Curious about what to expect when you sign your dog up for an Educational Daycare evaluation at Crossbones? Here is what you can expect, and what our team members are looking for from you and your dog.

Getting Started

The evaluation starts as soon as you and your dog arrive at Crossbones. Educational Daycare attendees must be under their owner’s control in the parking lot and lobby. A member of our staff will come out to meet you in the lobby* and briefly outline the evaluation process. We’ll take your dog into one of our play courts and begin the assessment.

*=At this time, we are still using an outdoor pen for pick-up & drop-off procedures as part of our COVID-19 plan. You can view a video of this process here. At the conclusion of your dog’s evaluation, you may come inside to speak with the evaluator.

You will need to wait outside during the evaluation. For many dogs, it is distracting or upsetting to them if they can hear you and smell you, but not see you. For this reason, we no longer allow clients to wait in the lobby during their dog’s evaluation.

The Evaluation

The first element of the evaluation is your dog’s opportunity to check out our indoor play space. Your dog can walk around and sniff the room, check out our toys, have a sip of water, etc. The evaluator will remain quiet and neutral during this part of the evaluation. This gives your dog a chance to settle in without being distracted by a person. They will observe your dog to make sure they seem comfortable and confident in the space.

The evaluator will watch closely for signs of stress, such as excessive panting, whining, or trying to jump the fence. Any accidents, including urine marking, in the space will also be noted (and cleaned up). More than one accident during the evaluation is a failure. Please give your dog ample time to relieve themselves outside before their appointment.

Next, our evaluator will assess your dog’s interest in interacting with people. They will greet your dog and ask them to sit and come when called in exchange for food rewards. They will also pet your dog, and lead them a short distance by their collar. The goal is that your dog responds to the evaluator’s cues, is comfortable being petted, and goes willingly with them while being led by the collar. If your dog does not respond to our evaluator, they will not pass the evaluation.

Remember that Educational Daycare is meant to maintain the training your dog already knows. If your dog is not trained, they are not going to pass an evaluation here.

Interacting with Other Dogs

If your dog is comfortable in our play space and responding appropriately to the evaluator, the next part of the evaluation is introducing them to other dogs. Your dog will be introduced to 2-4 other dogs, one at a time. The evaluator, joined by an assistant, will watch carefully to make sure your dog is either neutral or friendly towards other dogs.

We recognize that not all dogs are comfortable playing with other dogs right off the bat during the evaluation. That’s okay! Your dog must be comfortable with other dogs approaching, sniffing, and politely soliciting play from them, even if they are not ready or interested in playing back.

If your dog does play with the other dogs – great! Our evaluator will assess your dog’s play style to make sure it is a good fit for the rest of our daycare dogs. Key things the evaluator watches for include:

  • reciprocal play: taking turns being the chaser vs. the chase-ee, wrestling on top vs. wrestling on bottom
  • backing off if another dog tells them they’ve had enough
  • not instigating play with dogs who are communicating that they’re not interested
  • appropriate levels of vocalization: no excessive barking at other dogs

Our evaluator will also assess your dog’s ability to respond to them in the presence of other dogs. Your dog needs to come to the evaluator when they are called. Some dogs do great when no other dogs are present but ignore the evaluator once they are playing with dogs. If your dog does not come when called at the dog park, they need more training before an Educational Daycare evaluation.

Relaxing After Play

If this all goes well, the last phase of the evaluation is seeing how your dog does in a crate in our kennel room. We proudly use a “crate and rotate” model of play here at Crossbones. Dogs alternate between crated rest time and active play time. A little bit of whining or barking at first is common and we will give your dog a chance to settle down. Frequent or excessively loud vocalization, pawing at or attempting to break out of the crate, or refusing to enter the crate for the evaluator are all reasons why a dog might not pass this element of the evaluation.

Wrapping Up

At the conclusion of the evaluation, we’ll invite you back into the building to discuss how the evaluation went, and if your dog is eligible to start right away, eligible for a trial week, needs to attend a certain minimum number of days per week, or did not pass the evaluation. High-energy dogs who tend to play vigorously with their friends need to attend daycare often more often than 2x or 3x/week, so our evaluator may make the decision that your dog needs to come more frequently than that for a period of time.

And there you have it! That’s what we pack into the Educational Daycare evaluation appointment. If you have questions, leave a comment below or contact us!