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Corona Virus – Is Your Dog at Risk?

Unless you are living off the grid or you are giving up news and social media for Lent, you’ve most likely been inundated with news stories about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’ve been fortunate in Illinois so far, but who knows what course this virus will take.
You may be wondering if your dog is at risk. You may be wondering if you can catch this virus from your dog. And those of you who know me and my love for educating our PAD family, you’ve most likely been wondering, “why isn’t April saying something about this?”
I’ve been mostly silent on this because I just haven’t felt I had enough good information to give you. The last thing you need, when you are being bombarded by conflicting reports on how serious this all is, is for me to throw my two cents in when I really don’t know anything more than you.
Trust me, I’ve been doing the research. The consistent findings relevant to your dog in daycare is that, at this time, your dog does not appear to be at risk of getting COVID-19. Here is a link to a quick and easy read by Steve Dale. I’m not endorsing Steve Dale as an expert on the Corona Virus. He’s just done a nice job of summarizing the data. And, based on my own personal review of the data, this blog post appears to be factual, based on the information we have to date.

What’s Hot! And Why You Might Want to Know

Each year, I analyze the business from top to bottom.  What is working, what’s not?   What projects need to be done?  What repairs need to be made?  What training does the staff need?  What can we do to provide a better service?   And another part of this analysis is what is selling in our retail shop and what is not.

Shopping for your dog can be overwhelming.  There are so many products out there and so many companies marketing to you.  What food is best for my dog’s needs?  What toys are durable, fun, and safe?  What treats are safe?  What supplements work to actually better my dog’s health?  And what is not going to break the bank?  Because seriously, our dogs should be tax deductions, considering how much we spend on them…right?!

I’ve taken some time to put together our Best Seller’s List, in hopes that it may guide you, as you consider all these questions.  By sharing what other Pet Parents are buying, you may discover something new and wonderful for your dog.   I will share the items, as well as provide a small explanation as to why I think the product is selling well.


We sell 3 brands of food at Play All Day.  Nulo is a new brand that we just started carrying so we don’t have a sales history with it.  We also don’t have a lot of experience with it.  But they are an up and coming company, with a good reputation so far.  We will be offering some incentives to try Nulo over the next few months, so be on the lookout for those opportunities.  For this exercise, we will look at Champion and American Natural Premium, as we sell an equal amount of these two lines.

Champion is our top-shelf food and they have 2 sub brands, Orijen & Acana.  They recently subdivided their Acana line into Regionals and Heritage.  And this past year, the Heritage Line has been making a big surge.  It has less meat, but still has a good amount of protein and is very balanced, as well as low carbohydrate content.   And, of course, Champion is known for the quality of their products and excellent production standards.  What is notable about the Heritage line is the price.  It is not that much higher than some of the other high quality kibbles on the market…and I feel that it is a better food.  For that reason, it has been selling very well.  The other Acana line and Orijen both sell well, and offer more meat based protein.

American Natural Premium is a good quality food and a great first step into the Premium market.  My only issue with it is that it does have a higher carbohydrate content.  And some dogs just don’t do well with that.  But if your dog tolerates carbs, it is a good quality food at a very good price point.  If you are feeding Purina, Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, or other similar foods, this is a great first step up.

Unsure of what to feed?  I offer free Nutritional Assessments.  All you have to do is email me and let me know what your dog currently eats, and what seems to be working with your current food, as well as what is not working.


We love to give our dogs treats.  That is the primary reason I feel our top sellers perform as they do.  Our Rabbit Jerky, Beefy Links, and Iced Cookies do really well.  They are smaller treats with a smaller investment of between $1 – $2.  They are a nice quick pick-up at the checkout counter and make a fun snack for your dog after a day of playing with buddies.  Now these are not the highest quality treats, but hey, we all need a little junk food now and again.  And the dogs sure love them.

For a little higher quality treat, pick up a “Bag ‘O Bones” or a bag of Coconut Colada cookies.  They are economically priced and will provide a good amount of snacks for the week after daycare.  They sell really well because the dogs love them and the price tag is not too bad.

The best sellers in our bigger bags and higher dollar treats are Diggin’ Your Dog Chicken Strips, Diggin’ Your Dog Charki Puffs, Pocket Trainers, Sojos Dehydrated Raw, and Bison Bites.  Diggin’ Your Dog is just a cool company.  Their love of dogs shows in the products they make.  The Chicken Strips are a good option because there are quite a few in the bag and the break into smaller pieces easily.  Dogs love them.  The Charki Puffs are on the Best Sellers List simply because the PAD Staff buys them up as soon as they hit the shelf (me included).  Take a tip from your Dog Care Professionals….dogs love these treats.   Pocket Trainers and Sojos dehydrated are great for training your dog.  They are small and calorie wise, won’t pudge up your pooch.  Sojos is also a great option for dogs who can’t tolerate grains or other fillers.  They are simply dehydrated meat.  And last but not least, Bison Bites.  In each play group, we have a jar of Bison Bites.  They are the “special” treats for when dogs are really good kids or for when we need to grab their attention and work on behaviors.  The dogs know they are special treats and they love them.


If you know me at all, you know I love to promote chewing for dogs.  I also advocate safe chewing.  No chew is entirely safe.  You should always supervise your dog until you know what his/her chewing style is and each time you try a new chew, you should supervise that as well.

We have quite a few popular products in this category.

Antlers are a big hit with most dogs.  They are durable and long lasting.  But they are also hard.  This is a chew that should be supervised for a while before turning your dog loose with one.  Some dogs are such excessive chewers that they can break teeth  or wear them down with too much chewing on a hard item such as an antler.  But those dogs are the exception and most dogs do well with them.  And they are very popular due to their durability.  Note:  If you buy your dog an antler and they seem uninterested, rub a little peanut butter into the marrow and around the edges.  This will get your dog chewing and once they start, they will see the benefit.

Marrow bones are a big hit with our customers as a “special chew”.  I advocate these chews in situations in which a dog needs a good distraction, or deserves a nice reward.  Marrow bones entice the dog because of the raw meat and sinew on the outside, as well as the marrow on the inside.  Your dog will work on a marrow bone until they get all the marrow out, and then most will chew on the empty bone for a long time.  They are very durable and of great value to most dogs.

On the synthetic side, Benebone is a great, durable, and very popular chew toy.  It is synthetic, and over time, your dog will tear off small shavings of the Benebone.  I have not had any choking issues with this, nor have I had digestive issues related to this.  But as always, supervise at first.

Our last category of Chews are those that are a hybrid Chew/Treat.  These are digestible Chews.  They are digestible, but every dog is different.  Some dogs can eat large amounts of these types of Chews and do just fine, while others will get stomach irritation if they consume too much at one sitting.  This category includes Bully Sticks, Himalayan Chews, and No-Hides.  Bully Sticks are very popular.  They come in 6”, 12”, braided, and pretzel shapes.  Depending on your dog, a bully stick will last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.  Himalayan Chews are an extremely hardened cheese.  Dogs love them!  They are pretty pricey, but your dog will thank you.  And newest to this category are the No-Hide Chews.  These were fashioned to replace the Rawhide Bones that are so popular, yet so bad for your dogs due to the way they are processed, and also the poor digestibility.  No-Hides are made from meat, not animal hides, so are much more digestible.  These are very popular with the dogs and can last for a few hours with a moderate chewer.  NOTE: This class of hybrid Chews/Treats should always be supervised chewing.  Because the dog will actually ingest the Chew, it will become smaller as the dog chews, and smaller means choking risk.  I have 3 dogs.  2 are able to handle the smaller piece and keep chewing it appropriately until ingested.  The 3rd is not.  She looks at everything as a challenge as to how fast she can consume it.  She is a choking risk.

Himalayan Chew Helpful Hint: When the Chew gets too small and becomes a choking risk, strike it with a hammer and break it into smaller pieces.  Put on a plate and microwave for 35-45 seconds.  It will puff up like popcorn.  Let cool and feed to your dog as a treat.


This is short list because one product beats all the others out.  That is our Fluff & Tuff line of stuffed toys.  These are the adorable stuffed toys you see all over the store.  And most of you say, “I could never give that adorable thing to my dog.  He would destroy it”.  This is a case of looks can be deceiving.  While cute and adorable, these are by far, the most durable stuffed toys I have found.   I will not go as far as saying they are indestructible.  But they do hold up well, and even after a gutting, they still hold up really well.  I would also offer that you can train your dogs to not kill and destroy every stuffed toy.  I’ve been able to manage with it sweet little Dave who loves to eviscerate every toy he sees.  Email me if you would like to know how I trained him.

Honorable mention in this category goes to our Planet Dog balls.  These are safe, durable, washable, and they even smell like mint.  J  These are the balls we use in our play groups, and they are a favorite with the dogs.


While not the most fun topic, supplements do serve a purpose.  Our two top sellers are Digest All and Diggin’ Your Dog Pumpkin powder.  Digest All is a blend of prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.  I promote it for the probiotics.  These serve a role in creating a healthy gut.  The gut serves a large role in a healthy immune system.  Healthy Gut = Healthy Immune System.   I’d like to see every Play All Day pup on Digest All.  Diggin’ Your Dog Pumpkin is a great product to have on hand for when diarrhea (or constipation) hits your house.  Or if you have a dog who has stools that are all over the place, sometimes soft, sometimes normal, and sometimes hard, Pumpkin will help to normalize this.  Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, and helps to regulate the moisture content in the bowel.  You can use pumpkin in a can.  That is what I used prior to this product.  But love this one due to its convenient storing and dosing.  I believe that is why it is one of our top sellers.

Throughout March, we will have a “Top Sellers” table by the checkout counter.  Take a look, ask questions, and give some of these a try.  You will probably see why they made it to the table.

Give A Dog A Bone…But What Type of Bone?

Give A Dog A Bone…But What Type of Bone?

What Chew Treat is Best for Me?

You’ve probably seen the recent postings about “bone treats” having been deemed unsafe by the FDA.  Good for them for making a statement.  This topic has been on my to-do list for quite a while.  This past summer, one of our own daycare dogs had a very scary (and I’m sure expensive) experience with a “bone treat”.  I had asked the dog’s Mom at that time if I could use her experience to keep others from the same fate.  She was happy to have us do so.

Sweet Maggie
Maggie’s Nemesis…a smoked knuckle bone

Maggie is a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog and she visits us every Thursday.  Maggie has been getting the same bone treat at home for most of her life.  It is a smoked/cooked knuckle bone.  And all this time, Maggie has never had a problem with it.  And then one beautiful day, Maggie was outside chewing on her favorite treat, and broke off a chunk just the right size to get stuck in her throat.  Fortunately, Maggie’s Mom was home and went out to check on her.  She found her laboring to breath and rushed her to the vet.  Surgery was successful, and the bone chunk was removed.  But Maggie was not out of the woods yet, as she had continued bleeding after surgery.  She was in the hospital for about a week.  This story has a happy ending and Maggie is just fine and back with us on Thursdays.  But the ending could have been so different.

You’ve probably noticed that we don’t have currently, and have never carried any type of bone joint or cooked/smoked bones in our retail market.  Choke risk is the number one reason we do not carry them.  We also don’t carry them because even if a dog breaks off pieces and swallows them safely, the dog then has to digest that bone in the stomach to get it in small enough pieces to pass through the rest of the digestive system.  So big bone fragments can sit in the stomach for quite some time, constantly irritating the stomach.  The outcome can be nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. The same holds true for treats such as dental chews and even bully sticks.  We do carry bully sticks, but advocate monitored chew time and not allowing the dog to ingest the entire thing in one chew session.

So what does constitute a safe chew?  Number one rule with chewing is monitoring and supervision. Until you know what type of chewer your dog is and how a specific chew holds up to his chewing style, you should be monitoring.  If the bone is edible (bully stick, trachea, etc), I supervise 100% of the time.  If the chew is durable (antler or raw femur bone type chew), I will allow my dog to chew unsupervised, but only after I know their chewing style and the durability of the chew.  Some dogs can never chew unsupervised.  I know there are dogs who can break off chunks of antler or raw marrow bone.  I highly recommend that you talk with your vet if your dog is this type of chewer.  The risk to your dog’s teeth will most likely outweigh the benefit of chewing.

Raw Marrow Bone…a healthy chew

If your dog is able to ingest the chew (bully stick type chews), you really do need to limit the amount and frequency of this treat.  They can be very irritating to the stomach since they are more slowly digested.  And every dog is different.  I have one dog that will vomit if she eats a bully stick.  She loves them, but that’s a no-go for me.  Her stomach cannot handle them.

Dental Chews are a pet peeve of mine.  Through very good marketing, you have been led to believe that this is a good way for you to clean your dog’s teeth.  Truth is they don’t work very well, are expensive, and most dogs have a hard time digesting them.  Your dollars are better spent on a good raw marrow bone.  Your dog will enjoy it more, you will get some tooth cleaning benefit, and your dog’s tummy will be happier.  If this fails to do the trick, you can always brush your dog’s teeth.

Size Matters!  Even if you have a very hard chew such as an antler or raw marrow bone, your dog still has a choke risk if the bone is too small.  You also run the risk of getting marrow bones caught on a bottom jaw if the chew is too small.  My rule of thumb is that I want the bone to stick out at least an inch on either side of the mouth when the dog is holding it.  More is even better.   If you have a small dog, don’t underestimate him.  Little dogs can carry and chew 4-6” marrow bones just fine.  They just last a little longer.

Proper Sized Chew For This Dog
This bone was too small for this dog. This is what can happen!

You may have seen a rawhide type treat in our retail market.  This is not rawhide.  They are called “No-Hide” treats.    They are compressed muscle meat, rolled into a chew.  Because it is not a hide, it is digestible, and dogs tolerate them well. Rawhides are the hide of an animal, are often treated with chemicals to get them white, and digest very poorly.  But I will say once again, even with a digestible treat, supervision is important.  You want to give your dog the right size No-Hide chew, supervise while chewing, and do not let the dog ingest the treat all in one chew session.


Rawhides Bad
No-hide chew Good…supervised and in moderation

Take Aways:

  1. No cooked bones (this includes smoking)
  2. No knuckle bones
  3. Size Matters (one inch, at least, on either side of the mouth)
  4. Take the time to figure out your dog’s chewing style
  5. Always supervise a new chew toy closely
  6. April hates Dental Chews.
  7. Limit the amount of ingestible chews your dog gets. Too much irritates the tummy

And here’s a little training tidbit.  Your bones and chew toys lose their value if your dog always has access.  Make chew time a special event when you have time to supervise.  Your dog will enjoy it more and you can be assured that they are safe.


Disclaimer:  I am not a Veterinarian.  Everything stated in this piece is my opinion, based off of my own personal experiences and personal research.  I encourage you to do your own research and form your own opinions.  And do discuss any health related concerns with your Veterinarian.

Here is a link to the FDA Consumer Report.



I received a Holiday card in the mail this year. It was from Sue and she was thanking me for supporting her small business of face care products (which I love by the way).  Sue also happens to be Winnie’s mom, which made it extra special.  Her card got me thinking about how much support it actually does take to keep a small business going.  Of course, there is support from your clients.  And then there is support from your staff, your spouse, your family, your friends (one of our friends helps with my accounting education and is a big part of our success), the vendors that you work with (and have to be tough with, on occasion), your vet who gives out free advice when asked, Consultants (paid and non-paid) who keep you moving in the right direction, and of course, your own dogs who put up with all the craziness.

2016 was an amazing and successful year at Play All Day.  Here are a few things to look for in 2017:

  • The first round of our Levels Training Classes has been a great success.  I believe it is an excellent way to offer dog training.  And we are getting great feedback.  Our hope is to grow dog training through our Levels Classes and also through some other fun, short classes.  And maybe we will throw in a free dog related seminar here and there.   🙂
  • If the Daycare Gods are with us, we will be adding a real life-sized pool this year….one that dogs can actually swim in.  Keep an eye out for announcements regarding this project.  We are really excited and hope it comes to pass.
  • Play All Day has grown to capacity.  We are still taking new daycare clients, but our waiting list is about 6 weeks out.  So a big decision that is on the table for this year is expansion.  Yes or No?  We will be doing our due diligence and hopefully will make the right decision.
  • And our ultimate goal for 2017 is to provide a great service for you and your dog(s).


People will say to me, “you must be so proud of what you’ve built”.  And I am proud, but I do realize that it took all of those people (and more) that I mentioned above.  I’m just the Captain, steering the ship….hopefully in the right direction.  So, my New Year’s thoughts are turned towards gratitude.  Gratitude for the opportunity to build an amazing place that really serves a need for so many dogs and their people.  And gratitude for all those who were a part of its creation.  Thank you and Happy New Year.

Keep an eye out for next month’s blog….”A Day In the Life at Play All Day”.  This post will highlight our staff and what a day is like for them.  Should be fun.   😎


My Favorite Things

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…these are a few of my favorite things.”   This time of the year conjures up memories of this incredible song, which was, I’m assuming, the inspiration for Oprah Winfrey’s “Favorite Things” segment on her television show.  In that spirit, I thought I would share with you, some of my dog related favorites for the holiday season.  All of these items are available at Play All Day, for your shopping convenience.

  1. My FAVORITE of My Favorite Things is the incredible toy line “Fluff & Tuff”. These toys are so deceivingly sweet and cuddly, yet are the toughest I’ve found.  I watch people pick them up in the retail shop, cuddle them, ooh and ahh over them, and then put them back on the shelf, saying “My dog would destroy that in 5 seconds”.  After a little encouragement, they purchase one and come back a week later raving about how it has endured the wrath of their little Cujo.  The secret is in the construction.  They toys feel like stuffed toys without a lot of stuffing.  The stuffing is the payoff when dogs destroy toys.  When they finally do make a hole in a Fluff & Tuff and do not find the stuffing, their drive to eviscerate dissipates and they move on to just playing with it, rather than attempting to destroy it.  My Davey is a master eviscerator and all of our Fluff & Tuffs are still intact, some over 18 months old.   This is a great woman-led company with a great product.     sadie owl clyde
  2. Next on the list of Favorites are a few products from Dog Gone Smart.
    1. The Dog Gone Smart rugs are fabulous for catching wet paws at the door. They are highly absorbent and wick the wet from your dog’s paws with a simple 5-second  wait on the rug.  A bonus of the rug is that dogs love to lay on them.  They are preferred, sometimes over beds, as the place to hang out.  And for those of you into dog training, the smaller rugs are a great “Go to your Place” mat, and are very portable.
    2. My new favorite thing this year is the Dog Gone Smart Shammy. The towel is made of the same great wicking material as the rugs, but come with a place to put your hands as you dry your dog.  Cygnus is a very hairy 65# Golden Retriever with a dense coat.  Towel drying him usually involves 2-3 towels.  With just one shammy towel, he is drier than 2-3 normal towels.  It is absolutely amazing.  We are keeping one in our car at all times for those hikes when the creek is just too irresistible.  Seriously, you must try this product.  shammy
  3. We’ve all heard and know that rawhide chews just aren’t good for our dogs. But they love them so much.  Is there a better alternative?  Yep!  Earth Animal No-Hide Chews.  These are rawhide-like chews made from muscle meats and not hides.  And dogs love them.  Willow gives them 2-paws up.   no-hide-chicken-11-inch-2-300x300
  4. My new favorite dog training treat is the Bixbi Pocket Trainers. When you are training, you want soft, small treats.  And when you are training new behaviors that require a lot of repetition, you want really small treats.  The Bixbi Pocket  Trainers are small to begin with, but their softness allows you to break them into even smaller pieces, without crumbling.  Love them for dog training!  And if you are looking for smaller treats because you are watching your dog’s weight, this is a great option.  bixbi
  5. Dogs love a good chew that will last and last. For this, I love the Primal Raw Marrow Bones.  Dogs love the little bits of meat and fat that are attached to the sides and getting the marrow from the bone will keep them occupied for quite a while.  I use these bones as a special treat for times when my dog needs a distraction.  I do not leave them out all the time.  In between chews, I place in a baggie and put in the freezer.   Disclaimers on high value, hard treats:  High value treats such as marrow bones can cause fights in a multi-dog home.  Supervise closely or better yet, separate while chewing.  2. Hard chews such as marrow bones, bully horns, and antlers can cause tooth damage in dogs that chew extra vigorously.  Monitor your dog’s chewing with items like this.  marrow-bone
  6. A few years ago my friend Mary bought my boys a new toy on the market called Tuggo toy. They loved it.  But they don’t love it nearly as much as some other dogs I have seen.  If you have a boisterous rough and tumble player that loves to tug and shake their toys, this is The One.   It is tough and durable and irresistible to dogs who love rough and tumble play.                                                           
  7. I have used Dog Tag Art I.D. tags for many years. They are a web-based company that makes unique I.D. tags.  You can upload any image or picture and put it on your dog’s I.D. tag.  They are fun, affordable, and durable.  Love them!  You can purchase a card in our store that will allow you to design and order your tag online.  Shipping is included.  You can save a little bit by buying cards from us rather than direct shopping on their site.                                                                                                                                
  8. Lastly, one of my very Favorite Things during the holiday season is the TAPS Angel Tree. Play All Day will have a tree again this year.  The tree will have ornaments that have a picture of a TAPS dog or cat, and a shopping list for that dog/cat.  Once you shop for your dog/cat, you can bring your goods to Play All Day and we will get them to TAPS in time for the holidays.  Thanks to the generosity of some of our vendors this year, we will have another way for you to give to TAPS.  Donated items will be placed into shopping bags.  You can buy the bags and the contents will be donated to TAPS dogs and cats.  And 100% of the purchase price will be donated to TAPS.  A win/win for sure.  shelter-dog-christmas

I hope you have enjoyed this post about My Favorite Things and possibly gained some shopping ideas for that special pet in your life.santa Favorite Things hanukkah-dogs Favorite Things

A New Kind of Group Dog Training Class

Play All Day Levels Training Program

Dog Training to Meet the Individual Needs of Dogs

group stay


Have you ever been frustrated in a dog training class?  Have you ever felt that the class was just moving too slowly for you and your dog (Boring), or that you and your dog actually needed a bit more time to learn that one behavior (Help)?  I have…actually, every time I have taken a class with one of my dogs.  And I’ve been on both sides of being bored or feeling like I was behind the rest of the class.

We are all individuals and our dogs are individuals as well.  And as individuals, we all learn a bit differently and at different speeds.   As dog trainers, we often shake our heads in confusion when we get mixed reviews on our classes.  Some people love it and are anxiously awaiting the next level of classes, yet others drop out after only a few classes.  So what’s a dog trainer to do?  How do you meet the needs of all your students?

We think we have the answer.  Levels Training Classes (Levels).  Levels operates as a dog training “membership”, with different options of membership, including 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.  You choose the membership based on your goals, abilities, time commitment, and many other factors.  Levels consists of 4 different levels, with each level having a set of core behaviors.  Once you and your dog master the core behaviors, you move up to the next level.  And the beauty of it is, there is no waiting to move up to the next level.  You simply go to that class the following week.  And once you reach the higher levels, you are able to attend the lower level classes as often as you like to brush up on weaker behaviors, or to practice more advanced behaviors with distractions.  And it’s all part of your membership.

When I first heard of this class structure, I was intrigued.  From my own personal experience as a Trainer and also as a Student, I saw the benefits.  Of course, I had a lot of questions about the logistics of making it work, but as I worked through those with the program’s founder, I was certain that this was a great opportunity for Play All Day’s students.

So, beginning August 31, 2016, Play All Day will begin our Levels Dog Training Classes .  We’re excited about it and hope that it will fit your needs if you are looking for training classes.  To learn more, visit our training page at www.playalldaydoggiedaycare/training  We hope you will be joining us.

Dog Training…It’s a Relationship Thing

Play All Day has been so fortunate to work with Ann Goyen of Alliance Pet Behavior over the past few years.  Ann held training classes at our facility and has proven to be an excellent resource for our staff and our clients.  Her expertise in dog behavior has been invaluable.   This summer, Ann decided to retire.   We will miss her.

All things change and you must be ready to roll with them or get run over.   Fortunately for us, one of our daycare clients has a great interest in dog behavior and training and has been mentoring with Ann for the past year, and has been working at Play All Day on a part time basis.  Brandi Stark, owned by Sage the German Shepard, is going to fill our training position at Play All Day and we are thrilled that she is doing so.  Brandi is new to this world and while very capable and an excellent trainer, she is just dipping her toes into the world of teaching classes.  For that reason, we are going to start slowly with classes and build up our offerings over time.  Ann and I both plan to serve as mentors.

Peoria dog training
Brandi and Sage

Brandi and I met recently to discuss the curriculum and structure of her first class.  Setting expectations up front is so important.  People often tend to think that one session of classes over 6 weeks will solve all of their problems.  It just doesn’t work that way.  We discussed how best to set the expectations and what do people want and need the most from a beginner level training class.  And the one topic we kept circling back to the most and the one topic that resonated with us the most was “relationships”.

When you look at dogs that you admire…dogs that really seem well trained, step back and consider the relationship between that dog and its person.   Chances are, you will see a very strong relationship, a relationship built over time and a relationship built on trust.  I am seeing this first hand as I am in the process of building a relationship with my new puppy Cygnus.  Every day, as our relationship strengthens, he is more in tune with what I want from him.  And I am more in tune as to what he needs from me.

I love to learn from different trainers.  Recently, I’ve been following Susan Garrett.  Susan is a world class competitor in Dog Agility.  I’m really not that interested in Agility but I do know that to be as good as she is, her dogs really need to stay focused on her.  For me, focus is very important, as I do many things off-leash with my dogs.  I need to know that they have an eye on me and will come when called.  I recently discovered that she teaches her dogs through a series of games.  For all of the desired behaviors, she has developed a game that teaches and rewards the behavior.  I’ve been using her games for Cygnus, and I must admit that it is the quickest any of my dogs have learned and he is the most enthusiastic learner.  He is brilliant, but I’m thinking it’s more related to the methods than his superior intellect (sorry buddy).  These “games” make me very interesting.  With other methods I’ve used, my dog tends to get bored after they learn a behavior.  With this type of training, it’s always a game so Cygnus always wants to play.  It’s kind of like covering your kid’s vegetables in cheese…the cheese tastes so good, they don’t know they are eating broccoli.

And talk about building a relationship.  Through our game playing, daily care of, feeding,  potty breaks, and cuddles, my bond with Cygnus is already very strong.  It made me stop and think about what really does build a strong relationship with a dog.  I think it really comes down to a few things.

  1. Spending time together in which I am focused on him.
  2. Trust that I have his needs covered and that I will be fair in our dealings.
  3. I’m as interesting as or more interesting than the other things in his life and he rewards me by staying focused on me. We BOTH have fun!

I really do feel that a strong relationship with your dog is the cornerstone of having a well-trained and responsive dog.  For this reason, building relationships will be a focus in our training classes.  Yes, we want your dog to know how to sit, down, and come, but we want more than that.   We want your dog to love learning and for you to enjoy teaching.  No class can teach you what you need in 6 weeks, but it can be the foundation of a lifelong relationship that continues to grow.

Why bother putting the time and effort in building a great relationship with your dog?  These pictures are the answer.  You, too, can have a great time with your dog, whether it be off-leash hiking, canoeing, swimming, boating…it all starts with a relationship.




Meet the Play All Day Team

Without the dedicated staff members at Play All Day, we could not offer the quality of services that we do.  I am so grateful that we have each and every staff member on our team.  As with all teams, every member brings something to the table to make us better.  I hope that you will enjoy getting to know them better.  I have listed them in order of seniority.





Dee has had numerous dogs throughout the years, starting with a Boston Terrier, whom she had for 13 years.  Her 3 most recent dogs were all “hand-me-downs” from friends and acquaintances who could no longer keep them – a Bichon, then a Beagle, and currently she has Oliver, an 11-yr. old blonde Cocker Spaniel.

Dee first became acquainted with the concept of dog daycare when she had an over-active, extremely social Beagle, who was driving her to exhaustion, trying to keep her busy and out of trouble.  Daycare was truly a God-send for her (and Dee).  This beagle girl is also responsible for enabling Dee to combine her favorite pastime of bike riding with dogs.  Dee and her beagle became “biking buddies”.  This is a pastime she now enjoys with her current boy Oliver.  Dee’s other hobby is gardening, accompanied by Oliver who “helps” her by soaking up the sunshine while he works alongside her.  Dee feels that everything is more enjoyable if you have a canine buddy to share it with!  Dee’s husband Bob also keeps her busy with his hobby of flipping homes.

Dee came to Play All Day soon after it opened, after a 35-year career as a Medical Lab Technician, and feels so very privileged and blessed to have her “Dream Job” of spending time with so many wonderful dogs.  Dee states that every day is different and exciting, as she gets to meet each day’s dogs as they arrive for daycare.  She also enjoys giving baths and doing nails.  Wednesday afternoons are special to Dee, as she loves interacting with all the Tiny Town pups as their Play Group Attendant.



Kate’s first and only dog is Mya who will be 5 years old. Mya is a chocolate lab and loves to play, fetch, and most importantly cuddle. Kate claims she is her best friend.

Kate grew up in Peoria with her parents and siblings. She is the youngest of five. Kate played every sport that she could in school.  Volleyball and running hurdles were her favorite. Her mother worked as a Veterinary Assistant when Kate was a child and she remembers thinking that her Mom had the coolest job around. When asked the typical question ”what do you want to be when you get older”, Kate’s answer always involved animals in some way. She pet-sat for neighbor’s pets during her middle school days. During social events, Kate could be found hanging out with the host’s pets.

Her first job was at Party City, a retail store in Peoria. She worked there for a few years and finally came to a point where she knew she wanted to do something that she really enjoyed. An internet search brought her to Play All Day.  As one of our earliest employees, Kate learned along with us as we built the business. She states that she learns something new every day and that she cannot imagine doing anything else. Working with dogs never quite seems like a job.

Kate enjoys spending time with her family and any outdoor activities. She has been with her high school sweetheart Josh for 8 years. They are best friends and both share a love for dogs.  Kate enjoys shopping for both people and Mya.  Kate excels at making people happy and comfortable.  Kate credits dogs and her work at Play All Day with helping her to overcome her shyness.

Kate has been with Play All Day since 2012.  She is our Manager and oversees daily operations, staffing, and customer service.  She also is a Play Group Attendant and is becoming an expert in daycare operations.




Kiana is a Senior at East Peoria Community High School and plans to attend William Woods University this fall.  She is planning a double major in Psychology and Equestrian Science.  She would like to work at a Veterans Hospital and do Equine Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD.

She lives with Mom and Dad who both work at Caterpillar.  She has a cat named Jethro and 2 horses, Silver and Chyno.  Her hobbies include horseback riding, dancing, playing guitar, and working.  Her favorite things to do at work are giving baths, Desk, and cuddling with the dogs.

Kiana started working for Play All Day 3 years ago when she was 15.  She states that it helped to make up for her dog-deprived childhood.  Kiana is a Jack of All Trades at Play All Day, working the desk, weekends, cleaning, bather, and Play Group Attendant.



Sarah had many dogs growing up but the first she called her own was Mama Mia, a Blue Merle Great Dane.  She was a true companion for Sarah for 7 years and she still misses her every day. Sarah and Mama Mia did everything together, which helped keep Sarah out of trouble through most of her 20’s. She was Sarah’s heart dog.  Her current dogs are Ebon and Jocelyn.

Sarah shares her life with her fiancé, Rob. Rob enjoys music and UFC, and Sarah states that he is an amazing father. She has a Step son, Colton, who is going to be turning 13 this year and loves magic, chess and watching anime. Sarah gave birth to her little monkey Alexandra Rose (Alex) who is 6 months old now.  She has almost mastered the crawl and has started grabbing things to try and stand up. She likes to make raspberries, grunts and has started making a hissing type sound.  The Play All Day family of staff and clients alike enjoyed sharing Sarah’s journey through pregnancy and now motherhood. Sarah states that she loves being a mother, even though she feels she lost half her brain in the process, and she cherishes her family and friends and is happy being healthy and alive.

Sarah enjoys art (origami, tile work, painting), gardening, hiking with Ebon, reading sci-fi (love Neil Gaiman and Orson Scott Card), and figuring out puzzles of all types.

Sarah has been with us for 2 years and is a Play Group Attendant.  She recently took on the role of supervising our cleaning routine and the facility upkeep.  Sarah prides herself on knowing each dog’s first and last name which is an accomplishment for her, considering she has a hard time remembering people’s names.  She states that she can do this because the dogs that come to the daycare make such an impression on her. They don’t care if you’re in a bad mood, they just want to be happy and love on you, which is an amazing feeling.



Roxann lives in Peoria Heights with her husband Roger, and dog Macy.  She got her first dog, a cocker spaniel named Pepper, at age 4.  After becoming obsessed with her imaginary dog “Syrup”, Roxann’s parents thought it was time to get a real one.

After decades of working in banks and other accounting related positions, she decided to “semi-retire” and look for something she could do with dogs. Play All Day had a position open up on the same day she gave her notice on her previous job. It was a sign!

Roxann’s hobbies include nature walks, singing, performing in local theater musicals and consignment shopping.

Roxann has been with Play All Day for a year.  Her primary duties are taking care of our hotel guests in the morning and doing dog introductions during Check-In.



Melissa’s love for dogs started back from the very beginning of her life, as soon as she could crawl her way over to the neighbor’s German Shepherd, Sheba. Sheba was her best friend in those beginning years. Sheba made such an impression on Melissa that she dressed as a German Shepherd for Halloween in Kindergarten.

Schnitzel joined Melissa’s family when she was in 2nd grade and started Melissa’s passion for Schnauzers. Schnitzel went to school with her one day, stole the teacher’s chair and christened the classroom floor with a poop. Melissa shared her life with Schnitzel until her freshman year of college when she sadly passed due to cancer.

Melissa started working at a veterinary clinic and soon an opportunity to adopt two male three year old Schnauzers arose. She took them in and they became her first adult dogs. Their names are Mickey and Rocky. Two years after adopting the boys, Melissa adopted a 7 month old Schnauzer and named her Spritzel Schnitzel in memory of Schnitzel.  When Melissa was married to her husband Andrew, the kids were part of the wedding, complete with a Schnauzer figure cake and Schnauzer Bride and Groom cake toppers.

Melissa loves spending time with her dogs. She also loves old things, going antique hunting, and to garage sales. Melissa loves to travel and explore new places. She loves the Ocean and visits the Atlantic Ocean at least once a year.

Melissa was born in Binghamton, New York and has two brothers and four sisters. She moved to Peoria when she was five years old and went to High School in Elmwood. She attended College at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri and transferred to Bradley University, where she finished a degree in Graphic Design.

While Melissa enjoys design and art, she finds herself pulled more towards working with dogs. She loves working at Play All Day because it allows her to enjoy all breeds and she enjoys learning the different personalities of the dogs that attend daycare.

Melissa has been with us for one year and is a Play Group Attendant.



Chris’ love affair with dogs began when she was 10 months old.  Her family brought a German Shepherd puppy home.  Hombre and Chris were inseparable, and she has many fond childhood memories with him.  Chris’ childhood was spent living on a lake in a wooded area with birds, fish, squirrels, rabbits, ducks and other wildlife. Chris’ ability to make dogs comfortable showed itself at an early age.

Hombre died when Chris was 13 years old.  Fortunately, Gypsy, a 3/4 Husky, 1/4 German had made her way into her life by this time. She was the first dog Chris obedience trained and raised herself. Chris credits Gypsy with teaching her about patience, love, and care, and started her great love for the German Shepherd breed.

Chris was 22 years old when Diego came into her life. He was her heart dog.  He was Chris’ first competition dog, therapy dog, canine good citizen dog, and the team earned many titles and blue ribbons together. Chris began her path of positive training methods, dog behavior, and nutrition with Diego.  These are topics that are still important to her today.

Chris married Joe and brought him into her world of dogs. They currently have five German Shepherds all of which are highly valued members of the family. Joe has trained his girls who have gone on to compete in agility, flyball, and rally, and who have earned their canine good citizen and therapy dog certifications. Chris and Joe recently celebrated their 10 year wedding anniversary and took all their dogs with them on our vacation.

Chris joined the Play All Day team one year ago and is Play Group Attendant.  Chris also helps with training new staff members.




Brandi has been with Play All Day for quite a while as a daycare client, bringing her German Shepherd, Sage.  Sage was the impetus for Brandi to really study dogs and learn everything she could about dog behavior.  His behavioral issues challenged Brandi and she discovered her joy in training and watching him grow.

Brandi has a full time job in computers, aside from Play All Day.  Her experiences with Sage motivated her to mentor with Ann Goyen, our favorite Canine Behavior Consultant.  Brandi helps Ann with her classes and because of her work with Sage, has decided to become a trainer.  After witnessing the incredible bond that positive training created between she and Sage, she looks forward to helping others.  We look forward to watching Brandi grow in this endeavor.

Brandi loves all things dog, reading, comics and other geeky things, hiking, photography, and sports.

Sage was Brandi’s first dog.  She fondly refers to him as her Big Goober.  Sage is almost 6 years old and loves daycare, water, balls, hiking, snow, frisbee, training, nosework games, and biking.  Sage is also a master at the German Shepherd head tilt.

Because of her full time job, Brandi works weekends only, as a Play Group Attendant. She joined us about 6 months ago.



Kim lives in East Peoria with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, four cats, three fish, and a hermit crab.  Sara is a 10 year old Border collie/Australian Shepherd and Maxx is a 2 year old mutt rescued from Kentucky.

Kim’s family vacations in the Smoky Mountains and on the beach in Fort Morgan, Alabama, and the dogs are lucky enough to join the family on their vacations.

Sara has been a registered therapy dog for 6 years, volunteering at various places with the Peoria Humane Society Special Pals and Paws to Read Pet Therapy Programs.  Maxx is an athletic running partner and shares his love of running with Kim. He can easily run 7 miles and he is always so content after a good run.

Kim worked in healthcare as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in adult rehab for over 7 years, and then stayed home to raise her daughters. When the time came to return to work, Kim focused on an entirely different career path and fulfilled her passion of working with dogs.  She started working for a new pet service called Dog Jog in 2014.  Dog Jog takes your dog for a run, while you are at work or at home. This provides the dog with exercise. It is especially helpful for high energy breeds, pet parents that have really busy lifestyles, or physical limitations and cannot exercise with their dogs. It combines two of Kim’s passions…Dogs and running.

Kim states that having dogs has changed her life in many ways… working with Sara as a pet therapy volunteer has been truly enriching. Running with Maxx has helped her to become healthier and has opened the door for her to run with other dogs.

Working at Play All Day gives her the opportunity to share her love for learning about dog behavior, training, and play with so many wonderful dogs.  Kim is excited to be working with so many wonderful dogs and such a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Her goal is to eventually become a dog trainer and help dogs and their families live in harmony. She would love to specialize in assisting families that have adopted from rescues and shelters transition their dogs to their new homes.

Kim started working with us in February of this year and is our newest team member.  She recently finished orientation and is a Play Group Attendant.  She states that she is looking forward to enriching your dogs’ lives through play, training, and lots of love!

Feeding Raw on a Kibble Budget

I get asked about the benefits of a raw diet and whether or not it is worth the added cost.  In my opinion, yes it is.  But not everyone can afford or chooses to afford the extra cost.   I have always advocated doing what you can to improve your dog’s diet.  If you can’t afford to feed raw or even premium kibble every day, do it three times a week or once a week.  The following article (re-posted with permission from American Distribution and Manufacturing Company) addresses this topic quite well.

Feeding Raw on a Kibble Budget: How to Make the Most of Your Dog-Food Dollar

by Justin Magnuson of Raw Bistro


With the growing interest in—and body of evidence supporting—feeding our pets fresh, whole foods, many consumers are exploring a species-appropriate, high-quality raw diet. That’s exciting, because every dog will benefit from an optimal diet, often dramatically. According to Dr. Karen Becker, a leading integrative and wellness veterinarian, “Many of the chronic and acute diseases suffered by humans and animals are directly related to diet.”1

While feeding raw is admittedly more expensive than even the highest-quality kibbles, there are ways for pet owners to incorporate the advantages of raw on a budget. Let’s start with some of the simplest.

  1. Feed one raw meal a day instead of two.

Many people find that feeding one raw meal a day is enough to provide significant benefits at essentially half the cost. It doesn’t matter which meal is the raw meal, but most of our customers find it easier to feed raw at dinnertime when they aren’t rushing to get ready for work—but if morning is more convenient, then make that the raw meal. Some like to mix raw and kibble together and serve that twice a day, as it makes the kibble more appetizing (one caveat: mixing can sometimes result in gassiness). We usually suggest that people experiment to find the best fit for their dog(s) and household.

  1. Use raw as a tasty, high-value treat

Substituting raw for conventional treats is a great way for customers to sample the benefits of raw and familiarize both themselves and their dog with the product. Because it is so tasty, raw food is a high-value treat and a great way to incorporate fresh foods into the diet. You can portion out bite-size amounts or give a larger dog a whole 2-oz. patty. Compare a 3-lb. entrée bag at $18.00 to a 5-oz. bag of treats for $13.00 – that’s quite a value!  For those who don’t want to treat with ground meat, they could try raw recreation bones and dehydrated treats, which are a convenient, high-value, take-anywhere option.

  1. Make raw an occasional meal

The benefits of species-appropriate, raw food are so important that even a once-a-week meal is well worth doing, according to top canine nutritionist, author and consultant Steve Brown. “Just one day per week provides your dog with additional high-quality protein, improves the balance of fats, and adds hundreds, perhaps thousands, of nutrients that were part of the canine ancestral diet and that are not usually available in commercial dry foods.”2 (Steve authored the highly recommendedUnlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, which discusses one-day-a-week feeding of a properly balanced, raw food.)

  1. Spend your money on great food, not veterinary bills

It isn’t always the easiest sell, but it really is the best sell: feeding a properly balanced raw species-appropriate diet translates to less money spent at the vet’s office. According to the authors of Paleo Dog, “No matter what medicines, supplements, or treatments you give your dog, none of them is as important to overall health as diet. An animal cannot heal its body if its nutritional needs remain unfilled.”3  This book also provides an excellent description of the benefits of a balanced raw diet, including decreases in many chronic diseases, and savings on medications, prescription foods, flea baths and more as well as vet bills.

In other words, pay now or pay later. And paying now, in the form of feeding your dog an optimal diet, means your dog gets to enjoy a healthier, happier life, and you get to enjoy that too!

What does a healthier, happier life—and lower vet bills—look like? Here’s a sampling4:

  • weight normalization
  • a much lower incidence of obesity-related diseases like diabetes
  • shinier, healthier skin and coat
  • resolution of allergy-related symptoms
  • cleaner teeth, healthier gums, fresher breath & less periodontal disease
  • better performance

The bottom line is, the better we eat, the better we feel—and that’s as true for our dogs as it is for us. While there is a cost to eating well, it’s important to remember there’s also a cost to not eating well. We all have more control over the health of our pets, and our budgets, than we realize.



1 Taylor, Beth, and Karen Becker. Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats. Third ed. Natural Pet Productions, 2011: 1. Print.
2 Brown, Steve. Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet. Dogwise, 2010: 36. Print.
3,4 Hofve, Jean, and Celeste Yarnall. Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf. Rodale, 2014:


Letting Go Slowly

Our sweet Sting has cancer.  Actually he has two different types of cancer…my little over achiever.  Most of our Play All Day family knows Sting.  He has helped evaluate most every dog that has joined our Play All Day family.  His sweet and playful disposition perfectly suited him for his position of Chief Fun Officer.

I have always longed to have my dogs live to a ripe old age of 14 or 15, but that has not been our luck.  Our first Golden Rane, died at age 10 of a rare and aggressive Leukemia.  Our second Golden Stepper, died at age 9 of Multiple Myeloma (a very rare cancer for dogs).  Our Aussie Gus, gave it the old college try, making it to what we think was age 13.  We had high hopes for Sting, a vital, healthy boy, who showed no signs of slowing down on his 10th birthday.  Hiking with his younger brother Dave, he would have energy to spare when Dave was ready to quit.  So, in January, when a suspicious mass in his mouth showed to be Fibrosarcoma, we were surprised.  And then during the staging process for his mouth cancer,   we found a separate and more daunting type of cancer called Hemangiosarcoma.  Needless to say, we were shocked and I can honestly say that I was angry.  I was angry that we were not going to get to enjoy his senior years, but I was angrier that he would have to deal with what was to come.  We were given a prognosis of 6-9 months.

What is different this time around is that Sting has a longer prognosis than our other dogs who had cancer.  They both died within a few short months of their diagnosis.  With our previous  boys, we barely  had time to come to grips with their diagnosis and then they were gone.   That is a crazy kind of pain in itself.  You can’t help but feel cheated.  But on the other hand, you don’t have to deal with a long drawn out illness, watching the inevitable suffering that accompanies terminal illness.

All of one’s life experiences can make a contemplative person such as I stop and consider life’s little mysteries.  So what is better for those of us left behind…an abrupt departure or a chance to let go slowly?  As an oncology nurse for 20+ years, I faced this all the time and helped families to deal with it.  In the human world, I not only saw the pain of dealing with cancer, but also the many gifts that it brought to people’s lives.  That is an odd statement; I know…but believe me when I say that I saw it happen many times.  A chronic, terminal illness makes people stop and consider their lives and often helps to put things in perspective.  There is no one right perspective, only our own individual experiences.  Regardless, chronic terminal illness often helps people to achieve this perspective for both the afflicted and the family members.

Sting was diagnosed in January and we have been fighting this since that time with two surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy.   But now we see that the end of his sweet life is coming sooner than later.  There are no other treatment options.   He doesn’t know that and I’m glad for it.  Every day is still a new adventure to him.  But for those of us that love him, it is both a gift and torture to watch what is happening.  The optimist in me recognizes the gift…the melancholy side of me looks at the disfiguration of his face and his lessened energy and sees only the worst.


Sting has a very special spot in my heart, more so than any other dog with whom I’ve shared my life.  Dog people refer to this as your “Heart Dog”, that one special dog in a lifetime.  For my husband Will, Stepper was his Heart Dog.  He still grieves for him deeply, 11 years after his death.  So, what would I choose for both me and for Sting?  Would I choose a quick departure or letting go slowly?  Now that I have experienced both, I can honestly say that letting go slowly is better for me.

These months of letting go slowly have given me a gift.  With the knowledge that my time with Sting was shortened, I was able to plan time with him doing the things we both love.  We went to Lake Michigan in the springtime with one of his favorite people and his buddy Blaze.  We hiked with people who love him dearly.  We stop at the Dairy Queen more often.  We cuddle and give massages frequently.  We bought a kiddie pool for the back yard.  We sleep in (Sting is not a morning dog).   We have gone fishing every chance we had.  We planned a trip to Minnesota for fishing and swimming.  I wrote this post sitting on the shores of a lake in the beautiful North woods of Minnesota, with Sting exhausted at my feet each day, after fishing, swimming, eating junk food, cuddling in the cool mornings, and feeling all of the love he can from two parents not distracted by the everyday world.  He doesn’t know he’s sick, let alone dying.  He just feels loved.  And this wonderful opportunity to let him go from our lives slowly, gave us this gift.  My anger over loss has dissipated and I have gained gratitude for a time to celebrate the life of this amazing dog who has given so much to me and everyone whose life he has touched.  I choose letting go slowly.

Note:   We are home from Minnesota and in the past week, Sting is experiencing a robust respite from the symptoms of his cancer.  Just yesterday, he went on a two mile hike, with energy to spare at the end.  Obviously, he’s not ready to leave quite yet.