by Julia Breau and Nancy Beaurpere
As those of you who follow us on Instagram may have seen, all Dingo’s staff members are now fully trained and certified in PackPro, an online training toolkit for dog daycare professionals. Packpro has been an invaluable resource for us to efficiently train our employees on how to effectively manage a large group of dogs. The program was founded by two cousins, Dan and Mallory Poirier, who have owned their own daycare, boarding, training, and grooming facility for a little over a decade. While every daycare is unique, Dan and Mallory realized that many of the same principles for managing safe and fun dog play groups could be universally applied. Armed with this knowledge, they created PackPro. And because we have found it so helpful, we wanted to let you in on some of its “insider secrets”.
The main verbal commands we all use at the daycare are: “Sit”, “Down”, “Off”, “Out”, “Come”, “Wait”, “Place”, “That’s Enough”, “Back”, and “Easy”. We understand that some of the dogs who attend our daycare have already been trained with different verbal commands and we do our best to accommodate those nuances when we are informed of them. Verbal commands like “Sit” and “Down” are self-explanatory. Some of the other commands are more specific to a dog daycare environment:
- Off: Used when a dog needs to stop mounting or jumping on another dog, human, or object.
- Out: Used when we need to back dogs away from our gates and doors, especially when a dog is coming or going i.e. “transition times”.
- Come: Used when we are recalling a dog, usually to diffuse a situation of unwanted play.
- Wait: Used when we need a dog to wait before exiting our doors/gates.This is commonly seen in Julia’s training videos.
- Place: Used when a dog needs to go to a certain “place” and “wait” for further instruction. “Place” is often located on a mat or bed. This is another commonly used exercise during Julia’s individual training sessions.
- That’s Enough: We use this when a dog is excessively barking.
- Easy: Used when a dog’s energy level during play is becoming too heightened. We use this command to instruct the dog to bring their energy down in order to avoid any sort of “predatory drift”.
Like children, studies have shown that dogs learn best through routine and repetition, so in order to maximize our training efforts it would be helpful if our clients began using the verbal commands we use at the daycare at home as well. Dogs who undergo consistent “training” either with their owners or a professional trainer learn better impulse control, which in turn improves their overall behavior in any situation, not just at daycare.
Another technique we use frequently at the daycare that owners can also use at home is called “BODY BLOCKING”. “Body blocking” is exactly what it sounds like – it involves stepping in front of the dog and using your body as a barrier to block an unwanted distraction or get the dog to move away from something. We use “body blocking” for an exercise we run at the daycare called “Stay Out of My Bubble”, which involves creating a space “bubble” of sorts, either with chalk, tape or a hula hoop, and ensuring that the dogs remain outside of said “bubble”, even while you are inside it. Here’s how you can set this up at home:
- Draw a circle with chalk or place a hula hoop on the ground (any shape will do, as long as there is some sort of visible “barrier” that the dog can see). Someone must enter the bubble as the goal is to keep the dogs out of the bubble.
- The dog, or dogs, will usually try to enter your bubble.
- When your dog steps into your bubble, use “body blocking”, snapping of fingers, and the verbal command “out” to back them out.
- This can be challenging when there is more than one dog present for the exercise because they will be entering from all different directions!
- Some dogs will be extremely persistent, but consistency is KEY!
The final training exercise that we use, and one that is always used in Julia’s training sessions, is *Advanced* Wait at the Gate. This is practiced like any other “wait” command, but with added distractions. You will need to find a “neutral zone” for this exercise. At Dingo’s there is a visible square outline that we have created in front of all our entry and exit points. You can do this at home with tape or chalk. The goal is similar to the bubble exercise, but performed at an entrance/exit with more distraction and excitement. This is a great exercise for dogs that tend to bolt out the door as soon as you touch the doorknob, especially if the dog is a flight risk or has poor recall skills. Below are the step by step instructions on how to practice this exercise at home:
- Establish your “neutral zone” around your gate or door. This is best performed if the dog knows this is an entrance or exit.
- Begin to body block your dog as they enter the neutral zone, using “out” as your verbal command whilst so doing.
- It is important to take your time with this, as some dogs don’t pick up on the “waiting” as quickly as other dogs. Like any training technique, consistency is key.
- You can step past the line when body blocking.
- Try changing your body position with squatting, or jogging back and forth in the neutral zone; adding distractions during training will help the dog apply the behaviors in a real world setting where there will assuredly be real-world distractions.
- When your dog has settled and you are satisfied with their behavior, say, “okay” as your “release” command, letting your dog know that this training segment is over and they can take a minute to relax! It is important to reward this in a calming way, as we want to limit the excitement of the door and gateway.
While Packpro has taught us much more, these are the key takeaways we, as a daycare, have been using with our dogs! If you are interested in your dog learning more of these techniques on a more advanced level, please reach out to Julia at Julia@dingosdogsitting.com. All training sessions with Julia can be booked through Pet Exec by “Requesting other services” and switching the small drop down menu to ‘Training’.