Bad dogs

Have you seen the trend “dog shaming”? It’s when owners post photos of their dogs with a sign telling everyone what naughty thing their doggy has done. They can be so funny because, really, dogs are dogs, and they have no shame thankyouverymuch. It’s part of their charm.

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But this one hit home and made me very sad.



If you can’t read it, it says: “I got kicked out of doggie daycare because I’m a jerk!” The other says: “I’m her blind brother and I am awesome at daycare!”

I’m not criticizing this person at all. I think this was something very lighthearted and I’m sure he/she loves these dogs very much. It just ignited my thoughts about something I’ve been dealing with for a while now that I think is worth exploring.

Because I work at a dog daycare facility, I’m often in the position of having to tell owners that their dogs can’t come back to play. I hate having this conversation. Unfailingly – despite how carefully I choose my words and how clearly I try to communicate – what they hear when I tell them their dog isn’t working out in the daycare is that “your dog is bad.”

Can I just say for the record right now? There ARE NO BAD DOGS.

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Dogs are individuals, just like us, with likes and dislikes. They have experiences that shape their reactions. And the simple truth is that not all dogs like being put in a group with a bunch of other dogs.

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Some like to play with just a few besties.

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Or cuddle with a close friend.

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Or sometimes, sit on each other for no apparent reason. (Get off Maggie, Posey!)

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Others just want to play with a ball. (And if another dog tries to take that ball, all hell will break loose.)

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Others might be having a bad day and just want to be babied a little.

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There are a few things that we just can’t get around in the daycare setting. First off, they have to be okay being surrounded by other dogs. That’s just what a dog daycare is like. And second, they have to be able to have their own brand of fun in this setting. All of this has to be done safely, so that no one gets hurt.

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Many times, I’ve talked to owners who need their dog to come to daycare because they work all day. Unfortunately, these owners don’t always have dogs that enjoy group play.

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They want us to socialize their dogs better, so that they will start to like daycare. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. And while we’re figuring that out, we have to make sure nobody gets seriously hurt.

Whatever your theory on dog training (and there are many!) I have one truth I believe about dogs. They are individuals, just like us. And just like you can’t train a person to be an extrovert when they are an introvert, you can’t always convince dogs to enjoy something that they just don’t.

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I’m not an expert, but I can say that I’ve owned dogs since I can remember and have worked with them going on 20 years. I’ve worked with the most carefully bred labs and goldens in the Guide Dog program and helped treat street dogs who wanted to tear my face off. And I can honestly say I loved them all, and I could understand where each one was coming from.

An angry dog is just an angel who’s had her wings messed with one too many times. The angel is still in there – you just have to gain her trust.

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Having said all that, I think it’s an understandable misconception that all dogs like to play with other dogs. And that if they don’t – if they snap at dogs at the dog park, or lunge at other dogs while on leash – well, they’re BAD DOGS with BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS.

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But I say no to that. No, they are not bad dogs! They are just dogs who prefer doing other things for fun.

It’s asking a lot to expect every dog, who are all individuals with their own experiences and reactions, to love being surrounded by other dogs in a play group. Some dogs are understandably overwhelmed and lash out in fear. Others pick up on the frenetic energy of the group and think it’s a free-for-all for ransacking and bullying. And yet others panic because their personal space is constantly invaded and they feel they have no place to be.

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I read an article,”My Dog Got Kicked Out of Daycare Today” by Robin Bennett, a behaviorist from The Dog Gurus,,” who I think got it just right:

“When a dog doesn’t do well in off-leash play, it is not necessarily a symptom of a problem… This might be the case, but more often than not, it’s just a dog who prefers people…”

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“… It’s a dog who would love a hike in the woods but doesn’t enjoy off-leash play with a group of other dogs. This doesn’t make the dog bad.”

Bennett goes on to say that many of her clients still don’t accept this situation – they have dogs who don’t seem to enjoy dog parks or doggy daycares and they want to know why.

“Don’t all dogs want to play with other dogs?” they ask. “Shouldn’t I socialize him so he gets used to it? The truth is, there are far more dogs who do not enjoy off-leash play, than there are dogs who love it.”

And this was my favorite part:

“When a pet care professional dismisses your dog from daycare or recommends you don’t go to the dog park, you should thank them. Thank them for caring more about your pet, than about making a buck … Thank them for seeing your dog as a unique animal with individual temperament traits. Thank them for trying to look out for the well-being of your pet and putting your dog’s safety and comfort first.”

Thank you, Robin!

So to all those folks out there who think there is something wrong with their dog when I call them to say WOOF is not right for them, this blog post is for you.

I don’t think you have a bad dog. I think you have a lovely dog who just doesn’t like daycare.


About Jonathan

Vickie is blogger, copy writer and dog welfare coordinator at WOOF Dog Daycare & Boarding in San Ramon, California. She loves loving dogs and loves the love she gets in return.

17 thoughts on “Bad dogs

  1. Thank you for this enlightening email. While my dog Sammy has never been asked to leave a daycare facility, I know of dogs from the different dog parks that we go to, that some dogs just don’t like to socialize. You can see it in their behavior as soon as the leash is taken off. Some cower by their owners, while others may start off fine, but get very aggressive when confronted by more than one or two dogs. I personally know that Sammy, (the worlds Best Dog) has problems with Pit Bulls, he has been attacked three different times by the breed, so I now immediately take him from the park when one shows up, knowing that if the pit shows any aggression, Sammy will attack. Thanks again, And Love Your Dogs!

  2. Thank you for posting this! I had a dog that really had no use for other dogs. It was just the way she was. We tried to socialize her but she had a specific growl that said “don’t bother me.” Then she turned away. We took her word for it. No problems. Her brother went to the dog park. She was happy to see him leave her alone.

  3. I get it, Robin. You refused my dog, Amber, and I get it. She is not right for your kind of daycare, I think she just prefers people. Oddly enough-just like the original post, my blind dog, Riley was perfect for you. Sadly, we have recently had to put Riley down, she no longer had any quality of life. I wish you well, as I will be unsubscribing to your website. My daughter has a new puppy that seems to enjoy other dogs, so I will keep you in mind for her.

    1. Hi Carrie, we’re sorry Amber didn’t work out at WOOF! And we’re so, so sorry to hear about Riley. She was such a sweet, old girl. Best to you and yours until we meet again.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, I find that there are owners who are totally ignorant about basic dog behavior. Such as allowing your dog (who may or may not be leashed) to approach another dog who is leashed without first asking the owner/walker…..Duh! My dog who’s normally friendly is more guarded on a leash, especially if the approaching dog is off leash. I’ve noticed that when the dog parks are closed there are a large number of dogs running free in the local parks, what these owners don’t comprehend is that to a leashed dog those 2 or 3 dogs running become a pack, not a good situation. I’ve approached the local police who monitor the parks, to no avail. I wish there was a reasonable compromise, but haven’t found it yet.

    1. Hi D’Ette, yes I know exactly what you’re talking about when dogs approach a leashed dog – not a good situation! All we can do is be sensitive to one another and always ask if what our dogs are doing is okay with your dog. Give Penny a big kiss for us.

  5. This is what I love about WOOF! They get dogs, and they get what people are looking for in daycare for their dogs. They just get it. Thank you for loving on my dog and providing a fun place for her to play when I can’t be with her (and one that isn’t a half an hour away!!!) And thanks for taking the time to help explain the behavior of my friends’ and families’ dogs that don’t like to play.

  6. We love WOOF and appreciate that dogs who don’t do well with other dogs for whatever reason are not allowed. It makes me feel that our dog, Charlie, is safe at your facility.

    And, while it must be difficult tell parents that other arrangements need to be made for their companion, I would be grateful that you noticed our pooch was unhappy. Thank you ….

  7. Thanks for a great article. I definitely understand having experienced my past dogs I’ve owned which were herding dogs. Not all the same but a few were very selective with their friends. I actually never took my dogs to a dog park or day care because they were not so sociable with other dogs, that is they didn’t care to play just herd or referee others who were playing. Herding dogs are mostly loyal and like to hang only with their owners. We walked, hiked and ride in cars and they were happy just to be by my side.

    My current dog, Bluey is half Aust. cattle dog and half Shih-Tzu and he mostly likes to watch other dogs and just smell and mark. I haven’t received any comments so I’m assuming he is ok.
    He is sensitive and moody and prefers people more over other dogs. I love him so much!! Only a human “Mom” could lover her baby dog no matter how he/she may act. I do believe that dogs should be socialized when very young but perhaps not always the case with certain breeds.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Linda! We love all the thoughtful responses we’ve gotten from this post. Bluey is a wonderful guest at WOOF and is very social with both the dogs and our staff.

    2. Thank you so much for your comment, me and my husband recently adopted an australian cattle mix and we just took her to a local daycare today for an interview, she was doing well in the beginning however when they introduced a hyperactive dog who would not stop sniffing her, she lost her temper. So we learned that dog daycare may not be the best for her. Other than that she does well with human and she is very smart and listens well at home.

  8. Thanks to Woof for being there for dogs—or at least dogs who like to be around other dogs. As a very old lady, I can tell you that Woof is a luxury and privilege that we retired folk didn’t have when we were working full time. Finagle your dog a place at work, or leave it lonely at home for many hours. I was fortunate to find my dogs jobs at my place of work…

    1. That is so true, Marion. A place for dogs to go during the day is so key to giving our dogs a better quality of life, not just pining away at home, waiting for their owners to get home.

  9. I have often thought about how difficult your job must be. There are so many things to deal with and one of the most difficult has to be turning those dogs away who may put other dogs and themselves in danger. We feel so fortunate to have found Woof! You have had to go above and beyond with Pizmo through his puppy behavior, cherry eye and neurotic parents. He is missing his friends while recovering at home. With all the dogs you have to care for I am amazed and impressed by the time you have taken with us and with Pizmo. Thank you all!!

    1. Thank you, Donna! We think of it as a partnership between the owners and our staff in doing what’s best for each dog. Sometimes the answer is not always what we want, but it’s necessary to openly communicate so that nobody gets hurt and dogs don’t have miserable days when they’d rather be doing something else.

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