing one dog into the room and observing their reaction to and interaction with the new dog. If your dog is giving and taking cues appropriately from the first dog, we will continue adding dogs to the room until we build up to our normal daycare environment. As much as we’d love every dog to be a match for the Lodge, if your dog is overly stressed, we will end the introduction. It takes some dogs longer than other to grow comfortable, so on a case-by-case basis, our trained professionals gauge whether to extend the introduction to a longer half day evaluation at a later date, or to guide you to find an alternative to our facility. We absolutely have your dog’s best interest in mind no matter what, we believe there are no bad dogs! Sometimes, an open playgroup isn’t the best match for a specific dog, and there is nothing wrong with that.
There are a variety of techniques we use to set the dogs up for success in our open playgroups and to stay happy and comfortable during their visits. We use calming essential oil sprays (sparingly as to ensure their effectiveness when we do need them). In special cases approved by our trainers, we use Adaptil, a spray that mimics the calming hormone that mother dogs release paired with a break from the playroom. We also use Pet Acoustics’ Pet Tunes cubes that are preloaded with frequency-modified music, clinically proven to reduce stress and calm canine behaviors. We also play other specially selected music in this spirit.
When your dog comes to board, we urge you to bring items that make their boarding suite feel like home. Special items like a blanket, toys, and even a worn shirt that smells like you, are great additions to the bed provided in your dog’s individual suite. This way, the time spent in their suite at naptime and overnight serves both to decompress from the playgroup as well as comfort them and remind them of their favorite person – you! We also serve any treats, including treats you’ve packed or sleepytime treats you signed up for at drop off, during these rest times. It’s all about making the Lodge a fun and positive place to stay.
Our training philosophy holds true to Fear Free’s ideals:
We believe dog training should be based on a relationship of trust, not fear. For that reason, we use positive reinforcement, redirection and luring to train dogs at the Lodge. The use of physical corrections and other aversive training methods (choke chains, prong collars, etc.) are prohibited in our training programs.
You can trust that in all of our training, both private and in our dog training classes, we will teach you the skills you need to strengthen the bond with your dog and achieve your training goals the kind, Fear Free way. When your dog attends daycare, including during any boarding stay, our dog handlers use these positive training techniques to guide the playgroup. You will never find us using physical corrections or other aversive methods, but rather, redirection. For example, we actively pair good play matches. If a dog is having trouble finding a good play match on their own, ie. trying to play with a dog who isn’t interested in them, we will use toys to redirect the playful dog to a better match. If a dog is getting overstimulated, you can often see us controlling the environment by using our leads to leash them and take them for a guided walk around the room. We find that practicing training in the rooms, of course with plenty of praise, helps not only to control our playgroups each day, but helps dogs mesh into the group well when they return.
At the Lodge, we pride ourselves in ongoing staff education. We feel that deep understanding of dog body language and psychology is essential in creating a safe, fun, Fear Free environment for your best friend. This goes beyond on-the-job training to courses with observations and examinations that we take as we advance through ‘leash levels.’ You can also find our staff completing assigned reading, additional courses, and seminars. You can find all the details on our staff training here.
At the Lodge, we offer baths, and other grooming services such as nail trims, anal gland expression, teeth cleaning, and more. You can find a full list of our services here. Bath time and especially nail trims can be stressful for many dogs. Keeping a dog’s nails trimmed is really something that is so important to a dog’s health. From preventing injuries like broken nails to avoiding joint issues in the long term, it is an essential part of keeping your dog groomed.
It’s a challenge when a dog is scared and stressed during the process, and oftentimes seems to make the task impossible for owners. From taking things slow to the use of treat dispensing toys, lickmats, and techniques like ‘touch gradient,’ Fear Free not only makes the process easier, but sets dogs up for success in future sessions. We love working with owners on plans to get their dogs comfortable with grooming services like nail trims over time. Good things absolutely take time, and we are willing to invest that time into your dog so that they become comfortable with these essential processes.
Are you feeling as excited about Fear Free as we are? Awesome! You can become a part of the initiative here! We urge you to check out the resources they offer. Taking the time to be sensitive to your pet’s physical and mental well being is a wonderful gift to give your best friend. At the Lodge, we carry an array of positive training tools as well as calming supplements and sprays. Our staff is more than happy to help you find just what you need for your specific situation on your Fear Free journey.
Who are you celebrating on this National Love Your Pet Day? Post a pic of your pet here! (All species welcome!)