Robin Bennet, Dog Gurus
“A tired dog is a happy dog” is a common saying in the dog daycare and training business, and while exercise is important, this expectation can lead to unhealthy habits and missed opportunities. Though physical fitness is essential to a dog’s health and well-being, ensure that exhaustion is not the only measure of success in your playgroup.
The Dog Gurus’ approach to off-leash play is to balance physical exercise, mental activities, and rest periods. All three are equally important components to keeping dogs safe and healthy when socializing with other dogs.
Physical exercise is a clear benefit of off-leash play and it’s what most pet parents expect when they drop their dog off to play, but it is also important to provide mental stimulation, which allows dogs to use their brains during the day. Mental stimulation such as nosework is both tiring for dogs and helps build their confidence and self-control.
Much like their human companions, after all physical and mental work, dogs need rest. Therefore, it is important to include formal rest periods as a component to your health and safety program for dog daycare. This will benefit the individual dogs as well as their playmates. Because exhausted dogs are less tolerant of other dogs, play breaks for sleep help reduce the risk of injuries.
Research studies report that dogs need 12-18 hours of sleep per day. Dogs that have above average sleep requirements are:
- Senior dogs
- Giant and large breeds
- Dogs in active households or with extreme exercise routines
- Dogs that attend dog daycare multiple days per week or are staying away from home for long periods of time
- Dogs participating in sports like agility, fly ball, or rally-o
Sleep habits of dogs also differ from humans. Instead of a full night and full day, napping on and off during the day is a normal pattern for dogs. Offering formal rest periods during play visits to mirror this normal pattern is recommended to allow dogs to reach deeper sleep levels. Providing a private, quiet area for rest periods allow dogs to reach the restful deep sleep levels they need to stay healthy and happy.
Though dogs may take natural rest breaks during playgroups, it is rare that a dog will relax enough to enter a deep sleep. Most dogs napping in the playgroup are in light sleep, but remain alert so they can jump up whenever something exciting happens. Dogs in this situation do not reach the restful sleep stages needed to keep their brain healthy.
We recommend including formal rest periods as a part of any play sessions to help ensure the long-term health and mental well-being of the dogs. Happy and healthy dogs are the most important measure of success.
The Dog Gurus help pet care businesses launch, grow, and profit by providing business growth resources as well as staff training resources. Check them out at www.TheDogGurus.com