Evaluating Pet Behavior and Temperament with Dog Daycare Clients: A guide for pet care employees.

This is a guest-article written by John Woods, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers

Are you a dog walker, kennel technician, groomer or a doggy day care company that regularly has new clients reaching out wanting to use your pet care services?

With any new pet and customer, it is vital to determine the temperament and behavior of the dog that you are considering caring for, especially for powerful dogs. This helps you understand the needs of their dog, so you can provide adequate care and safety for them and the other pets in your care.

Whether you are caring for a pet for just a short time, or an extended overnight boarding reservation, asking the right questions helps get you a complete picture of the animal that you’ll be taking responsibility for.

The best way to go around this is to obtain a complete history from the dogs’ owners. This may include a verbal inquiry, as well as use of a form in your pet-care software so that you don’t miss any important points, and things get recorded for your team’s reference.

These items can be discussed during a scheduled Evaluation with the pet-owner, and collected through forms in your pet care business software.

Section One: Socialization

You need to ask questions around how and when their dog was socialized and with who (or what).

For example, have they been introduced to children and other animals? Have they been introduced to people from all backgrounds, men and women, the postman, people wearing hats etc.

Which types of environments have they been introduced to? Are they used to busy play parks, roads, going to the shops?

Section Two: Temperament

If they have been properly socialized, then ideally, they’ll have a temperament which is conducive to being around other people and animals.

However, it’s still important to ask these questions directly to be sure. Just because a dog has been exposed to a certain situation, doesn’t mean that it was a positive one.

While the first part of your process may to be determine whether the dog has actually been socialized around children, the second part of your process will need to confirm that they have a good temperament around them.

The same goes for hair-dryers or scissors if you’re a dog groomer.  They may have been introduced to a hair dryer, but how do they react around it? Do they remain calm, or do they become timid, or even aggressive?

You need to think about all the aspects and things the dog is likely to come across whilst they’re in your care, determine whether they have experienced this before, and whether they’ll react positively to it.  

Section Three: The Health of the Dog

Does the dog have any specific health needs that you need to take into account? Do they require any medication that you would be expected to administrate? Are they all up to date with vaccinations?

Do any of their health concerns will this impact how far they need to be walked?

If you’re caring for a dog for the day or longer (as a boarding kennel), you’ll need to find out what their diet is, and whether they have any specific feeding behaviors, for example do they like to eat alone? Making sure the dog has been vaccinated will help to keep all of the other dogs under your care safe too.

Section Four: Past History

This includes the past history of temperament, socialization and health. Has the dog ever attacked another dog or human? Has the dog ever been attacked? Have they had any major operations that you need to be aware of? Any major illnesses they have recovered from?

You need to know about any incidents of behavior that aren’t considered normal, while aggressive behaviors are the ones that typically spring to mind in this line of questioning, you also need to determine whether there is anything the dog is particularly scared of, and what to expect if they are scared.

Do they become timid and shy and hide away? Or are the likely to attack if they feel scared?

By the time you’ve finished asking all these questions you should have built up a really good picture about the dog that you’ll potentially be caring for; their typical temperament and behavior, as well as any past health incidents that have occurred.

You should feel that the client and dog will make a good fit with your business and that you are able to provide them with all the exercise, care and support they require.

As well as all these questions, you’ll also need to meet the dog, and watch how he behaves around other animals.

Communication with the Customer

As the pet begins to engage with your services, your staff and the pets around them, record notes in your pet-care software. Record private employee-notes that are not-visible to the customer, and you may choose to ‘tag’ the pet with custom behavior-related icons to make it easy for your team to identify and predict behavior, particularly with new pets they are not familiar with.

Use Report Cards to share information with the pet-owner. Behavioral comments, photos and videos are a great way to share information on how their pet is doing.