By Rachel Beard and Ana Williams
Lansing Township News Staff Reporters
Taking care of a dog can be an overwhelming experience. But for Adam Scheidt, owner of the Mutt Hut, it’s more than an experience — it’s his living.
After adopting a rescue dog five years ago, Scheidt realized how good he was at helping dogs. His family and friends convinced him to pursue a career in it.
“A lot of people, family, friends, were telling me they had noticed, within a couple years, quite a difference with him,” Scheidt said. “How he interacts with people, how he interacts with kids, with other animals, all of that stuff. He really kind of turned a corner, and that turned into friends and family wanting me to help with their dogs, and then that turned into, hey, I don’t particularly enjoy my job anymore and I love to do this.”
That’s when Scheidt decided to open the Mutt Hut, a doggy daycare where he can put his dog care skills to use.
“I need to do a temperament test first to meet the dog, talk with the owners, and see what best I can do to help them,” Scheidt said. “In the temperament test, I kind of evaluate what I’m seeing. Does the dog have issues with me, being a new person, or issues with other dogs?”
Former Mutt Hut customer Kevin Brown says his dog felt at home at the Mutt Hut at her first temperament test. Brown stopped taking his dog to the Mutt Hut when he moved away.
“Adam took the time to meet with Bailey [my dog] to assess her personality and to make sure she was a good fit,” Brown said. “When I walked into the Mutt Hut, I noticed how happy the dogs were, and what a cool area for the dogs to make friends and let out their energy.”
Dog owners bring their pets to the Mutt Hut for a variety of different reasons.
“We originally chose the Mutt Hutt for its cheaper rates, and then we met Adam,” Mutt Hut Customer Tim Patterson said. “Adam really cares about all of his pets that he brings in to care for during the day.”
Others bring their dogs in with hopes that they’ll learn how to behave around other dogs.“I wanted my dog to get more play time, activity, and to socialize with dogs since he doesn’t get much of it at home, and I really liked that [Scheidt] was just starting off,” Mutt Hut Customer Elise Grover said.
Doggy daycares allow dog owners to leave their dogs with someone who will look after them, instead of just abandoning them at home.
“[My dog] is a puppy and has a lot of energy,” Mutt Hut customer Koady Kindy said. “I work 8 to 5 everyday so the Mutt Hut helps him socialize and get some exercise.”
Beth Duman, author of “The Evolution of Charlie Darwin: Partner With Your Dog Using Positive Training”, says exercise is a very important part of keeping dogs happy.
“And exercise doesn’t mean walking dogs,” Duman said. “Exercises means interacting with the dog. So if you’re going on a walk, that you’re not just covering mileage, but you maybe have the dog on a longer line and you’re going out and exploring with the dog, let the dog sniff, maybe planting things in the grass to use up some of its energy, its mental energy.”
For Scheidt, keeping his customer’s dogs healthy means that taking care of them isn’t all fun and games. Some of them come to him with serious issues.
“Typically, my dogs come for daycare because their owners are working full-time and they don’t want to leave them at home to their own devices,” Scheidt said. “But I also have some dogs that I work with on an individual basis, whether they have a little bit of stranger danger. So some of the dogs are a little bit more timid or have a little bit of anxiety towards people, so some of my dogs have anxiety towards other dogs.”
Scheidt uses off-leash dog play to help deal with dogs who come to him with these kinds of issues.
“With that, that’s how I work with the obedience, as well, and doing any sort of training or work with, again, anxiety issues, aggression issues, things like that,” Scheidt said.
Separation anxiety is extremely common in dogs, since they’re often left home alone while their owners go to work.
“The first thing is, most people cause the anxiety by having the dog get in a situation where it’s panicked or where they don’t practice having the dog be separated from them for short periods of time, and then they leave for a long period of time,” Duman said.
Treating separation anxiety can be difficult, though. Duman says using calming music, pheromones and other treatments, a dog can be kept from panicking in stressful situations, but these treatments aren’t foolproof.
“But the deal is, using those, they’re not going to function if you say, ‘oh, gee, I’m going to use dog appeasing pheromones and I’m going to play sleepy time dog music, and, by the way, I’m going away for four hours,‘“ Duman said. “So you might have to employ somebody to stay with your dog as the dog incrementally gets used to longer periods of separation.”
Scheidt tries to battle this separation anxiety by making the Mutt Hut a stress-free environment for all of his customers.
“Every time I picked Bailey up after work, she had made leaps and bounds from the stay before,” Brown said. “I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful place to bring Bailey, where I know she will be taken care of as she would at home.”