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What’s In A Daycare?

I remember the internal conflict I experienced when I had to choose a name for the daycare. I wanted it to be fun, yet also wanted it to reflect our philosophy of care and our mission. This was a difficult combination to achieve and in the end, I chose the “fun” and marketable name. Don’t get me wrong, I love our brand, but at times I feel it does not accurately reflect our mission completely. Those of you that know us well know that playing all day is only a part of what we do. Our mission is to provide a fun, safe, and enriching environment for the dogs in our care. Our goal is to send home a better dog at the end of the day. For this reason, our daycare is not for everyone. We enjoy working with families that are committed to providing an optimal daycare experience for their dog. This takes commitment on both sides, but the pay offs can be big.

The concept of daycare is growing in the Peoria area and this makes me very happy. My friends and family are often concerned when they hear of a new daycare opening in the area and worry about increased competition hurting our business. I don’t look at it that way. There are plenty of dogs in the Peoria area that can benefit from daycare. I’m just happy to see that the concept is catching on and that people are willing to commit the time and money on a worthwhile activity for their dog. But how do you tell if daycare is right for your dog and how do you know if you have chosen the right daycare for your dog? As with all things important, do your research. Not all daycares are created equal. And this is not because one is right and the other is wrong, its simply that they are different and may or may not fit your needs.

Here are a few of the reasons I am so proud of Play All Day:

• All of our dogs are screened prior to their first day of daycare
• Play groups are supervised 100% of the time.
• Our staff is trained in reading dog body language and in the management of play groups.
• Dogs in our care are trained throughout the day to be polite and mannerly in play group.
• Our dogs are looked at as individuals and we strive to enrich the experience of each dog.
• Parents are given an honest and thorough update on how their dog does each visit.
• Not all dogs are a good fit and we admit that.
• We separate our dogs into manageable groups based on size and temperament.
• We invest in our facility in dog friendly ways (climate control, flooring, turf, equipment).
• We educate our parents whenever possible.
• Status quo is never good enough…we are always looking for the next improvement to our dogs’ experiences.

Here is a link to a nice article by “The Bark” magazine.

I think they hit the most important aspects of how to find the daycare that is right for you. And while the name “Play All Day” may not accurately reflect all that we do as a daycare, I believe that the dogs that we send home at the end of each day do.

Doggie Etiquette

You may read this title and chuckle, but it is serious business.  Dog/dog greetings are serious business and a lot of information is exchanged in a very short period of time.  And dog/people greetings are even more serious and complex as they are inter species greetings.  You may be asking why are you making this so serious, April?  Why make such a big deal over something that has been going on for centuries?
The answer is Play All Day’s mission statement.  Our mission is to provide a fun, safe, and enriching environment for the dogs in our care.  Fulfilling that mission includes educating our dog parents on all things dog whether it be play styles, exercise, nutrition, or dog greetings.
Your dog’s play day with us starts the moment he wakes up on daycare day and starts to read all of the cues that this is the day….this is daycare day.  You have all seen it and wonder “how does he know that it’s daycare day?”  It continues as you drive to daycare and you turn the corner at Avanti’s and the whining and pacing begin in full force.  Hold on tight to the leash when you let him out of the car because he’s all wound up now.  And you hope April has put salt on the icy steps as your 70# dog drags you up the steps.  And when is April going to get a lighter door….this thing weighs a ton as you struggle to hold on to your very excited kiddo.  Uh oh….the reception area is full and one of the dogs is tiny and barking.  Etiquette, Shmetiqutte…I’ll be lucky to control him at all!
Of course, daycare is an extreme example because it’s like Disney Land to dogs.  But you may have similar experiences when you go to the park, the dog park, the vet, PetSmart, a friend’s house, or any other fun place with other dogs.  Is it really that important that your dog has good manners when greeting others (dog and human)?  The answer is a resounding yes.
You may know that your dog is friendly with people and other dogs.  But do you know that other dogs are friendly?  Do you know that other people are comfortable with strange dogs or big dogs or little dogs?  Unless you do, it is always wise and safe to keep your dog under control until it has been established that on leash greetings are appropriate.  Do you know that some of my best play group dogs are very leash reactive?  Happy and playful as can be in the play rooms, but very uncomfortable and growly when on leash with Mom and Dad.   And some dogs get very agitated when meeting dogs through a fence like the one in our reception area.  So it’s not always safe to assume that all daycare dogs are dog friendly when on leash, when Mom and Dad are around, and when space is tight.
So you may be asking yourself how you are supposed to keep your super excited 7 month old puppy under control in these types of situations.  Of course, the first and best answer is training.  Training your dog is like putting tools in a toolbox to use when you need them.  The second answer is being prepared.  Have the right collar or harness on your dog for best control (ask me about this anytime at all).  It is life changing to have the right collar/harness on your dog so that you can direct their energy.  Being prepared also may include having a toy or super good treat in your pocket to make yourself more interesting than the other dogs.  And sometimes the only option is management of the situation.  If you get yourself in a tight spot and you can’t control your dog, take yourself and your dog out of the situation temporarily.
Dr. Sophia Yin has put together a blog and some fun posters on Dog Park Etiquette and Human/Dog greetings.  This is good information given in a fun and graphic way.
Getting your dog out and about is great!  You are your kiddo’s guardian.  It is your responsibility to keep him safe.  Build your toolbox so that your outings remain fun and positive.  Respect the space of other dogs and people until you establish that greetings are appropriate.  When in doubt, go slow.
Tips for safe check-in at Play All Day:
1. Always bring your dog in on leash.
2. Do not let your dog bolt through the door.  Open the door slowly and survey who else is waiting.
3. Have a few food treats to keep your dog’s attention as you wait for them to go back to the play area.
4. Keep your dog on leash as you wait.
5. Avoid letting the dogs interact in the reception area.  They are pretty amped up.  They will have plenty of time to play together later.
6. If your dog becomes uncontrollable, walk back outside and wait on the ramp for a few minutes until it is less exciting inside.
7. Never hesitate to ask April for advice.


Dreary Day Diversion

It’s a dreary day today.  I was so hoping for a nice run in the woods or a hike with the boys, but it is not good for the trail system to be on trail within 24 hours of a rain.  So we are all inside and I am at risk of curling up on the couch and vegging out, watching Christmas movies all day long.  Love it while I’m doing it, but then I have this overwhelming sense of guilt and disappointment that I wasted the day.  There is always daycare work to be done, but you must step away regularly so that the batteries stay charged and there is still a sense of excitement about working in your own business.

With no outside time in sight for today, I have put my creative energies into cooking.  I made refrigerator bread for Will and me.  Before you think I’m “Suzy Homemaker”, know that the recipe is water, yeast, salt, and flour.  Combine, let rise, and refrigerate.  That is it.  But boy, is it good bread…and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (and actually improves the longer it sits).  My big fun was making Kale Fritattas for the boys.  I saw the recipe in “The Bark” a few months ago and have been wanting to try it.  They turned out great and the boys love them.  It was a very easy recipe to follow and the health benefits of kale are tremendous.

, from WebMD has the following to say about kale.  “Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. A leafy green, kale is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties. It belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

What makes kale so exceptional? Here is why it’s a superstar vegetable.

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.”

Here is the link to the recipe.  Enjoy!

Quality Dog Food Now Available at Play All Day

The next time you visit Play All Day, you will notice some changes in the lobby. My wonderful purple chair has been moved to make way for something that I am very passionate about…. quality dog food. For the past year, I have debated on whether or not to jump into selling dog food. I knew it would be a great convenience for our daycare clients, and I knew it would be a great opportunity to educate pet parents on quality nutrition, but what kept stopping me was an uncertainty over whether I could offer a wide enough variety at a good price point. To help me make a decision, I recently made a trip to a quality dog food store in Bloomington, called The Urban Carnivore. The owners, Kathy and Sally, greeted me with open arms and put to rest my fears about not being able to provide enough. They convinced me that by just taking a few small steps initially, I could still impact the lives of Play All Day dogs in a positive way. So I am dipping my toes into the retail waters just a bit further now. In addition to a limited line of toys and treats that I believe in, Play All Day will now offer quality foods at good price points. And free of charge, I plan to share what I have learned over the years so that you can help your dog lead a healthy life.
My passion over dog nutrition began when my first Golden Retriever, Rane was diagnosed with severe allergies in the early 90’s. This poor boy spent most of his life itching, and was polluted with steroids and antibiotics to make him more comfortable. They helped him feel better and decreased his itching, but the long term effects most likely contributed to his early death due to leukemia. I am so grateful for the wonderful care of my veterinarian who always had his best interests at heart, but I knew that there was some link to his short life and the diet he consumed. So began my quest to understand what dogs need from their diets. The internet overwhelmed me with every opinion under the sun on raw home prepared diets, premium, super premium kibbles, dehydrated raw diets, and on and on. My mind works best with facts. Every person out there with a computer and an internet connection can put their opinion out and it is so difficult to really understand what is real and what is not. I eventually gave up and just hoped that I would not have another dog with allergies.
When Graham began to show signs of allergies several years ago, I booked an appointment with Dr. Karen Becker in Bourbannais. Dr. Becker is an incredibly talented and well respected proactive veterinarian who specializes in nutrition and allergies. What I learned from her has changed the way I feed my dogs and has changed the advice that I give others about feeding their own dogs. Diet can and does make a difference for your dog. Sometimes that difference is very obvious and can be seen in a short time and sometimes it is subtle and may not manifest for many years.
I am in a very interesting position as the caretaker for Play All Day dogs. I see the food that is brought in when a dog comes in for a hotel stay. I see the results of that food when we clean up dog poop all morning long. My hands are on the dogs throughout the day and feel the quality of the skin and coat. And my nose smells the dogs throughout the day. All of these things give me information about what the dog is being fed and how he is reacting to his diet. And I also see how much all of my dogs’ guardians love and care for them and how willing they are to invest time and money into their beloved dogs. So I am always surprised when I see low quality food being fed. I know that it is not because the guardian does not want the best for their dog, but can be because the guardian does not understand the effect that diet has on a dog’s overall health. But most often it is because the marketing for dog food is so brilliant that most dog owners are tricked into believing that they are feeding a high quality food. And the dog food industry is always changing. Dog foods that were of great quality a few years ago may have been purchased by big companies and ingredients/quality of ingredients slowly changed over the years to decrease production costs, and now that once premium food is now mediocre at best.
So how are you to choose, given all this conflicting information? Never fear. It is not hard. You can trust me to educate you and make recommendations. Or better yet, you can educate yourself and make great decisions on your own. If you are willing to devote 30 minutes to watch the two attached videos, you will know most everything you need to know to make good decisions regarding dog food purchases. I have also attached a link to a website that does non-biased reviews of dog food and can aid you in your decision.
My commitment to you is to give you information regarding your dog’s elimination habits, my opinion of his coat quality and behavior, and to answer any questions you may have. I also commit to offer products, whether it be food, toys, or treats, that I would give my own dogs. I did not open a daycare to sell retail items. I sell retail items to enhance the lives of my daycare dogs.

Guess Chance’s Breed and Win a Free Day of Daycare

Meet Chance.  Chance has been a regular daycare dog for many months.  His photogenic face has raised the same question many times.  “What breed is he?”


Chance’s people, Stacey and Dan, decided to answer that question and bought a Dog DNA test.  And Dan decided that it would be a great idea for a fundraiser for TAPS.  Since Chance was a rescue dog, why not use his DNA test results as an opportunity to raise money for other dogs in need.

So, starting in the next week, Play All Day will sponsor a contest/fundraiser to support TAPS.  Participants will be able to purchase guesses and the closest guess of Chance’s breed, will win one free day of daycare, dog treats, a dog toy, and a $10 Starbucks gift card (hey, Mom and Dad deserve a little something every now and then).  Guesses will sell for $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00.  Once Chance’s DNA results are in, the closest guess will win the prize package.

More details will follow in the Play All Day lobby and on our Facebook page.  Regardless of the DNA results, Chance is a great little fellow who brings a lot of joy to the people in his life and we don’t need DNA test results to know that.  Happy Guessing!


What is your nickname? Did you have one as a child? Did it stick or did you get a new one in adulthood? Mine was “Ape” and luckily it did not survive Jr. High School.
I am not a big fan of nicknames for people. I prefer to call people by their proper name. But I must admit that I am ridiculous when it comes to dog nicknames. My poor dogs have to learn a whole litany of names, some related to their actual name and some not even remotely close. If you have ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit about Richard, the annoying office worker whose desk is near the copy machine, who hands out nicknames to those using the copy machine, this is not a bad example of my nickname giving prowess.
To me, my dogs’ nicknames are endearments. In Barbara Cohen and Louise Taylor’s book, “Dogs and Their Women”, Ana Hoel writes of the evolution of her dog Patrick’s nicknames. It goes like this; Patrick, Petrucchio, Trucchio, Truko, Truke Duke, Duke of Dogs, Duke, Duck, Duckie, Ducko, Doog, Doog Mahn, Doogalo, Woovalo, Wover, Woovie, Woovs, Wulfie, Wulf, Fulf, Fluff, Fluffie, Fluff Bucket, Flem Face, Farfell, Farflea Fleabone, Farflono, Farfleato, Flotty, Flots, Flowtron, Flottie, Aeroflot, Bowzer, Beasto, Beasty, Beastly, Sweet Beast, Sweetie Cheeks, Snuggle Bunny.

To me, this is a beautiful example of how dogs are woven into the fabric of our everyday life and how our lives evolve together. Life events initiate a nickname and over time, it evolves into other life moments, with new manifestations of previous nicknames. Nicknames can be a product of our closeness and time spent together.

So, what are your favorite nicknames for your dogs? My Graham is a very serious fellow and he tolerates (just barely) my nicknames. They are Graham Cracker, Grammy, Gam, and Gramba Lamba. Sting has too many to list, but here are a few; Stinger, Sting Ray, Sting-a Ling, Ting Ting, Doodle Bug, Schnoodle Doodle Poodle Head, and Punkin Butt.

I’d love to hear the nicknames you have for your dogs. Please post them on our Facebook post regarding this blog. Let’s see how creative and silly we all are when it comes to our kiddos. Isn’t life with dogs fun?!

p.s. Use this link to enjoy the Rob Schneider skit I mentioned above. It will make you laugh.

The Greatest Gift I Have Given My Dogs

I consider myself very fortunate to live where I do. Our house and property sits next to 800 acres of wooded trails and open prairies. This little piece of paradise is called Farmdale Reservoir and its primary purpose is to protect East Peoria and surrounding communities from flooding. But that purpose aside, it is a big draw for mountain bikers, horse trail riders, trail runners, and hikers. And dogs are allowed off-leash as long as they are under verbal control. I spend a lot of time in Farmdale Park, most of it accompanied by my boys.
Sting and Graham know all of the cues that signal a walk in the park. It is the most animated you will ever see Mr. Graham, as he bounces from his front paws to his back paws and turns in circles, somewhat like a rodeo bull. Normally docile and lethargic, it is quite a sight to see him behave in this manner. Sting, always ready for an adventure, flies out the open door, nose immediately to ground, looking for adventure. I am always amazed that he does not just tumble tail over head in this manic flight of excitement.
What makes it truly wonderful for them is the fact that they get to do all of this off-leash. They are free to explore and smell what they wish, run like the wind, or trot slowly down the trail. Squirrels are fair game to tree and of course, it’s always fun to meet another dog or a person on the trail. When you are off-leash, you can mark any tree, bush, or plant that tickles your fancy. For these reasons, I feel that the work I put in to making my boys reliable off-leash, is the greatest gift I have given them.
I frequently tell the parents of my young daycare dogs that they not only need physical exercise, but also mental exercise. Hiking off-leash is an excellent way of getting mental exercise. As I posted last week, using the nose is excellent mental exercise for a dog, as is seeing all of the wildlife and meeting new people and dogs.
But is it safe? How much work does it take? Are all dogs capable of being off-leash? These are all valid questions and one that every owner should consider prior to starting off-leash expeditions. In healthcare, big decisions are often framed in terms of risk vs. benefit. Do the risks outweigh the benefits? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
As you have probably guessed, I feel that the benefits of off-leash hiking far outweigh the risks in most cases. That said, I would never recommend off-leash time for you and your dog without the proper preparation.
1. Train your dog to have a reliable recall. I would recommend using a command or sound (whistle perhaps) that is not one you use on an everyday basis. Create a recall command that means something really good is going to happen. Again, I will recommend seeking a good trainer to help you through the process (Ann Goyen,
2. When you have a reliable recall, start your off-leash work in a safe place that has boundaries such as a fence or thick shrubs. But make sure there are plenty of distractions and temptations to fully test your dog.
3. Use a long line, such as a tracking leash that gives you a fighting chance of catching your dog should they get in trouble and you need a handle. This will give you a good feeling of security until you better trust your dog.
4. Teach your dog to stay with you, on command. I do not use the “heel” command. I use “stay behind”. Since we hike mostly on single track trails, I need a command that lets my dogs know that I want them to stay behind me on the trail and not run ahead. I use this primarily as a way of forcing a very energetic dog to rest or to keep them out of trouble if I see potential trouble ahead on the trail.
5. Teach and reinforce a “check-in”. Check-ins are simply your dog turning around and looking back for you or running back to you. I always want to see my dogs. This is not a problem for Graham, but Sting is much more adventurous and his nose can lead him astray. I simply call him back if he gets out of sight and then I release him as soon as he turns back and makes eye contact with me. He doesn’t have to come all the way back, just needs to acknowledge me and be in sight. I use a different command for this. Over time, he has developed a sense of how far ahead is too far ahead and checks-in frequently without a command. He realizes that this gains him more freedom in the long run.
6. Make sure your dog is properly I.D.’d with collar and microchip.
7. Carry your leash.
8. When you first start going out, keep your dog on the long line for safety and take the same trails over and over. This way, your dog will learn the trails and should he ever get lost or separated from you, he can find his way back to the car or home.
9. For safety’s sake, when I see strange dogs approaching, either on or off leash, I call my dogs in and get them under control for proper greetings.
10. Always respect other people’s rights on the trail. Not everyone loves your dog like you do. Some people are deathly afraid of loose dogs.

There will be times when your dog will scare you. He may disappear for longer than you like. He may chase a deer. He may greet another dog before you can call him back. This is part of life. But if you put the work in up front and trust in your relationship and your training, the benefits usually outweigh the risk. I can’t imagine not hiking off-leash with my dogs. And I contend that it is the greatest gift I have ever given them.

Whose Walk Is It Anyway?

How many of you recognize this scenario? You have a few minutes available and you decide to take your dog for a walk. You will get him some exercise and you will get a little yourself. You leash Bruno up and out the door you go. You start off down the street at a brisk pace…no wait, Bruno stops to sniff. “Come on Bruno”, you say. Off you go again, thoughts of your blood moving briskly through your veins and the good deed you are doing for your heart. Bruno stops suddenly to sniff again and your heart has to wait just a while longer for the benefits of your intended exercise. “Come on Bruno”, you say again, this time a bit more tersely. You cruise along and start to feel a little relief from the guilt you have harbored all day for eating that candy bar after lunch. Whoa! Lost in your temporary reprieve from your guilty conscience, you have stopped paying attention to Bruno and he has stopped dead in his tracks to sniff the remnants of a dead squirrel on the road. You throw your hands up in exasperation and say, “Well, what good is a walk for you? All you want to do is smell things!” So you take Bruno home, toss him in the door (“so there”, you think to yourself), and you go out on your walk solo, thoughts of killing the calories from that candy bar, filling your head.
I pose this question. Whose walk is it anyway? Not to make you feel too guilty, but who was cooped up alone in the house all day? Who has been waiting all day for you to walk through the door and spend some time with him? Who does not have the choice of when to walk and when to stay home? And you thought that after-lunch candy bar caused you guilt. But guilt aside, I propose that there is an equitable solution for you and Bruno.

Why does your dog want to sniff all the time? Is there any hope that you can find a happy medium and enjoy your walks together? Of course there is. It all starts with understanding what motivates your dog to use his nose so much and looking at life from his perspective.
Probably the best way to gain some perspective is to think about how much information your sight gives you, every minute of the day. Close your eyes and think about how different your information gathering abilities would be if your sight was impaired or absent. As your eyes are your primary means of gathering information, so the nose is for the dog. It is estimated that dogs have up to a million times greater scent gathering/processing ability than humans. This is not only due to the much higher number of scent detecting cells in their nose, but also the large portion of their brain that is devoted to scent detection and analysis. Follow this link to a great article by The Whole Dog Journal regarding the amazing dog nose.
I witness this amazing ability every day when I return home from the daycare. Sting greets me at the door and immediately begins sniffing me, starting at my feet and moving his way up. His favorite sniffing spots are about knee/thigh high on my pants. Lots of dogs leaning into me and slobbering on my pants leave a lot of scent. If he were to talk, I’m sure I would hear the following. “Joey was at daycare today. Did he play with that silly pink ball again? There’s Jax…he’s always a good time. Oh darn, Boerner was there today….I haven’t seen him in a while. Ahhh, there’s Bernie. Did he keep everybody in line?”

Now you have read the great article by Whole Dog Journal and understand the dog nose. I have guilted you into thinking about life from your dog’s perspective. How can you meet both your dog’s need to smell and your need to work off that candy bar? It’s simple really. Designate a portion of your walks to your dog’s needs and a portion to yours. I would suggest starting your walk with 5 minutes or so of letting your dog lead the way. If he wants to sniff, let him sniff. If he wants to walk, let him walk. If he wants to go North, go North. You get it. This first 5 minutes is his and he gets to choose. Put this on command so he knows that it is acceptable (“go smell” or whatever). Now it’s your turn. Get about your business of walking. Pay attention to Bruno and remind him that it is your turn. Again, you will put this portion of the walk on command (“let’s go” or whatever) and encourage and reward desired behavior. Now take a breather and give your command “go smell”. Go back and forth with this schedule. If you really want to be successful, team up with a trainer ( I recommend Ann Goyen at to work specifically on this. As your dog begins to understand the difference between his time and your time, this will go smoother and who knows, maybe you will be jogging that candy bar off instead of walking.
Watch what happens as you do this for your dog. A 30 minute walk of straight walking and no sniffing will help your dog to get physical exercise. But it will not give him the same mental exercise that 20 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of information gathering and exploring the world with his nose will give him. You will have a much more contented dog at the end of your walk. I see it over and over in the daycare. My dogs that interact, explore, and use their brains during the day are much calmer and more content than those dogs that simply wrestle or run all day.
Next week, I will continue in the vein of “walking the dog”, as we explore the benefits of off-leash play.