One of the most common questions we're asked is what the dogs do all day while they are with us.
Every dog has a program personally tailored to their needs and family goals.
Below are some of the activities your dog might do throughout their program.
Every dog starts their day with a scheduled School Drop Off between 7:15 am and 9:00 am. To get the most out of your program, we request to know a consistent 15 to 30 minute arrival window. We will ask how things are going at home, if there have been any changes, what's going well, and what seems to be the most pressing issue.
Most dogs, especially after a few days, are feeling refreshed, excited, and ready for another day of fun and learning. This is normal and to be expected. We encourage caretakers to bring a bag of higher value treats with them so that you can help reinforce calmer behaviors in the parking lot through games and connection exercises we will show you. Remember, we're looking for improvement over perfection during the learning process.
Upon arrival your dog may receive a morning learning session, a social session, or an enrichment activity, or a short rest session if other dogs are arriving at the same time. We appreciate your understanding and patience.
After all of the dogs have arrived and had their morning session, longer individualized sessions begin.
Dogs learn a lot through properly monitored interactions and play. Safety is our number one priority, so we always listen to the dog on whether or not an off-leash play session would be appropriate.
For dogs who want to meet other dogs, we do our best to match them with role model helpers for off-leash play sessions. These helper dogs, much like parents, assist in teaching appropriate social skills, how to moderate excitement, and how to play nicely.
For dogs who tell us they are not ready for off-leash interactions, we work with them on leash or with a protective barrier at a distance the dog says is safe and gradually, over the course of the program, try to reduce the distance. Some dogs really don't want any other dog friends, and that's totally fine! We want the dog to feel safe because feeling safe reduces aggressive displays.
Most dogs will go on a structured hike their first day.
Urban life can be stressful for many of our canine companions. Going on structured hikes allows dogs to shake off their nerves, calm pent-up excitement, explore the natural world, gain more confidence, and maybe meet a new dog friend we think would be a good match.
Hikes are conducted on local trails with the dogs on 25 foot long lines. We will let dogs meet each other if it seems safe to do so, but mostly we want them to have the illusion of freedom to explore and take in the world. When the dogs are ready, we will start asking for check-ins and practicing recall on hikes.
Breaks, whether in play, school, or work, are a critical part of effective learning and in avoiding burn out, unproductive exhaustion, and irritability. During breaks, dogs (and people for that matter) have a chance to calm down, breathe, and process newly acquired information and skills. In fact, a 2021 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that breaks may even help an individual learn and retain a new skill faster.
Dogs enrolled in our programs have several mandated rest periods throughout the day. During a rest period, your dog will be crated inside our climate controlled building. Some dogs take a brief nap, others prefer to work on a stuffed Kong or easily digestible chew.
As living beings, dogs are learning all the time. Thus, every time we interact with them is a teaching and learning opportunity. Every dog has multiple sessions throughout the day and one longer session specifically focused on what the dog needs to work on that day. This could take the form of decompression, working on skills, going on an outing, social interactions, confidence building activities, or any combination thereof. We design these sessions to safely and gently push the dog's current boundaries and open their world. We're constantly reevaluating the dog in front of us, so our training plans are not set in stone and are flexible enough to accommodate the dog's needs on any given day.
It can be very scary to try something you've never done before. We get it, and dogs can feel the same emotion. Through empathy and reinforcing the small wins during a new activity, we encourage our canine students to expand their worldly bubbles. We love seeing our canine students blossom and try new behaviors and activities, whether it's expanding their social circle or crossing the top of the A-Frame.
When your dog is ready, we'll start going on specific training outings. These outings can be local parks, neighborhood training walks, learning to relax at outdoor patios, or visiting dog-friendly local stores and businesses. We want to make sure it is an enjoyable experience for your dog and that your dog is learning, so we are careful to choose places where your dog can succeed. We don't take dogs places that are unsafe for anyone and have backup plans in case the location is too much at that time.
Canine Enrichment is a hot topic, and we presented an entire webinar on the subject in conjunction with Every Dog Austin Training and Behavior! Put simply, Enrichment is an activity that allows your dog to do what comes naturally. This could be sniffing exercises, exploration, bird watching, training games, socializing... anything really that your dog enjoys and is safe.
Allowing these activities helps dogs decompress from city life, gives them the opportunity to be a dog, and directs natural instincts into a positive outlet.
As much fun as the dogs have training with us, they are also happy to go home at the end of the day so they can rest up and do it all again tomorrow. At the end of the day, you will be given a verbal report on what your pup did that day, what needs work, and any relevant homework (don't worry, if we want to work on something specifically, we'll teach it to you that evening).
Regular pick up is between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. We again ask for a 30 minute estimated departure window. Many dogs are tired with a few being over tired the first few days. We encourage giving your dog some quiet time when you get home to minimize them becoming over-tired and acting out inappropriately. Remember, your pup did A LOT today and quiet, calm activities will help the recharge, process, and retain what they learned that day.
We do have a weekday boarding option for dogs who need more help, or if making drop off and pick up times is unnecessarily difficult during the week. We are happy to discuss this option further with you.
South Austin Dog Center
10010 Menchaca Road, Austin, Texas 78748, United States
Photos by Sarah Throop Photography
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