What to do on summer vacation…

What should you do when summer vacation beckons and you’ve got a lovely four-legged friend who can’t join?

Leaving your pup can often be stressful, unsettling, and downright difficult to do! So when Charlie and I decided to our little vacation to sunny San Diego, I wanted to make sure I found the perfect spot for Periwinkle. Kickstand, of course, would be fine at home for a couple days – but where would Peri go?

After hours of scouring the internet and calling doggie daycare and boarding places throughout Orange County and San Diego, I finally stumbled across an interesting site belonging to a little place called The Ritz 4 Petz. I immediately called the number on the page and spoke with Kim Cyr, owner of the pet sitting service that I soon learned was the perfect spot for anyone’s beloved mutt! Lovely Kim has agreed to an interview to explain her outstanding service.

RMC: Hi Kim! Thanks for letting Periwinkle stay with you and for letting me ask you some questions. We were so happy to know she was in caring hands. Can you please explain your wonderful service and how it stands out amongst the many doggie day care and doggie boarding services across Southern California?

R4P: At the Ritz 4 Petz, dogs get to stay in our home with us. There are no kennels or areas of confinement so the dogs literally have the run of the house. There is always someone at the house so the dogs are never left alone. The dogs spend the day playing with each other, snoozing and getting attention from me or one of our family members. At night they get to pick where they sleep whether it be the couch, a dog bed or the cool tile.

couch potato

RMC: What is the daily routine like at The Ritz 4 Petz?

R4P: Our days usually start off as early as 7 a.m. when new dogs are dropped off or daycare dogs come by. After the initial excitement of meeting and greeting, everyone settles down enough for me to get my morning routine done. After my kids have been fed and sent off to school, then all of the dogs that have been approved to go to the dog park pile into my van and off we go to our local off-leash dog park.

dog park pack

Some dogs do not go because they are elderly or cannot be off leash or are too small. If this is the case then I usually have a neighbor come by and stay with the dogs while I am gone. The dogs run and play at the park while we walk for an hour which usually is about one mile. The dogs then all pile back into the van and we head home. Once the dogs are back home, I let them rest for about 30 minutes, then feed everyone breakfast. After that it’s whatever any dog wants. Some dogs choose to wrestle with each other, some play tug of war with me or another dog, some dogs just want to follow me everywhere I go and lie on my feet and others just want to sleep.

tiny meets towering

This is the best thing about The Ritz 4 Petz….all the dogs get to choose what they want to do during the day. Things pick up at the end of the day when daycare dogs leave, my kids and husband come home and other dogs may go home. The dogs love the excitement of people coming in and out of the house. It gives them the stimulation they need beside exercise. By dinner time the dogs are hungry again and they get their second meal of the day. After that, everyone usually settles down for the night. Early evening is my favorite part of the day because everyone is tired and happy and the dogs just all hang out with me and my family while we watch TV or play games. Then it’s time for bed and because the dogs have been so active during the day, they usually have no problem settling down for the night. The smaller dogs are brought upstairs to sleep in bed with us while the larger dogs are left downstairs. Since the dogs have spent the entire day playing and sleeping and eating together, it’s only natural that they are comfortable sleeping together too.

RMC: When did your love for animals start and what was the inspiration?

R4P: I’ve always loved animals and from the age of four, I’ve always had a pet. My very first pet was a hamster that my father brought home for me. After that I was never without a pet. I progressed to rabbits and mice and rats and gerbils, lizards, snakes, iguanas, cats and dogs. Thank goodness my mother was so accommodating! I had quite a menagerie as a child and always wanted to be a vet.

RMC: How long ago did you start The Ritz 4 Petz and how did you get the idea to run a doggie daycare from home?

R4P: I started the Ritz 4 Petz seven years ago. I first started out by looking after the pets of friends in the neighborhood. I originally took care of other people’s dogs in their home, but realized that the dogs had more fun at my house because I could be with them all the time, and saw that the dogs really enjoyed being with other dogs, just like dogs in a pack.

RMC: Has The Ritz 4 Petz changed your life and the life of your family? How does Cowboy feel about the idea? Has he had any change in his personality?

R4P: The Ritz 4 Petz has undoubtedly changed the lives of me and my family. My kids take it for granted now that there will always be extra dogs in the house. When my son brings friends over he always warns them ahead of time that there will be lots of dogs at the house. My husband is now used to having dog hair all over his clothes. There are always extra dog beds on the floor and extra bags of kibble on the kitchen counter. I don’t get to go out nearly as much as I used to but I’m a homebody anyway and I really don’t mind. I plan all my errands for the weekends or after school so that somebody will be home with the dogs. We usually don’t entertain or go anywhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas because they are the busiest time of the year. We usually have all kinds of extra stockings hanging on the fireplace for all the extra dogs that are staying over. If I had any other dog, beside Cowboy, The Ritz 4 Petz might not work.

cowboy, the gentle herder

Cowboy is a herding dog who likes to think he has a job taking care of all the dogs in the house. He is famous for jumping in between two dogs that are playing a little too roughly. He’ll growl and bark and tell them to calm down. Cowboy is a very happy and well adjusted dog considering all the dogs he has to contend with. I think Cowboy thinks of all the other dogs as his sheep. I almost feel that he should get a paycheck for the work he does.

RMC: Is there a technique to selecting the dogs you let spend time with you? How do you make sure the pack’s dynamic is not disturbed by new visitors?

R4P: I always conduct an interview with a potential new dog and their owner. The first five minutes with a new dog tell me a lot. When the new dog comes into the house, all my other dogs will gang up on the new dog to sniff and greet the dog. This can be very intimidating to the new dog. I try to get it over with as quickly as possible but this is not something that can be avoided. I watch to see how the new dog handles the situation. A well adjusted, well-socialized dog will allow the dogs to sniff it then come into the house and start walking around. I look for any sign of aggressiveness in the new dog. I always like to see the new dog walking around the house sniffing and checking things out and mingling with my dogs. I also watch to see if a new male dog lifts his leg anywhere in the house. This is a marking behavior and usually indicates that the dog is an alpha-type dog. If I’m unsure about a dog then I will ask the owner if we can do a one day trial to see how the dog works out. Most owners are only too happy to do this. Then if I have a problem, I can call the owner and talk about it, or have the owner come and get the dog if there is a problem. The dogs that are staying at my home always love when I do an interview. It’s excitement for them and they feel safe because they have the security of the pack.

RMC: How do you manage a large group of dogs? How many dogs is too many and how many is just enough?

R4P: After having watched dogs for seven years now, I have found that the perfect number of dogs is usually five or six. I take up to eight at a time but this is usually when I know the dogs and know the dynamics of the dogs that will be together. I could have four very rambunctious dogs that will give me more trouble than 8 sedate and easy going dogs, so it all depends on which dogs are together.

so many mutts

RMC: You have obviously spent time designing your home to fit the needs of a pack of dogs. How did you develop it? Did the design come from trial and error?

R4P: The very first thing that had to happen was to get tile put on the whole bottom floor. This has been a lifesaver because the tile can always be cleaned. The next thing was to get rid of all the upholstered sofas because they started to smell like dogs after a while. The sofas were replaced with leather and I must say I am very happy with how well the leather has stood up to numerous wrestling and wriggling dogs. We got rid of our big area rugs because many dogs seemed to think that was a good place to piddle. We also put in extra high gates everywhere in the house. These have been very useful when dogs need to be separated because they need a break from playing or we have some older dogs that want to be left alone. Obviously with dogs running loose in the house, we cannot open the front door. People come into our house from the garage and we have a gate separating the garage door from the rest of the house. This is like an air lock and it prevents any dogs from escaping out of the garage when a new dog is coming in. The rule is that the gate and door to the house can never both be open at the same time. We also have put artificial turf in the back yard surrounded by fencing so that no dogs can escape. The turf works out really well and is easy to keep clean. We have additional fencing to separate the rest of our back yard so that the dogs are only allowed to go to the potty area when I am not with them. We usually leave the back sliding door open all the time so that everyone has the opportunity to go potty whenever they need to. All of this has come about by trial and error over a period of years and we are still fine tuning things as we speak.

RMC: Are there any breed restrictions? Can you explain why or why not?

R4P: We do not have any breed restrictions but we do have personality restrictions. The dogs we take all must be sweet natured and well socialized. We take great Danes and mastiffs as well as Chihuahuas and miniature poodles. The dogs all get along and some small dogs that are afraid of large dogs learn to trust bigger dogs by being in a pack with them. We also take pit bulls after a thorough interview. If the pit bull is very good natured and has been around a lot of other dogs, and they pass the interview, then I will take them. I have never had an aggressive pit bull and in fact many of my pit bulls are more on the submissive side.

RMC: What is the best part of running a doggie daycare out of your own living room?

R4P: The best part of running The Ritz 4 Petz out of my home is that I get to stay home with my kids and still have a successful career. Not many people can say that they can lie down in the middle of the afternoon and watch a movie, surrounded by dogs, and get paid for it. I love my job!

mid-afternoon-snooze

RMC: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? And lastly, how do they get hold of you?

R4P: I’d like to say that I’m surprised that more people don’t want to watch dogs in their home like I do. If you love dogs and are willing to put up with a little extra dog hair and you have understanding neighbors, then it’s a great service to be able to offer people. Also because I am around dogs so much, I have really developed an understanding of dog behavior and it is so much more complex than most people would believe. It’s just what the Dog Whisperer says….. dogs want to be in a pack and they do best when they’re in a pack. Many people think I have a special talent for being able to handle so many dogs. It’s not me, it’s the way dogs work together in a pack.

If anyone wants to know more about The Ritz 4 Petz they can visit my website at www.ritz4petz.com