This July The Dog Gurus are excited to celebrate our 5th Anniversary! To show our appreciation, we wanted to highlight one of our charter members. Charter members are facilities who joined The Dog Gurus as soon as we launched and have been with us ever since. We are thankful for their support and hope they have loved being a member as much as we love having them!
For this member highlight we interviewed Linda Thompson, of the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey, New Hampshire.
TDG: Provide a brief overview of your company (when you started it, services offered, what is your facility like)
The Monadnock Humane Society was established in 1875 and its mission is to foster a compassionate community by promoting and providing for the well-being of animals. There are three different departments housed under one roof: the Adoption Center, the Training Center and the Boarding and Daycare Center. Both the Training Center and the Boarding and Daycare are profit centers to help offset the costs of the Adoption Center. The Training Center offers group classes and private lessons, from basic through advanced obedience, Rally obedience, Agility, Therapy Dog training, CGC and others.
MHS Boarding opened in 2010 and the Daycare opened in 2011. We offer boarding for cats, dogs, rabbits, small animals and occasionally, a Pot Belly Pig as well as daycare for dogs. We have a groomer on staff who can provide cuts, baths, brush outs and nail trims. Our newest service is Puppy Play School (PPS), which is designed for pups 8-16 weeks of age. It is run by a trainer and offers a safe, separate area for puppies to play and learn. We work on basic obedience (sit, down, stay), crate and house training as well as positively socializing them to new sights and sounds, like wheelchairs, crutches, umbrellas, thunderstorm and firework sounds, etc.
We run a Daycare 2.0 type program, with smaller groups and alternating periods of rest and play. We do enrichment activities with the dogs, practice Daycare Games techniques, have toys available to the dogs and use a grain free kibble out in the yards to reinforce good behavior as well as for the dogs to hunt and sniff out. We only have about 10% of the building but have 3 large outside play yards, which we use in all weather except the extreme hot and cold and thunderstorms.
TDG: Why did you get started in the pet industry?
I started out working in a vet clinic while in high school because of my love for animals and have worked with pets and people most of my life. After college, I accepted a part time vet tech position at the Monadnock Humane Society and soon was made the Companion Animal Specialist, in charge of assessing dogs and cats to determine their needs regarding housing, training and enrichment while with us as well as what their needs were for a permanent home.
When our new state of the art facility was due to open a couple miles away in 2000, we had created new and hopefully, less stressful housing opportunities for the animals in our care. Instead of run type kennels, two dogs could share a room. Cats would live in larger rooms in groups. It was my job in the two weeks before the move, to pair dogs as roommates and create groups of cats. Thanks to many volunteers on the day of the move, all the animals were successfully moved within two hours to their new accommodations.
I took several years off to be a stay at home mom when I was pregnant with my second child and as they got older, I felt myself being drawn back to working with animals. In 2012, I applied for a Boarding and Daycare Technician position that was part time and offered mother’s hours. (I soon realized that I had been making playdates for dogs all the time when I was working for MHS before, as we always let the adoptable dogs out to play in groups at the old shelter too!) After 4 months, I became the manager for the Boarding and Daycare.
TDG: What do you find most rewarding about working in the pet industry?
I absolutely love watching the growth and positive changes we get with the dogs. I am lucky enough to see the shy dogs blossom and build confidence, whether it be with our staff, other dogs or to things in their environment. There is nothing like seeing “zoomies”, when dogs run for the pure joy of being a dog and being happy with friends. We use the catch phrase, “Best friends made here” and that feeling when two dogs develop a special friendship and look for each other, is like no other. It provides you with a sense of a job well done. I enjoy sharing information with parents and helping them create a better bond with their dog.
TDG: What does being a member of The Dog Gurus mean to you?
When I started at MHS B & D, we would have 12-15 dogs per day (which felt like was a lot because there were scuffles and/ or fights a couple times per week) and almost all the dogs were in one group, no matter the size of the dog. Technicians were instructed to stand in diagonal opposite corners of the yard and were to stay there until either things got out of control or poop happened. I got admonished for petting a dog, due to the possibility of guarding. When I became manager, I knew there had to be a better way.
I started trying different things, instinctively drawing on techniques that worked with my children – naptimes, regular schedule, interrupting rowdy play, giving dogs attention, separating large and small dogs. We introduced toys to the groups, which was even a challenge as they argued over the multitude of tennis balls. We pulled those out and started with red Kong balls and slowly were able to reintroduce tennis balls and then other types of toys, quickly finding out which toys were considered high value and avoided them in the future.
TDG: What is the thing you are most proud of for your company?
I am most proud of the team I have now. We are all passionate about the pets we care for and want to ensure their safety and well-being. We want the dogs to be all-around tired at the end of the day. I am proud to say that we provide peace of mind to the parents who trust us with their furry family members.
I am also quite proud of our Puppy Play School. I have dreamed of a way to educate pet parents of the importance of investing in their dogs when they are puppies, in terms of positively socializing and training to help their dogs be stable and confident as they age. PPS will be one year old in August and it is being strongly recommended by area vets to their clients. Many of the PPS graduates enter our daycare program and we find that they are much more responsive to handlers and much better behaved than other youngsters who didn’t attend.
TDG: What does your staff do together for fun?
We don’t have a lot of down time, so fun happens on the go. We have recently purchased some water guns for soaking each other as well as the dogs. I try to provide snacks or treats often and we make coffee (Dunkin runs). I try to send my staff to continuing education opportunities and we all enjoy the change of scenery.
TDG: Do you have a client or dog who changed the way you run your business?
Early on, I remember a shy dog who we were introducing to a group. We had the group out on one side of the fence and brought the new dog out into the yard right outside the door. We started letting a dog or two in with him. Many of the others were on the other side of the fence, barking at him. He was so stressed out, trying to get into a corner and cowering down. I felt so badly for him. We put him back inside and tried again later.
Because of that, we do things very differently now. I stress to my staff that every dog is an individual and we need to take it at their pace. I schedule new dogs so that we never have more than two on a day and during their first out, each dog goes into the yard with only a staff member. He/she is allowed to sniff and get comfortable in the environment and with the staff before we add dogs. Then we (only a dog or two at a time) carefully watching his/her body language. I think it is important to set the dog up for success and give him the best chance to fit into the daycare setting.
TDG: If you could meet anyone in the industry, who would it be and why?
I have been fortunate to meet both Robin and Susan as well as many others in the industry at the Pet Boarding and Daycare Conference in Hershey. (My staff and I learn so much there!) I am so thankful and honored that Susan has personally answered questions that I have posed to her and pointed me towards resources that I needed. Thank you!