For business owners its simply maths, the more dogs they fit into an area, the more money/profit they make. This is why overcrowding is a very prominent issue in doggy daycares. At Ari&Me, we have a 1:15 trained staff to dog ratio, which doesn't include the volunteers that are also keeping watch!
Unfortunately, overcrowding pens has various negative consequences on your pup, and we’ll explain why.
Overstimulation and Rough Play:
A crowded pen is exactly like a wild party, or a mosh pit at a concert. Naturally, the more dogs there are, the noisier it gets and the more sensory distractions there are for dogs to compete with, filtering in lots of visual and sentry inputs.
This can make it harder for dogs to concentrate, think rationally, and regulate their emotions. Resulting in a greater likelihood of disruptive behaviours such as barking, nipping, jumping, humping, and overall poor social manners.
Even if you claim your dog is super friendly, outgoing and plays well with others, there are no guarantees that this will be the case when gathered in a large group of dogs. All too often I have heard dog owners say “my dog has never done that before” when their dog shows any type of aggression.
Dogs are naturally selective:
Our dog’s personality and play style plays a huge part in whether they will or won’t get along with another dog. Within only 3 seconds dogs can generally decide whether they will like another dog or not.
Only 10% of dogs are what we call ‘dog social’ meaning they truly appreciate the company of almost all other dogs. This is generally puppies. Most dogs are either dog tolerant or dog selective. Meaning 40% of dogs are picky about who they accept into their social circle and struggle to tolerate ‘rude’ dogs.
Therefore, there is nothing natural about taking your dog to the dog park/daycare and expecting them to play and socialise with a bunch of strange dogs that they have never met before. Many dogs simply don’t enjoy playing with lots of other dogs or are intimidated by a large group of dogs. Dogs can be particularly temperamental when they feel crowded in a small area.
In addition, Dogs can have different playing styles and often two dogs with incompatible playing styles can get into a fight. One dog may play more roughly, while the other dog can take that as a sign of aggression.
Learned Helplessness occurs when a person or animal experiences repeated challenges and comes to believe they have no control over their situation. When pens are overcrowded dogs lose the ability to display natural behaviours particular their ‘flight’ response. If a dog is feeling overwhelmed by the number of dogs in the area or is stressed with another dog being so close, they will usually try to escape the situation by creating as much distance as possible between themselves and the stressful trigger.
When pens are overcrowded dogs have no where available to flee for more space often leading them to become shut down. The dog simply gives up, giving the illusion of a well-mannered dog when in reality they are in a subdued state of stress. Often, people do not realise that what looks like "good behaviour" is really a state of learned helplessness. Instead, dogs thrive in bigger areas where then can actively choose whether to participate or not, allowing them to build confidence.
Increased Health Risk:
Overcrowded pens can also become breeding grounds for diseases. The lack of space makes it difficult to maintain proper hygiene, and excessive close contact and exposure increases the risk of contagions spreading.
At Ari&Me we have committed to a maximum number of 15 dogs per pen. Fifteen is the minimal number we can achieve while still remaining financially viable. In an ideal situation we wouldn’t want more than 6 dogs in a pen, however this doesn’t seem affordable for the average household.