Pack Therapy / Healthy
Welcome to Spirit Ridge's "Pack Therapy / Healthy
Play" programme! The popularity of this has continuously grown over
the past year to the point that we are considering expanding our play therapy/healthy play
days to Tuesdays and another (to be determined yet) weekday. It seems that a day at Spirit Ridge with appropriately
matched play mates, select quiet crate (nap) time, disciplined bathroom breaks
and lots of fun supervised play time is good for them and they are better behaved and mannered
when encountering other dogs and humans during walks. Go figure!
these sessions NOT?
These sessions are most definitely not intended to be "doggy daycare"
sessions. All too frequently I find that doggy daycare establishments are
staffed by individuals who are not trainers or behavioural consultants. As
a result, there may be physical activity amongst the dogs but they do not have
any structure in their play. Moreover, the supervisors are
usually not trained to spot
behaviours (such as bullying) that can leave a negative imprint in your dog's
mind which could, over time, lead your dog to understand
"play" as being synonymous with bullying OR becoming defensively
aggressive, avoiding any kind of play altogether.
can you expect from these sessions?
You can expect that your dog will be kept safe first and foremost. Many of
the dogs that come to these sessions are here because they need
it. Whether they are "shy", defensively aggressive
with other dogs, lack confidence but not curiosity, they come to Spirit Ridge's
pack therapy sessions to learn, first and foremost, to be a dog.
A dog, not as us humans insist on treating them, but as their own kind treat
them. This is where learning "healthy" play is so
critical. Dogs communicate considerable information through healthy play
and become more comfortable with their own kind. The more in touch they
are allowed to be with their own nature, the more content they are to follow our
leadership and the more relaxed they are as they encounter other dogs on walks,
in parks or simply around your neighbourhood.
Group picture from June 2016; From L to R (back) Stark (GSD), Melly (husky),
Reuben (retriever X), Sage (GSD)
Middle row from L to R: Ochi (our Malinois), Lily (all Canadian)
Front Row (L to R): Mister (all Canadian), Lulu (pug X) and Silka (all Canadian)
are these sessions conducted?
For one, with EXTREME care. Above all, safety precautions are
observed. When first starting out their visits to our play therapy
sessions, they are carefully assessed before deciding on which dogs present are
potential play mates. In fact, if necessary, they may not physically
interact with any dog initially. They may be limited to observing and
scenting the dogs that are playing by watching through their crate. That crate is often placed
in the very middle of the room so that they can't miss anything. This is a
two way street however, as the dogs playing will frequently come up to scent the
crate and its occupant. The objective of all this is for dogs to
"know" each other even if they have not physically engaged yet.
The gradual and careful approach is the preferred approach.
dogs get better at play - and some dogs will be good or get better at
this - the groupings are increased to three, four or even all dogs present - if
the situation and dogs allow that. The permanent "constant" in all
these groupings is our own girl "Ochi" who is a master at healthy play
and getting shy dogs to "have a go" with her! Our newest
addition at Spirit Ridge, Belgian sheepdog Ka-Pow (born July 6, 2016) is also
learning not only how to 'properly' meet new dogs but also how to appropriately
interact with older, mature dogs. This will prepare him to assist our Ochi
in our Play Therapy/Health Play programme. An example of how we introduce
our Ka-Pow to the other dogs (we typically work with clients' dogs the way we
work with ours - we treat them the same) can be seen by clicking here.
the picture below, "Ochi" (far right) joins "Migzy" and
"Maci" in trying to get "Griffin" in one of our Play Therapy
this something that could help puppies with their socialization?
Spirit Ridge's Play Therapy session is ideally suited for
puppy socialization. We pay special attention to the younger ones since
one has to be extremely careful to match puppies with stable adult dogs who know
both how to play as well as teach the younger dogs "manners" a la
doggy style. This teaches puppies how to better communicate with other
dogs and improves their doggy social skills - VERY valuable skills for adult
In addition, we make every
effort to invite other puppies and their handlers to visit us on days that we
host puppies. This way puppies get to play with dogs roughly their own age
as well as get exposed to many more of their own kind.
the dogs get any breaks?
Absolutely! All dogs need a break from each
other. In fact, one of the main reasons for dog fights is TOO MUCH playing
that can lead to fatigued dogs that get "lazy" and stop communicating
healthy play. This is, in turn, misinterpreted and squabbles can
occur. The best time for a break is before this occurs. Dogs also
have different cardiovascular capabilities; for example a pug will have a great
deal less endurance for extended play than a malinois. So, once again,
matching is critical. Dogs (and, especially, puppies) also need to
re-generate. Multiple shorter play sessions achieve more, in terms of
fulfillment and mental fatigue, than fewer and longer sessions.
are also a good time for proper crate training and being calm and fulfilled
while resting quietly in a crate. Handlers report back on increased crate manners
resulting from our play therapy sessions which is an associated benefit.
there any difference between winter and summer seasons?
Absolutely! In the summer, weather permits us to host play therapy
sessions outdoors in our fenced-in secure pen areas. When it rains, we do
everything indoors. In the winter, we have no choice but to hold our
sessions in our heated/insulated training facility.
is the cost of the PlayTherapy sessions?
The cost, for the day, is $50. If there are additional services
required (such as teaching the treadmill or training obedience), then the cost
will need to be determined by mutual agreement.
are the drop off/pick up hours?
Drop off on Tuesdays starts at 7:30 AM (we can arrange for an earlier drop
off time by mutual agreement). Pick up is any time after 4:00PM but no
later than 6:30PM in the winter months. (later pick up times can be
arranged if necessary). Pick up and drop off at your
residence can also be arranged subject to mutual agreement at an additional cost and
outside our regular pick up/drop off times. There will be a delivery/pick
surcharge depending on the geographic location.
you require more information or would like to set up a free evaluation to
determine your dog's suitability for this program at our facilities near
Hillsburgh, Ontario, please call us at: (519) 855 6962 or send us an email.
you would like to watch a short video of a sample play therapy day at Spirit
Ridge (note: when the video was made, we were doing Play
Therapy Wednesdays), please click here.
K9 Trainer & Behavioural Consultant
Spirit Ridge's "Ochi" (middle) is
joined by Spirit Ridge's "Zorro" in coaxing shy "Maci" (L)
"Willo" (Border Terrier) taking a
break from pack therapy/play
session (summer 2013)
Shy "Maci" (GSD, L) learning to hang out with the Spirit Ridge gang
Spirit Ridge's "Ochi" playing with a relaxed "Migzy"
Three way play, "Ochi" (L) instigates and puppies
"Marley" (M) and "Sage" (R) oblige
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