Dog daycare sounds like a great idea. We humans generally like the idea of our “fur kids” running around in a “play group” all day filled with games, activities and snacks.
We don’t like to picture our dogs bored on the couch. Or, God forbid, locked in a CRATE. (I’m kidding, I’m a fan of crates!)
But … dog daycares are all very different and every dog is unique. It’s important to think about dog daycare from your dog’s perspective, and I really mean YOUR dog.
What might sound like fun for you might actually be incredibly stressful or scary for your dog.
It’s not so simple as “does he love other dogs?” Or, “Is he high energy?”
My dog Remy LOVES other dogs, for example. He’s extremely friendly and high energy, but he’s not necessarily a good candidate for dog daycare, and I’ll explain why.
IN THIS POST:
What are the different kinds of daycares for dogs?
Who should consider dog daycare?
Questions to ask the dog daycare owner or staff
Pros and cons of dog daycare
What are the different kinds of daycares for dogs?
Most common form of dog daycare
A dog daycare is most often an overnight dog boarding facility that also offers “day care” where dog owners can leave their dogs for a few hours during the day.
There is usually an outdoor fenced area or a large indoor room where groups of dogs can move and play off leash.
The number of dogs in the daycare varies greatly depending on the facility. Some might keep the groups to 5 to 10 dogs. Others might include groups of 20, 30 or even 40+ dogs! Some might have one large playroom while others have multiple play areas for different groups of dogs.
Smaller in-home dog daycares
There are smaller dog daycares managed by dog lovers in their own homes. These are obviously much smaller and the owner might take in 3-4 dogs or even just 1 dog.
I used to offer this service and would take the dogs on multiple walks throughout the day paired with plenty of time lounging around and a bit of training and play.
The owners would drop their dogs off in the morning and pick them up later in the day after work or running errands. Overall, it seemed to be a good experience for everyone.
Also growing in popularity are off-leash dog hiking groups or “field trips” which is a more adventurous form of dog walking and gives the dogs a chance to socialize in a small group.
Typically, the dogs are picked up in the morning by the business and then dropped off in the afternoon.
Who should consider dog daycare?
If you work long hours and you have a social, active dog, it would make sense that you might want to consider leaving him at a dog daycare.
If you’re considering dog daycare for your dog, first, think about it from your dog’s point of view. Make sure it is something that is truly in the best interest of your dog.
IN GENERAL, I would say larger dog daycare facilities are potentially a good option for:
medium to high energy dogs with good social skills who enjoy other dogs
dogs that are confident enough to stand up for themselves
dogs with a high tolerance for rude behavior from other excited dogs
Some laid-back dogs are better off at home
If you have a low-key, mellow dog, he might be happier at home lounging around on the couch in a calm environment or even staying his small kennel or crate. All that activity at dog daycare is stressful for some dogs!
Dogs enjoy a routine, and as long as you’re providing your dog with a long walk every day and some daily training and interaction, you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving your dog at home while you go to work.
There are lots of different dogs and plenty of them would gladly take up space on your couch all day while you’re at work.
My Lab mix Ace is the perfect example. I adopted him when I worked 10-hour shifts at a newspaper.
I would walk or run with him for an hour every single day before work. We never missed a day. I had an hour off in the middle of my shift where I would come home, quickly eat dinner and let Ace out for a 10-min walk.
Since Ace is a fairly mellow, low-key dog, even when he was 12 months old, this worked just fine for us.
Dog daycare is too exciting for some high-energy, excited dogs
On the other hand, some dogs are extremely hyper, to say the least (Remy!).
While running around all day playing at a dog daycare might SOUND like a good idea for your boxer, it might actually be too exciting for some high-energy dogs.
Dogs that are naturally nervous, anxious and INTENSE often do better in a calm environment. They don’t necessarily need encouragement to be MORE hyped up.
For example, my weimaraner Remy loves other dogs and he has unlimited physical energy.
I like the idea of sending him to a large daycare, but that kind of environment is too overwhelming for him for long periods.
Remy enjoys playing with other dogs, but after about a half-hour he starts to get mentally overwhelmed and tired. I see it happen at the dog park, and I’ve seen it happen when he plays with friends’ dogs.
When Remy gets overwhelmed, he tries to move away from other dogs and ignore them. That’s when I know it’s time to leave the dog park. If dogs continue to push his limits, he will snap to tell them “KNOCK IT OFF.”
This is good dog communication, but I don’t trust the daycare staff to recognize when my dog needs a break.
I’m an overly protective dog mom, and I hate the thought of Remy needing to lash out in order to defend himself.
The last thing I want is for him to be labeled “aggressive” for standing up for himself.
TIP: Ask about smaller and shorter “playgroups”
Some dog daycare facilities are good about catering to your dog’s specific needs.
I’ve found a good solution for Remy.
The dog boarding and daycare facility we use offers shorter play options.
There’s the “all-day play” which is not ideal for my dog. And then there are shorter “1-hour play” sessions with a small group of compatible dogs.
I’ve signed Remy up for the “1-hour play” 6 or 7 times, and it’s a good option for him. When he’s not in the play group, he waits in his own private kennel space and of course he still gets to head out for potty breaks every few hours.
Which brings me to …
Questions to ask the dog daycare owner or staff
Here are some sample questions to ask the staff to help you decide if dog daycare is a good idea for your dog. I don’t mean to go crazy and ask every single question but to consider your unique dog and get the information you need to make the best decision.
Also make sure to tour the area where your dog will be. Observe the behavior of the dogs and the staff, the noise, the cleanliness, etc.
Questions to ask about dog daycare:
1. How many dogs are in each group?
2. What is the typical staff to dog ratio?
3. How are dogs evaluated?
4. What kind of training does your staff go through?
5. Do you combine large dogs with small dogs?
6. How long are the play periods? Are there breaks? How long are the breaks?
7. Are there toys out in the group play?
8. What is your process for disciplining a dog?
9. What is your process if there is a dog fight?
10. What happens if the dog is not a good fit for group play?
11. What kind of feedback will you be able to give me about my dog’s behavior?
Pros and cons of doggy daycare
Pros of dog daycare
Provides your dog with some physical exercise and mental activity during the day
Helpful option if your dog does not like to be left alone
Decreases destructive behavior in your home
Your dog will likely come home mentally exhausted and sleep (Make sure that’s really a pro)
Your dog can learn social skills
You won’t need to let your dog out mid-day
Helpful if you don’t have time to walk your dog that day
Helps provide your dog with exercise and activities if you have a busy schedule (but nothing can replace a long walk with you!)
Good option for some puppies who need extra potty breaks and socialization
Cons of dog daycare
Too exciting and overwhelming for some dogs
Some dogs will be mentally exhausted due to stress or fear and not because they had “fun”
Cost (on average $20 per day+)
Your dog could learn bad behaviors such as jumping on people, being annoying to other dogs, growling at other dogs if he constantly has to defend himself, etc.
He could be bullied or injured
Your dog could start a fight with another dog
You can’t control the behavior of your dog, other dogs or the staff
Some people will use it to replace walking their dog but walks are still very important
Your dog could pick up fleas from other dogs or an illness like kennel cough
Feedback from That Mutt readers: Is dog daycare a good idea?
Thank you for those who posted feedback earlier on That Mutt’s Facebook page when I asked for the pros and cons of dog daycare. (There’s no right answer.)
Some dog daycare feedback from That Mutt readers on Facebook:
“I take Sasha to doggy day care either when it’s been too gross to go outside for many days, or I have to work longer than normal. I like it because it wears her out and she gets to socialize with other dogs. I’ve not had a bad experience with our day care, all the dogs go through an eval before they are allowed to participate.” – Michelle K.
“I believe it is an introvert vs extrovert dog question. Some love it, some would not. Gotta be a good place, of course.” – Jana R. from the blog Dawg Business
“We took our dog to a doggy daycare type place- it was called train and play so the dogs were screened before being accepted to ensure a good fit. They would socialize as well as do group and individual training. He can be reactive so for him it provided socialization, training and confidence building.” – Teri L. P.
List additional ideas in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.
Some people will think I’m bashing dog daycares, and I’m not. Like I said, I used to offer dog daycare in my home and I see the value in it for a lot of people and dogs.
It truly comes down to knowing your unique dog and finding the right dog daycare facility that meets your dog’s needs.
What do the rest of you think, is dog daycare a good idea?
Please share this post with anyone considering dog daycare.
My mutt Ace’s breed results were fun to read (more on that below). The results were surprising, but I can see the characteristics of each breed in Ace.
Embark also tests for more than 160 genetic health conditions for mutts and purebred dogs.This could reveal if your dog is predisposed to anything before symptoms occur. Obviously some dog owners would want to know this information and others might prefer not to know. So keep that in mind before you decide to do this test.
Some examples of health conditions Embark tests for:
Thankfully Ace did not have any of the genetic health conditions but the test showed he is a carrier of a skin disorder called Ichthyosis. This means he won’t show symptoms but could pass it to his puppies (not happening as Ace was neutered a decade ago!).
For more information on the science behind Embark, the company has a lot of helpful info on its site HERE.
Once you send in your dog’s sample, Embark extracts your dog’s DNA and runs it on a custom-built genetics “chip,” according to its website. Embark’s test chip screens for over 200,000 genetic markers, using more genetic information than any other dog DNA test on the market.
What is the cost of an Embark dog DNA test?
The cost for a kit is $199. Use code GIFTEMBARK for $20 off.
There are discounts if you want to order kits for multiple dogs.
My mutt Ace’s results with the Embark dog DNA test
I’ll update this post to announce Ace’s full breed mix results on Nov. 14. Leave your guesses in the comments for a chance to win a dog DNA test for your dog. Click here.
Ace’s mixed breeds:
The kit identified 5 breeds for Ace.
Breed #1: 62.3% Labrador. No surprise there. Ace has Labrador on both his maternal and paternal side. I think anyone could’ve told ya that!
Breed #2: 23% German shorthaired pointer. This did not surprise me either. I’ve always thought he looked like a pointer, especially in his younger years.
Breed #3: 5.5% Golden retriever
Breed #4: 4.7% Chesapeake Bay retriever
Breed #5: 4.5% Irish setter (total surprise)
All five of Ace’s breeds are from the AKC Sporting Dog Group. Embark did not detect any hounds in Ace’s heritage.
Where do you think he gets the droopy eyes, droopy jowls and all the drool? The Chesapeake? Or do you still think there’s a bit of hound in there somewhere? Who knows …
Ace’s potential “family tree”
Here’s what Embark had for Ace’s results and his potential family tree:
Pros of the Embark dog DNA test:
Tests for 175 breeds, including wolf, coyote, dingo and village dog ancestry
Tests for more than 160 genetic health conditions (helpful for purebred dogs and mutts)
Discounts for multiple dogs
Easy to send in a sample (no blood test or vet visit needed)
Nice user friendly website
Cons of the dog DNA test:
$199 is not cheap for most of us – Use code GIFTEMBARK for $20 off. Click here.
Embark can’t provide medical diagnoses
Takes about 8 weeks to get results once you mail your dog’s sample
You have to log in and create an account on Embark’s website before sending in your dog’s sample
Some dog owners might prefer not to know about their dog’s potential health problems
What’s unique about Embark’s dog DNA test?
Embark’s test is the only dog DNA test that provides you results for over 160 genetic health conditions, according to its website.
It also uses 20 times as much genetic information as other tests, according to the company. This allows Embark to provide the most accurate breed identification scientifically possible at this time.
I would recommend the Embark dog DNA test for …
I recommend this kit for people who are curious about knowing their mutt’s potential heritage. If you’ve recently adopted a young or middle-aged dog, the kit can be helpful for predicting potential genetic health problems that might come up.
The kit would be a great gift for anyone who has a mixed breed dog. Most mutt owners are curious what breeds their mutts really are.
Embark is giving away one FREE mixed-breed dog DNA test to one reader of That Mutt! ($199 value)
Update: Congrats to the winner, Lainey!
Just leave a comment guessing Ace’s breed mix.
I’ll choose a winner at RANDOM on Tuesday Nov. 14 and announce the winner here and by email. If the winner would like, I’ll also feature their mutt on Facebook so my readers can guess their dog’s breeds.
Must have a U.S. mailing address to win.
That Mutt’s $7/mo Patreon members receive automatic entries into all giveaways. Join us on patreon here.
Do you have a mixed-breed dog? Would you like to win this kit?
Let me know in the comments!
Please share this post with anyone who might want to win a mixed-breed dog DNA test.
ALL PROCEEDS go to the rescues that helped save these dogs.
Here are my five questions with Laura Koerber:
That Mutt: How can dog lovers be sure the shelter or rescue they support is legitimate?
Laura: First, be empathetic to the animals there.
What is the place like from their point of view? Would you be happy if you had to share living conditions with the animals? Do the animals have room to exercise, good food, attention from humans, vet care, and a comfortable place to sleep?
Author Laura Koerber
Do not accept excuses or make rationalizations.
If the management is justifying their treatment by saying things like, “If not for me the animals would be dead,” as an excuse for crowded conditions, then it is not a legitimate rescue.
TM: What should a rescue or shelter do if it’s wrongly accused of animal neglect or cruelty?
Laura: Be open. Let the public see the facility. Invite the critics to see the place. Do a video tour.
TM: What’s something you believe in that other people think is crazy?
Laura: I’m not sure about this one. I’m a pretty level-headed person.
My sister, who is a psychologist, says I’m one of the sanest people she knows.
I suppose some people might think I’m crazy since I am vegan, don’t buy anything made of leather, bone or other animal parts, and check labels to avoid buying things that were tested on animals.
TM: Do your dogs sleep in your bed?
Laura: No room for our German shepherd mix, and our new dog (an elderly Shih tzu) has not thought about getting up in the bed with us. I suppose we will let him, when he does think of it.
TM: Is there anything you’d like to share with That Mutt’s readers?
Laura: Thank you for everything you do that is kind to animals.
Thank you, Laura!
If you have questions for Laura about her book or about the dogs rescued from OAS, let her know in the comments!
Hi mutt lovers, the following is my approach on how to stop your dog’s jumping habit.
It’s not easy! Some dogs love to jump. It’s their way of saying hi or to express affection or that they want to play.
Managing a dog’s jumping is really about teaching the dog some self-control.
For this post, I’m focusing on dogs that jump on people in the house, mostly in doorways since that seems to be the most common problem.
I’ll share my ideas but as always I hope you’ll share some of your ideas in the comments.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Jumping
I’ve broken this into 4 ideas:
I summarize everything in the video first. Or, you can read about it further down.
This video appeared first in Mighty Paw’s private Facebook group. Mighty Paw is a sponsor of That Mutt, and they make high-quality dog collars, leashes, harnesses and other gear. Check them out HERE.
So, to expand on the video a bit:
#1: Decide on your rules.
What behavior is appropriate for dogs in your house?
The first strop to stop your dog’s jumping is to decide on your own rules and be consistent. If you don’t know what is “allowed,” how is your dog supposed to know? All family members and roommates should be on board with the same rules.
For example, I don’t mind if my dogs run up and greet me at the door and show excitement. I like that. However, I do expect them to settle down shortly afterwards, and I do not allow any barking or jumping. Your rules might be a little different.
#2: Prevent the jumping.
So much of dog training is actually PREVENTION.
Prevent bad habits long enough, and they’ll begin to decrease and go away.
If I don’t allow my dogs to jump, they form a new habit.
So how do you prevent a dog’s jumping?
It depends on the dog, but here are some general ideas:
Lots of exercise! 60 to 90 minutes of physical exercise every single day! When I take my dog Remy running consistently, he does not jump on me. If we miss a day, he jumps because he has extra energy. Drain their energy in other ways and they’ll have an easier time remaining calm.
Use food. You know when your dog is likely to jump, so during those times, keep dry food or treats in your pockets and just toss some on the ground before your dog has a chance to jump. Then you can even ask for a “sit” and reward that with more food.
Be calm yourself. Make sure you’re not unintentionally encouraging the jumping through your behavior and body language. Don’t laugh at your dog or talk to him when he jumps. Don’t pet him or touch him.
Keep your dog on a leash. This is for when you have visitors. If your dog behaves better on a leash, by all means, use a leash for now! Remember, we’re preventing the jumping for now while we work on teaching a new habit.
Hand him a chew toy or bully stick. This can work well when people visit. Some dogs will take the bully stick and retreat to their bed for some chew time. Of course, some dogs will just get more riled up and run around with their “prize” so you have to know your dog.
#3: Truly IGNORE your dog’s jumping.
This advice to ignore your dog or to “stand like a tree” does work BUT you have to truly ignore your dog!
This is very difficult for most people. Most people do not know how to truly ignore a dog.
Here’s how you truly ignore a dog:
Show no emotion
Don’t look at your dog
Don’t talk to your dog or laugh at your dog (don’t even smile)
Do not touch your dog or interact in any way
You basically give a cold shoulder!
Focus on something else, even if you’re pretending (Dogs use this tactic with each other!)
What you need to do is basically become like a zombie – no emotion. You’re not angry or excited or stressed. Stare at your phone or the TV or focus on someone else.
Also, this is important, DO NOT SPIN IN CIRCLES trying to avoid your dog. This is not a way to ignore a dog, this is a fun game for your dog!
Ignoring your dog might cause him to jump more
When you first start ignoring your dog, he’s probably going to jump on you more. You’ll have to take a few punches and scratches.
Jumping on you has worked to get attention in the past, so your dog is going to try it and he’s going to keep trying. If you give in and scold him or try to push him away, he’s going to learn he just has to jump on you several times to get your attention.
So be strong! Do not give in to the crazy mutt! Haha.
If you ignore your dog for jumping (truly ignore), eventually the behavior will decrease.
#4: Reward calm behavior
Interact with your dog and reward him when he’s calm.
He’s sitting? What a good boy! He’s standing there on all fours. Wow, such a smart dog. Goooood boooy.
Don’t get him excited again with your praise, but keep a calm, slow voice and pet him slowly.
Treats help too as long as your dog doesn’t go nuts over food! A clicker is also a good option for marking the good behavior here.
Finally, what about corrections to stop your dog’s jumping?
So you’re using prevention. You’re ignoring the jumping, and you’re rewarding good behavior.
What if your dog still jumps?
Positive reinforcement is great and we should all use it as much as possible but sometimes a firm, well-timed correction can go a long way.
So much depends on the individual dog.
Unfortunately, most dogs will enjoy being scolded because they have your attention. A firm “NO!” might work for a few dogs. My weimaraner laughs at me when I scold him. He thinks it’s wonderful that I’m paying attention to him. He likes to be scolded.
Here are some other options for interrupting a dog that jumps:
A squirt bottle of water. This works for some dogs. Others (like mine) think this is a fun game. You can get a cheap water bottle for $1 just about anywhere. You would give a quick squirt to interrupt the jumping. Then praise.
Doggie Don’t Device. This is a handheld device that makes a loud static noise. It does not harm the dog, but it will interrupt the dog for a moment and then you can quickly reward a more appropriate behavior. Doggie Don’t Device is a sponsor of That Mutt. You can get free shipping with code MUTT CLICK HERE
Of course there are other products you can try too depending on what might work for your dog. Each dog is different, and you know your dog best.
Jumping is a serious problem with some dogs, especially if the dog is also nipping at people. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a trainer if you need some help to keep everyone safe. (Note that it’s normal for all puppies to jump and nip. Don’t be overly concerned if your puppy is doing this.)
Hi there, some of you might not be aware but That Mutt’s $7/mo Patreon members receive a FREE product from our sponsor Mighty Paw every single month!
The September product the patrons received was Mighty Paw’s brand new dog doorbell, the Smart Bell 2.0. It is a button your dog can press with his nose to let you know when he wants to go outside for a potty break. It’s a communication tool and it comes with a training guide.
I’ve been using the dog doorbell for my weimaraner Remy.
This is not a product I pictured my dogs using. My dogs have never asked to go outside unless it’s an emergency status! They just know I’ll take them out every 4 hours so this was a new concept for them.
However, after teaching my dogs what the doorbell is all about, Remy seems interested in using it. I’m going to keep it up for about a month and see how we all like it. I’m surprised how quickly Remy caught on to the concept.
There are dog owners who love the idea of using a potty bell, and this modern version is a great alternative to hanging actual jingle bells on your door. This is also much better than your dog barking at the door or scratching at your door.
*Mighty Paw is giving away a FREE dog doorbell to one lucky reader of That Mutt. You do not need to be a Patreon member to enter. Just leave a comment at the end of this post.*
Now, I’ll share more info about the dog doorbell.
Mighty Paw Dog Doorbell Review – Smart Bell 2.0
The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0comes with your choice of either 1 or 2 doorbell buttons. The button is what you would install by your door for your dog to push as seen in the picture above. However, it’s more natural for most dogs to push the button with their nose vs. a paw.
The button attaches to your door or wall with a 3M adhesive strip, so no tools are necessary.
When your dog pushes the button, the “receiver” is the piece that makes the actual noise. You plug the receiver into any wall outlet. I have our receiver about 7 feet from our button but they will work up to 1,000 feet from each other, according to Mighty Paw.
Both the button and the receiver are wireless and require no batteries. You just plug the receiver into an outlet.
The smart bell comes with:
1 or 2 buttons (doorbells)
1 receiver (shown below)
Extra 3M adhesive
The system has 4 volume settings and 38 ring tones!
My only complaints are I would prefer the ring to be even quieter than the current low setting. I also think all the ringtones are too long (5 seconds +).
But then again, some people are using this in a large house and you need to be able to hear it. We have a small apartment and my desk is right by our front door where we installed the dog doorbell.
Cost of the dog doorbell
The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0 is available on Amazon. Click here. The cost is $29.99 for 1 button and $39.99 if you want two buttons (for example, if you want to put a bell at two different doors).
*That Mutt readers can use code MP20Mutt for 20% off any Mighty Paw product.*
How to train your dog to use the doorbell:
The doorbell comes with a training guide that I recommend following.
The general idea is to point to the button every time you take your dog out for a potty break. Encourage your dog to bump it with his nose. (I used a treat.) Use your command for going outside. I say “Go outside?”
Then quickly head out. If your dog already knows a command like “touch,” that can be helpful for guiding him what to do.
The noise was surprising to my dogs at first, maybe even slightly scary. But they got used to it fast when treats were involved.
My weimaraner Remy is eager to use the doorbell. I can tell he’s really proud of himself for figuring it out. It’s been fun teaching him something new. He’s smart and eager to learn.
Remy did start pushing the button too often once he figured out he would get a treat. All I had to do at that point was stop using treats. Instead, his reward is to go outside for a potty break.
Since then, he hasn’t abused his privilege, but I’ll update in a few weeks to let you know how it’s going then.
My senior Lab mix Ace will push the button to humor me but I don’t think he’ll ever use it as a real communication tool.
Ace was never interested in using actual bells hanging from the door either. That’s just how Ace is! He’s just too polite to ask to go outside and he knows I’ll always take him out. It’s what we’ve done for 11 years. Haha.
Pros of the dog doorbell:
No batteries or wires (plugs into outlet)
Modern, clean design compared to hanging a strip of actual bells on your door
No tools necessary
Easy for dogs to use
38 ring tones! 4 volume options
Comes with your choice of 1 or 2 buttons
Should decrease barking and scratching at the door
Dogs are less likely to chew or play with this compared to actual bells
Adhesive could pull paint off (although not always)
The volume is loud enough to startle some dogs
If you unplug the receiver, it defaults back to the highest volume and original ring tone so you have to reset it
Some unique points about this dog doorbell:
It comes with 38 ring tones which is pretty cool, although some of them are pretty similar. I also like how you can adjust the volume. It has a lot of options and it’s simple to use. It has a modern design and technology.
I would recommend the dog doorbell for …
I would recommend this dog doorbell for anyone who wants to provide their dog with a way to communicate they need to go outside.
It’s a great tool for adult dogs or older puppies that are almost 100% potty trained.
I wouldn’t use it for a young puppy still leaning to go potty outside as it just adds too many steps. It’s expecting too much for a puppy to ask to go outside. It’s the person’s responsibility to just take them out every hour.
If you have a senior dog who needs to use the bathroom often, this could be a way to help them communicate and decrease accidents and embarrassment for them.
You could also use the doorbell for outside if you want a way for your dog to tell you she wants back in without barking or scratching at your door.
Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
Barbara Rivers Barbara Rivers writes for That Mutt about raw dog food.
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Lindsay Stordahl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.