The obligatory, cheeky front page piece on Monday’s Wall Street Journal was titled, "Sit, Stay, Ace the Interview." Predictably, it was all about getting into doggie day care. The right pooch with the right personality fits the right doggie day care. So why is it I couldn’t shake off the nagging feeling that it was more about elitism than it was about dogs?

The article was all about how doggie day care is a burgeoning business. (After all, business is what the WSJ is ostensibly all about.) By way of advancing this point, it latched onto this simple conceit: Think it’s hard getting your kid into school? Consider that now it’s just as troublesome getting your dog there!

To get accepted at summer camp, it took a three-page application, a family interview and three hours of monitored playtime. The applicant: Cannoli, a dog.

Anyone who thinks elite preschools are rigorous enough may want to take a look at doggie day cares. They, too, are submitting prospective charges to exhaustive screenings.

Interviewing and evaluating campers is one way to lower risk in a dog-eat-dog world, says Heidi Ganahl, founder and chief executive of Camp Bow Wow, with 110 camps in the U.S. "Screening the pups assures us the dogs are good candidates for our all-day play environment and [that they] will be able to play safely," she said.

Which only makes sense. If you’ve got ten dogs and the newbie doesn’t play well with others, I wouldn’t think it’d be a good idea to take him on. And yet the whole "screening" thing set my teeth on edge.

After all, if I offer a service that’s designed to improve the quality of life of the pets I treat (in my case, it’s veterinary care, but it might as well be grooming or training), wouldn’t it upset you if I denied your pet my services based solely on my take on his personality? What if I automatically designated her case a "sedate only," or otherwise applied some black and white criteria to her character? You’d be appalled! How can you deny my dog needed care based on her "normal" behavior?

Yet this is what doggie day care services do on a regular basis. "Socialization" and "aggressive tendencies" is how they tend to couch these determinations of character, but the upshot is the same: These animals are a liability. We will not treat them.

And I’ve no doubt they’re in the right in denying a superfluous, luxuriant and utterly  unnecessary service to their charges. Doggie day care is not exactly an indispensable service … or is it?

To those whose houses are being remodeled or need to work long days for a stint, that’s not exactly true: Getting to the right daily situation for their pets is every bit as important as having their pet’s skin disease or respiratory infection treated. Why should it be any different?

So goes my thinking. Which is why I couldn’t help but think that doggy day cares that cull prospectives based on personality are going to have to start thinking out-of the-box on how to handle a big percentage of not-so-easy patients. I mean, with shelter adoptions going up and up, how are they proposing to handle a growing legion of stressed-out, under-socialized clientele?

But maybe it was this that really got me going as I read the article:

The owners' personality has a lot to do with a dog's behavior, day-care owners say.

"If the owner encourages them to interact with other dogs, they are going to be social," says Ms. Ganahl of Camp Bow Wow. "If the owners themselves are holed up or nervous, the dogs will mirror that behavior."

Wow, that’s rough. Denying a dog an opportunity based on one person’s perception of another’s personality. Sounds very much like the kind of profiling we collectively condemn, and the elitism we similarly abhor. It’s not enough that we subject our pre-school children to it. No, now … it’s gone to the dogs.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: good dog by Johnny Jet

good dog, dog day care, dog bias, pet care industry