- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) - Day care.

It’s not just for children anymore.

As people are busy working all day and children are at school and extracurricular activities, family pets, which would otherwise be left home alone, are now enjoying the benefits of doggie day care in Starved Rock Country.

Four Leaf K9 Training and Daycare and Starved Rock Pet Resort are in Streator, while Play and Stay Dog Lounge is in Ottawa, for examples.

“Day care is a fairly new concept in Ottawa,” said Linda Marini, who co-owns Play and Stay with her daughter Shea Fargher. “When people learned that there is a safe, fun, clean place for their dog to socialize and play with other dogs off leash, word of mouth and social media brought lots of clients to us to find out more about what we do and how we do it.”

The owners all have extensive training and experience in dog care and agree that a bored dog home alone can be a destructive dog, or develop other behavior issues.

“Today we have ‘modern dogs.’ They play a big part of our families lives and we as dog owners expect more out of our pet,” said Erin Marconi, owner of Four Leaf K9. “Some people want a family dog but are too busy with every day life and the dog sits at home by themselves or in a kennel all day, bored. This is when bad behavior can start. Separation anxiety, destructive behavior, excitable energy, aggression with people and other animals and so on. Pretty much all the dogs in day care I have trained with their owners.”

Susan Crawford owns Starved Rock Pet Resort in Streator and the Fetching Frieda Dog and Cat Emporium in LaSalle.

“I believe many dogs are in shelters because of destructive behaviors that make it hard for families to accommodate them,” Crawford said. “I believe proper training and exercising for the nations dogs could alleviate much of the shelter over population of dogs that we now have. This is part of the reason that I decided to go into the day care business.”

Marini added there are numerous factors that play a role in a dog’s overall well-being.

“Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation. Some need less, some need more,” Marini said. “Each dog is individual but every dog can benefit from the right mix of good diet, fun exercise, and brain stimulating activities. A happy dog is one that has these needs met on a regular basis. Dog day care provides two of the three essentials to a happy pet.”

With the help of staff, Marconi works to make sure each of the dogs’ needs are met in a safe environment.

“The goal of day care is you have to know and understand dogs and their body language to be in charge of a pack of dogs,” she said. “You have to know every dog to a ‘T,’… Not every dog is suitable for day care but I usually get them playing with new dogs and bring them out of their shell with some training. Being in charge of group play is not just for anyone. Some people even think or say how fun and easy my day must be ‘playing with cute dogs all day.’ I always laugh when I hear that because there is a lot of work involved and you always have to be on your toes.”

“Every dog that comes to day care is assessed prior to playing to ensure that no dog is put in an uncomfortable or scary position with other dogs,” Marini said. “Our goal is for every dog that visits to have a fun, safe time and be excited to return.”

Marconi said the more frequently a dog attends day care, the better their behavior.

“You can tell what dogs come three or five days a week. They have the system down,” she said. “Some can ride shot gun and most importantly they are a well-balanced and happy dog. The ones that come here and there are more work because they are so excited to be here, have a lot more energy to burn, and have a harder time focusing on directions.”

Play and Stay offers webcams throughout the facility for families can log on to their website and monitor their dogs while they are away, and Starved Rock Pet Resort uses computers to monitor dogs as well.

“We are computer organized, so we always know were each dog is and what they are doing,” said Crawford.

Four Leaf’s bus delivery and pick-up service is offered five days a week for Streator clients and Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Ottawa, Grand Ridge and Naplate clients. Customers can also drop their dogs off at Four Leaf, west of Streator.

“Safety is very important. You can’t have dogs loose in a vehicle for many reasons,” Marconi said. “People love our vehicles even if they don’t even have a dog. The dogs especially enjoy the outing and are always waiting or watching out the window for their ride to school.”

Play and Stay offers pick up service with a van that is open in the back with fake grass on the floor.

“We have soft beds and blankets back there but also have hooks where a dog can be harnessed for safety or cages that a dog can be transported in, whichever the client prefers,” Marini said. “We are always happy to transport for people who cannot get their dog to Play and Stay for day care and need our help.”

Crawford said Starved Rock Pet Resort offers pickup and delivery depending on needs and location.

“We have two pet taxis which utilize crates for the safety and security of our guests,” she said.

As for the benefits of day care for dogs and their people, Marconi says they are “endless.”

“Dogs are just more balanced and manageable for owners,” she said. “They are obviously dog friendly and learn to play properly, more social in life, and the biggest advantage to owners is their dogs come home exhausted. The biggest reward is to see all the happy smiling dogs and watching the progress dogs make over time by coming here.”

“They become more social and less anxious as they continue to come and they look forward to the many play activities they get to participate in,” Marini said.

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Source: The (Ottawa) Times, http://bit.ly/1P1xPdS

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.mywebtimes.com

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