Why Pet Care Certification Matters

Do you know what type of pet care certification the staff at your daycare facility has obtained?  What about your pet sitter?  You likely checked into the proper certifications for your child care provider, or those folks who care for your elderly parents.  And people often ask pet care providers about being insured and bonded, but seldom about the knowledge and best practices of people who care for our pets—our beloved, furry family members.

Many people don’t realize that several years went by—and many, many new pet care facilities were established during this time–in which the only animal care certifications available for our industry were simply pieces of paper you bought on the internet.  Nowadays, thanks to organizations such as the IBPSA and PACCC, and companies such as PetTech and The Dog Gurus, real training and actual certifcations are available, by means of real courses and testing centers.

And yet, there are still many facilities today that don’t bother to obtain them.

CPACP certs

Your Pet Space is proud that our owners are the only two people in the state of New Mexico that are Certified Professional Animal Care Providers (CPACPs).  In the words of PACCC, we are “members of an elite group of pet care professionals who have successfully demonstrated comprehensive pet care knowledge and passion for pet safety”.

The Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) recently conducted an independent certification exam locally for pet care providers. The exam content was created by a team of industry expert volunteers under the guidance of the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC), the third-party testing organization that administered the exam and certified the results.

To initially qualify to take the CPACP exam, Dave and I had to meet minimum education requirements, have a minimum of 500 hours of experience, and provide letters of reference from veterinarians and other pet care industry professionals, as well as some of our clients. The in-depth 125-question examination covered animal care topics including health, nutrition, dog fight and bite protocol, on-leash and off-leash interaction, sanitation, dog behavior and temperament, dog body language, dog training, animal and handler safety, vaccination protocol, workflow management, pathogen control, emergency and quarantine protocols, air quality standards, staff management expectations, and much more.

Our PACCC certification is only a part of what Your Pet Space will be doing to create a growing team of independently certified pet care professionals. We look forward to the next opportunity so our staff can sit for their initial exam, and Dave and I for the next level.  We are so proud to be able to demonstrate through PACCC’s independent certification our dedication to pet safety for our clients and community.  Pets are family members, and their ‘parents’ should feel confident they are receiving the highest level of care.

First Aid And CPR certs

In addition to our PACCC certifications, all but our very newest staff have trained with an instructor in pet First Aid and CPR via PetTech.  We rarely have to use any of our first aid skills, and it would be super rare to need to use our CPR knowledge—but we have it…just in case.

Group of dogs

Xena, Garrett and Marley relax in our Super Nova module, while Morgan and Finn are in the Space Cadet and Shooting Star areas.

What Are Best Practices For Daycare/Boarding Facilities?

1.)  Assessment of all new dogs (and periodic re-assessment).  Contrary to what some facility owners believe, not all dogs are suited for or enjoy daycare.  Our Assessments inform us at the outset of a dog’s tolerance for the stress of new situations, who his best playmates are, and what type of play is suitable for him.  The initial Assessment Day teaches the dog that Your Pet Space is a safe place to play, even with new dogs and people, and that Mom and Dad always return, whenever they come to see us.

2.)  Appropriate dog playgroups for size and age.  Inside, Your Pet Space offers a small dog play area called The Tribble Zone, a senior dog area: The Milky Way, a puppy play area for our Space Cadets, a Shooting Star area for jumping dogs and the Super Nova module for larger, active dogs with a chasing playstyle.  On the exterior, we have the large outside yard, The Mesosphere, and a smaller dog area called The Stratosphere. Most important: There are never more than 10 dogs in a single playgroup.

3.)  Appropriate staff to dog ratio.  We ask our clients to try to either call to schedule the day before their dog is coming, or schedule on a recurring basis (the same days each week) so that we can ensure we have an adequate number of staff inside to safely supervise the dogs.  Proper certification educates facility owners to allow for 1 person for every 10 dogs, on average.  Sometimes, we provide even more staff, if we have a day with very active groups.

speak dog

4.)  Proper knowledge of dog body language.  In any facility, the staff on site must be able to head off behavioral issues (fights and bites) before they occur.  This is accomplished by understanding of the body language dogs routinely display while playing, when they’re stressed, and especially when there is about to be an altercation.  A daycare facility is not like your average dog park, where unknown dogs are turned out into an area together without assessment, division of sizes/ages, proper supervision and little or no knowledge of how dogs signal their intentions to one another.  In this sort of situation, dogs are often expected to “work it out” on their own—resulting in a fight.  Certification ensures that almost all of the time, this will not happen with us.

5.)  Proper knowledge of pet health and safety.  In order to gain CPACP status, Dave and I were required to understand how to inhibit transmission of zoonotic and vector borne disease as well as parasites within our facility, as well as demonstrate our knowledge of proper sanitation procedures on a day to day basis.  Also, there was a testing section devoted expressly to the safety of and escape plan for pets and staff within our facility due to an emergency.

trauma kit

Questions To Ask Yourself

In closing this article, I’d like to speak directly to that person reading this and thinking, “Well, I’ve taken my dog(s) to the same place for years and there has never been a problem.  Besides, it’s closer/cheaper/hours are better.”

Let me ask you this: How many incidents at an uncertified facility are ok?  How bad do they have to be before they’re a concern for you?  Would you rather pay a certified pet care provider or pay the vet when your pet is hurt or becomes ill?

If you live near Your Pet Space in Las Cruces, know that we do provide transport, home care for all types of pets, and offer many discounts for our services.  We will even work with you on drop off and pickup times.

So make sure your pet is safer….in a PACCC.

For more information about PACCC and independent certification, visit www.paccert.org.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. Her urban fiction book Indigo was recently published. When not working at Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info or follow Your Pet Space on Facebook.

Finding the Perfect Dog

I began writing this to help senior citizens find the right dog. As I wrote, I realized that the information is beneficial to people of all ages who are looking for a dog. Companion animals (cats and dogs in particular) provide multiple health benefits to all individuals. The health benefits can include an increase in physical activity, social support and interaction, and a decrease in cardiovascular disease and depression. It seems that, on almost a daily basis, scientists are finding more benefits to having a dog or cat, which can be seen on both the animal and the human side of the relationship. However, as with any human-animal interaction, there are possible downfalls.

Am I the perfect dog for you?

All too many times, people get a new dog and the person and dog are not a good match for each other. The American Kennel Club (AKC) categorizes breeds of dogs into seven different groups; herding, hound, non-sporting, sporting, terrier, toy, and working. Breeds fit within each group based on the original job that they were bred to do. For example, the dogs in the sporting group are ones who are bred to assist hunters, the herding group is bred to protect and move livestock, and the terrier group is bred to go after rodents. In modern times, people breed dogs mostly for companionship rather than to do a job. However, the breeds still have some common behaviors that were originally bred into them when they needed to do a job effectively. Within each breed (Border Collie, West Highland White Terrier, Rottweiler, etc.) each individual dog has its own unique personality and temperament. When it comes time to get a new dog, the breed should play an important role in the selection process. For example, Huskies were originally bred to pull sleds long distances. Because of this, teaching a Husky to walk on a loose leash can be much harder than it is for other breeds, so they not ideal for a person with back issues or with shoulder, arm, or hand problems.

I have an 80-year-old client, let’s call her Debby, (names have been changed) who has a 1-year-old Border Collie named Thor. Debby has an older Pekingese, and she got Thor so she could have someone to walk. Debby’s doctors told her that, to help with her medical issues, she should be more active to decrease her pain and increase her blood circulation. Therefore, Debby wanted a more active dog to help keep her active.

Border Collies can be great dogs (for the right person).

If you’re unaware of typical behaviors in Border Collies, here are the basics: Border Collies were (and still are) bred to herd sheep. This allows a rancher to move flocks of sheep much easier, and it is less stressful for the livestock than herding with horses can be. Border Collies are extremely active, intelligent dogs that need constant training, exercise, and mental stimulation. I was called in to work with Thor because he was digging up Debby’s back yard, barking incessantly with complaints from the neighbors, jumping on people, and he could not be walked because he pulled. Thor is behaving the way he is because he is not getting the physical and mental stimulation required to keep a Border Collie happy and out of trouble. Because of this, Thor and Debby are not a good fit for each other. I do agree with Debby’s doctors that, the more active she becomes, the healthier she will get. Unfortunately, Debby hasn’t become more active with Thor, since he is currently so unruly that he cannot be handled.

If you’re looking for a dog, I highly recommend consulting a local trainer or behaviorist to help you find the perfect dog for your lifestyle. Some of the questions to ask yourself before you get a dog are:

What will your life be like in 5-10 years?

The average lifespan for a dog is 10+ years. If you are older, are you willing to accept that your dog may outlive you? If they do, what will happen to the dog? Also, do you see yourself moving into a smaller house or across the country?

These guys would like to know the plan for their futures!

Will you be getting the dog by yourself or with someone?

If you live with someone, make sure they are just as dedicated to having another dog as you are. If everyone in the house is on board, it makes adding a new family member much easier.

How much time can you dedicate to your dog?

If you’re retired, you may be at home frequently, but does that mean that you’re constantly with your dog, or will they be in the backyard by themselves most of the day? If they’re in the house, are they kenneled or do they have some freedom to roam around?

Can you afford to own an animal?

The cost to purchase a pure-bred animal can be extensive, but it is also important to remember that other costs are involved in having a dog. Food, veterinary care, supplies (leash, collar, tags, bowls, toys, beds, kennel, etc.), and training can all add up very quickly. These are all things that are constant and sometimes may be more expensive than others. For a more detailed break-down of the costs, check out the article What To Know Before Getting a New Dog: Part I.

Do you have support from others if you’re working late or traveling?

Sometimes, traveling has to happen. What are you going to do with your dog while you’re out of town or if you have to work late? Are you going to hire someone to come over to your house to take care of your dog? Are you going to pay a facility like Your Pet Space to board your dog while you’re gone? If you have a long day is your dog going to stay home alone or go to daycare?

She doesn’t want to have to spend 8+ hours a day in her crate.

How much household destruction can you handle?

Dogs, especially puppies, can easily destroy items in your house. Whether they are peeing or pooping in your house, chewing on your couch, or playing and knocking over breakables, are you willing or able to handle this?

If you already have a pet, is that pet likely to accept a new house mate?

Adding another animal into your house can be stressful for the pets you already have. If you have a cat and you get a new dog, will your new dog chase the cat? Also keep in mind the age(s) of the animals; if you have a 15 year old dog who has mobility issues, adding a puppy could cause more problems for your senior dog.

What do you hope to get out of the relationship with your dog?

Are you wanting a dog to cuddle with you? Do you want a walking buddy? Are you wanting a dog to do visitation work, become a therapy dog, or do agility? Do you want to do a lot of training? Knowing your goals for your future dog will help you find the best dog for your needs.

This dog is doing very well in his training classes!

Do you have the time and resources needed for proper training?

Some dogs take more training time than others. Are you willing to spend the time needed to give your dog everything they need, both mentally and physically? Are you willing to hire a trainer to help you one-on-one if you’re having issues that you cannot correct? Are you willing to remain consistent with your training?

What breed or mixes of breeds should I get?

Even if you’re planning on adopting, look at the American Kennel Club (AKC) website to get detailed information on a variety of breeds and their individual needs. Some dogs need more grooming than others, some are more fit for apartments, and others aren’t good with kids. Talk with a trainer, behaviorist, or veterinarian for their input on what breed(s) may be best for your lifestyle.

Should I get a puppy or an adult dog?

Many people want a puppy. Younger dogs take more training and they take more time to work through typical puppy problems like potty training and chewing. Getting an adult dog or a senior dog may be more fitting to your lifestyle. An adult dog is more likely to come with some known basic training, such as potty training. A senior dog is also a great companion for someone who wants to take slow walks every day, but spend the rest of the time relaxing on the couch.

Should I adopt or buy a dog from a breeder?

If you know me, I am all for adopting. Rescue dogs make wonderful family members, but I am not here to preach. If you want to purchase from a breeder, make sure you do your research and make sure they are a reputable breeder. You should avoid puppy mills, pet stores, or anything that seems “sketchy” as much as possible.

How do I pick the right dog?

To find the right dog, spend time answering and thinking through the above questions. Do some research. Most importantly, take your time. Just because you go out one day looking for a dog, that doesn’t mean you need to find one that day. A lot of the time when people make an “in the moment” decision, they end up with a dog that is not a good match, much like Debby and Thor. Are you wanting another Labrador Retriever because you had one a few years ago that was absolutely amazing? Remember, even dogs who are the same breed have their own individual personalities. Just because you had a lab who loved to go hiking and could be trusted off leash, doesn’t mean another lab will be the same way.

Do you feel right about it?

Are you feeling pressure to get a dog? When you meet the dog, you should know without a doubt that this is the right dog. Follow your gut.

Every person is different. Every dog is different. There is no one way to find the perfect companion. The above is meant to help people narrow down their thoughts and help in beginning the process of finding the right dog. Your fur-ever friend might just find you when you least expect it. Good luck!

Claren Wilson is the head trainer at Cloud K-9 Dog Training Services. She is a certified professional dog trainer knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. She is also a distinguished graduate from New Mexico State University where she completed her Bachelor Degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in Companion Animals. Before staring Cloud K-9, Claren worked at a veterinary clinic in Corrales, NM and was a trainer at Petco. While at Petco, Claren became a dog training mentor and received her AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluater certification. Claren is Pet First Aid and CPR certified. You may email her at cloudk9nm@hotmail.com, call her at 575-524-2041, or visit her website, www.cloudk9nm.com.