Who Is Watching Your Dog?
There was a moment last week when I was reminded just how wonderful our team at the Lodge is. New clients were dropping their pup off for his first boarding stay with us. It was one of the first times he was ever in our building, and with just a little encouragement from mom, he started to follow our concierge back to the playroom. As he ventured through the lobby sniffing around, he remembered where he was. CNL means playtime! He began to bounce, leading the concierge straight back to the small dog room, excited to play.
Mom and Dad were all smiles and told me that they just get a great feeling when they enter the Lodge. That they could tell that we love dogs. I quipped that every single staff member here doesn’t just love dogs, we all really, really love dogs. They shared that they were relieved they found somewhere they absolutely trust with their furbaby. As they left the building, confident that we will take wonderful care of their precious family member, I thought about what I had said. It’s absolutely true. We really, really love dogs, but what does that mean?
To work at the Lodge, you have to be a special type of person. You have to be excited and prepared to put in the many hours of observation and study that it takes understand canine behavior and communication, and use this information to keep our friends comfortable and happy. You have to be willing and interested in ongoing education both in the playrooms and through the courses the Lodge invests in for all employees. You also have to take a pledge that we take very seriously. I’ll talk about that pledge a little later in this post.
Our staff is really like a family with so many shared laughs, tears, and ice cream (Thanks Rayne!). We look forward to spending time with our buddies who come in regularly and are always so excited when we see faces that only visit for boarding and daycare once or a few times per year. If you’re a Lodge client, you’ve probably recognized that we appreciate each dog’s individual personality. We use what we learn about them specifically to make every visit to the Lodge a happy and fun experience. This way, they are always excited to return to play with us! We know their little idiosyncrasies–their favorite games and toys, favorite play equipment and spots, if they are a fan of the bubbles, pools, or sprinklers, the easiest way to get them to take the medication that they aren’t a huge fan of, etc. We also know what they’re communicating to us and to the other dogs with their body language and vocalizations–in fact we study it! This helps us to make sure that they are having a wonderful and safe time while they are with us.
This wonderful staff has been cultivated over the past decade. In fact, we’re coming up on our 10th anniversary in October! Mark your calendars for a super fun celebration: https://www.facebook.com/events/447997155705316/
You may have met our founder, Rayne, or have gone through training classes or private training with Lori, our head trainer. You may also be familiar with our Assistant Manager of Daily Operations, Kathryn, our shift leads Kelly, Rachel, Jess, Liana, Emily K., and Krista and the other members of our team that you interact with when you drop off or pick up your pups. Wondering who is who? Check out our staff page here to learn more about our team! What you may not know is that we actually have over 30 employees (and growing!). You may only catch a glimpse of some of us when your dog is going in or coming out of the playrooms or maybe you just see us on camera.
Whether it’s a nudge for one more pet or a full body wag when they see us, your pups melt our hearts. We laugh while sharing stories with each other about the funny and adorable things they do while they are with us. We love watching them grow and celebrating milestones, and share in your pain during the harder times. We know how important your dogs are to you and want you to know how important they are to us. We are grateful that you can feel at ease while your best friends are with us and we wanted to tell you a little bit more about our awesome staff.
All of us participate in ongoing training and education so that we can best serve you in providing a fun and safe playroom environment. All of our programs are Fear Free. You may have caught our blog post on Fear Free at the Lodge. If you missed it, you can read it here. Here is a short excerpt from that post,
Fear Free provides education and certification to veterinary professionals and the pet professional community. The initiative, created by “America’s veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker, focuses on the importance of the emotional well-being of our best friends in addition to physical well-being. It’s goal is to alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets and educate and inspire the people who care for them.
This brings me to the pledge that I mentioned earlier. If you work at Cold Nose Lodge, you have pledged to only use positive, kind methods in every interaction you have with the dogs. You will never find any of us using fear, intimidation, or any aversive methods–ever. Cold Nose Lodge invests in us as employees, providing the resources and ongoing education we need to decipher dog body language and communication. We are taught how to gain trust and build a strong bond with every dog that comes to the Lodge, as well as positive training and leadership methods. We rely on these positive tools to guide the playgroups.
We have staff levels that are indicated by the colors of lead (leash) that we always carry with us while working:
Team members that carry BROWN leads are New Hires in Training. They are working toward earning their blue leads.
Team members that carry blue leads are Assistant Dog Handlers. To earn a BLUE lead, we must:
- Shadow a Dog Handler or designated staff member in all areas of the Lodge for training & monitoring.
- Watch Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas as an introduction to dog body language
- Read Off Leash Dog Play by Robin Bennett and Susan Briggs
- Learn all procedures and processes
- Understand Fear Free and how we implement it at the Lodge
- Begin to identify dogs who could use additional training to help them positively interact with dogs and people in the playroom and at home
- Complete the Ultimate Puppy Toolkit
- Complete two 8 part courses with observations and examinations. These courses were created by the authors of Off Leash Dog Play and are:
- Knowing Dogs 101: Dog Language
- Knowing Dogs 201: Group Play
To advance to the Dog Handler position and get our ORANGE leads, we:
- Have at least 300 hours experience in playrooms
- Are capable of managing up to 20 dogs in playroom alone.
- Are able to manage individual dog entrances and exits.
- Are able to identify dogs who could benefit from additional training to help them positively interact with dogs and people in the playroom and at home. Additionally, we are able implement an individual training plan for these dogs developed by a trainer.
To earn our LIME GREEN leads when we become Senior Dog Handlers, we:
- Have at least 1000 hours experience in playrooms
- Are capable of managing up to 25 dogs in playroom alone.
- Are capable of approving/rejecting new dogs during evaluations, excluding the various bully breeds.
- Are able to balance playrooms and initiate dog rotation as needed.
- Are able to identify dogs who would benefit from additional training to help them positively interact with dogs and people in the playroom and at home. Additionally, we are able to discuss and implement an individual training plan for these dogs developed with a trainer.
- Must complete at least one of the following Dog First Aid requirements:
- Certification from pet first aid course
- Two years’ experience as a Veterinary Assistant
- Vet Tech degree
- Complete Continuing Education
- 5 hours of courses, seminars, books, training DVDs, etc. approved CNL’s owner or General Manager
Our highest staff level is Daycare Director. A Daycare Director has a tri-color – GREEN/TAN/WINE lead. So far, we have one employee that has earned their tri-color lead! In addition to all of the requirements of the prior leash levels, a Daycare Director:
- Has at least two years of experience in playrooms
- Is capable of approving/rejecting new dogs during evaluations, all breeds.
- Has completed at least 25 hours of Continuing Education