Friday, 24 October 2014


Those of you who visit the kennels regularly, will have noticed that Pete has left us. We bid him farewell at the end of August after he was offered his dream job - caring for the hounds at a hunt kennels - Cosy cottage included! Of course there were no hard feelings, after all, his new job was perfect for him. However it did leave us with rather a dilemma...

How on earth do we find a replacement?

Of course, there is NO shortage of people wanting to work with animals. We have piles of filed CV's and letters asking for work, and receive e-mails almost every day, but finding a person with the qualities that we need is actually quite difficult.

Punctual and Conscientious 

Cleaning kennels may be a boring and monotonous task, but it's important to take pride in it all the same. The cleanliness of the kennels is often the first thing the customers notice. As we open the doors you can see them prepare themselves for the stench of urine masked with pine disinfectant, so commonly associated with kennels. When we welcome them into a fresh, clean smelling kennels (complete with white tiles meaning no place for dirt to hide)and see the surprise on their faces, it's something to feel proud of. And there are many other such tasks that are easy to get bored of, but must be done properly all the same.
Also, there is absolutely NO leeway for being late in the mornings - customers turn up early and you can't be in the daycare and out in reception at the same time, so if you're on your own people can end up waiting around. 
We ask staff to be here by 7.30am. Yes, an early start, but you won't get any sympathy from Lee - he's been working since 6am! (

Computer skills. Good English and maths skills. Pleasant telephone manner

Not only do we care for, clean, feed, and supervise the dogs as they play, but we all must perform receptionist-type tasks each day. Phoning and e-mailing customers, filing paperwork, making bookings etc. So it helps for our staff to have the ability to undertake these tasks. English and maths skills are a must (as some of you know, Lee is an ex-teacher, and can't abide spelling mistakes in e-mails to customers!). Our computer system is not the simplest either, so being canny on the computer is very useful. There are also strict routines that must be followed when taking dogs in or sending them home. Failure to remember these routines could mean allowing an un-vaccinated dog to board with us, which of course, must never be done. 

Initiative and Common Sense

This is important. What we need is a person who will walk past a kennel where a dog has scratched up all of it's bedding, and immediately go in and tidy it up. Or if a water bowl is empty, to go and fill it. Someone, who ALWAYS remembers to shut all escape routes before even thinking about opening a kennel door, and, when faced with a 'dirty protester' (this is what we call extremely messy dogs, who somehow manage to poo and spread it ALL OVER the kennel and themselves) does not go to pieces, but calmly figures out a way to clean up the kennel, and the dog, without getting covered themselves. This sounds simple, common sense you might call it, but you'd be surprised how many lack the ability to do these things (or even think about doing them) without instruction.
Sometimes, this ability, might mean even going against instructions. One particular story comes to mind. A diabetic dog we were caring for - on her Insulin instructions, it asked us to give her a 7ml dose twice a day. Luckily, being diabetic myself, this rang alarm bells for me straight away. 7 ml is an awful lot of insulin, and besides, insulin is measured in 'international units'. There are about 100 units to 1 ml, so 7ml is a really massive dose! It's obvious what's happened here, the owner has written 'ml' rather than 'units'. An easy mistake to make, and actually, the administration of 7ml would have been impossible anyway (the syringes are marked in units, and the insulin bottle didn't even contain that amount of insulin) but you can see my point. One must always be on the ball, especially with medication, but in all other aspects too. 


Natural confidence is rarely something that can be learned, it's either part of our personality or it isn't. A confident person will come across as competent and friendly to customers, putting them at ease and enabling them to develop trust in us. Not to mention that the dogs can spot a nervous person a mile off, and will immediately walk all over them (jump up, drag them on the lead, ignore commands etc), So when in the daycare and supervising a group of up to 15 dogs, confidence is essential. 
Lastly, rare though it is, accidents and emergencies do happen. Whether it's a dog becoming ill and needing the vets on a manically busy day, a customer forgetting their vaccine card and needing to rush off, or the power going down, our staff need to be able to cope by thinking clearly and logically about the problem and how to solve it. 

Friendly and genuine

A friendly attitude is a must. When a customer drops their dog/s off to stay they are placing immense trust in us, not only to feed and clean up after them, but to give attention and affection to them too. Our customers want to see us displaying a genuine interest in their dogs, and have a naturally caring attitude towards them. 
Dogs have an uncanny ability of knowing when a person likes them too. Many a time a customer has warned us that their dog 'doesn't like men', only to stand, open mouthed, as the dog quite happily receives fusses and even roll over for a tummy rub on their first meeting with Lee - they know that he likes them, and sometimes that's all it takes for them to like someone back.
In the summer, we also have quite a few work experience students. Often they can be quite shy and daunted, and having friendly staff around brings out the best in them and ensures that they get what they need out of the experience. 

Ability to read dog body language

This is probably the most important skill. Running a Doggie Daycare sounds like fun (and it is!) but it is also a massive responsibility. Anyone who has ever experienced a dog fight knows how horrific and frightening it is, and so we must do our very best to ensure that this NEVER occurs. This means we need to be able to read dog body language to a fine degree, suss out new characters quickly, and have a commanding (yet caring) attitude. If you say 'No' you must mean it. There is no point waiting until a fight occurs, by then it's too late. Our staff must be able to recognise doggy disagreements and put a stop to them way before it turns into a fight. The signs a dog shows when they're unhappy in the company of another can be subtle, a sideways glance, the way they hold their tail or their ears - these can be easily missed by the inexperienced. 
The daycare is a fun place for dogs, but it by no means a free for all. We make sure the oldies or the timid dogs don't get harassed by the boisterous playful ones, we stop the play if it gets too rough, and if there is a disagreement about a ball or a toy, we take it away. It takes a special sort of person to be able to supervise the daycare in this manner. Of course, this skill can be learned, but a natural ability is much more reliable. 

Willingness to get dirty!

Often we are approached by young people desperate to work with animals, who, as you chat to them, will physically recoil when you mention to them to the fact that 90% of the job involves cleaning up excrement. It's a never ending, repetitive task - keeping the kennels clean - and a very important one too. Of course Lee doesn't even flinch at such a task, in fact, we have a little joke that Lee could go on 'You Bet' and correctly guess, from a dog's poo, what brand of food they eat! He's probably picked up literally tonnes of dog poo over the years, it's never ending - but that's the job.
Not to mention that dogs slobber, they're hairy, they get muddy paws, they sometimes even wee in excitement (on your shoes usually, although Lee once picked up a dog and it sprinkled right up into his face!).
You can't work with animals and expect to stay looking clean and tidy - and that's fine. I don't expect my staff to look smart or clean. I myself would prefer to see a kennel worker covered in dog hair with a slobber patch down their leg, because it shows they've actually been interacting with the dogs. 

So, with all these requirements, did we actually manage to find anyone suitable to join our team?


And here she is. Newest recruit, Clare. She's ticked all the boxes and more, and as you can see, the dogs' approve of her too!