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To some people, the idea of a Daycare for Dogs is still outrageous, but we know that dogs have taken on a different role in our lives. We want to make sure their needs are met through the day, which sometimes means enlisting the help of a dog walker or a daycare. For most people, it's also a nice thing to bring home a tired dog at the end of the day, but daycare is not for every dog and not every daycare is created equally.
What is Daycare and Who Should Go?
Doggie Daycare is an organized playgroup for dogs. Typically set up in an enclosed setting like a fenced yard or an indoor space. Dogs can usually be left for a half or full day and they come home tired. Different daycares will offer different scenarios. Some will be elaborate and include things like splash pads while others are just an enclosed area for play. Not all dogs will enjoy Daycare. Know your dog and what they like as far as interaction with other dogs. Do they get overwhelmed easily? The wrong Daycare could be their worst nightmare. Do they have tendencies towards bullying? The wrong daycare will reinforce that and could make it much worse.
If you've decided that you'd like to take your dog to Daycare, consider the following when you are searching for the right one.
Of course cost is a factor, but don't let it be your top priority or your only consideration. Bargain shopping is not what you want to do when entrusting someone to care for your 4-legged family member. Cost will vary greatly depending on many factors. There is no industry standard set for things like dog training or daycare, so when comparing prices, ask yourself why one daycare has fees higher than another. Some things are obvious, like rent on a storefront in a busy location compared to a location with less traffic. Other costs include things like number of staff in attendance, their experience level, training and understanding, the quality of the location (things like footing, climate control, cleaning schedule, etc.) all need to factor into the price considerations.
Have a good look at the facility with an objective eye before you leave your dog behind. Is the environment clean? Communicable illness can run rampant in a place like a daycare or or kennel. Ask questions about the facility and their cleaning practices. Do they clean floors daily with a veterinary approved product that kills things like Parvovirus? How do they clean and maintain food and water dishes? Is the facility climate controlled for cool days in the summer and warmth in the winter? Are dogs predominantly indoors or out? The flooring should be appropriate to not wear dog's pads as they race around. It should also be cool enough to touch with the back of your hand on the hottest days if they're left outdoors at all. Is the facility secure or is there a danger that your dog could run out the door when it's opened? Daycare facilities should have a double entry system to keep your pet secure.
In my mind, this is the big decision maker. Who are the staff? What is their experience? Running a Dog Daycare does not just consist of playing with dogs or watching them play with each other all day. It takes a great deal of experience in reading dogs to keep everyone safe. Fights can escalate quickly between dogs if body language cues are ignored or missed. Dogs who have mismatched play styles can hurt each other quickly without a knowledgeable eye intervening. Someone needs to be able to address a situation where a dog is not having fun anymore and needs a break. Facilitating dog playgroups is a busy and tough job and it takes an experienced person to do it well. Don't fall under the false sense of security of thinking that all the dogs present will be happy and playful at all times. There needs to be someone ready to intervene so things don't go awry.
How many staff are present? One person is only capable of watching so much. As the number of dogs in attendance goes up, the number of staff supervising should increase as well. Is there one person watching 5 dogs or one person watching 20 dogs? There should be enough hands on deck to safely supervise the number of dogs involved.
Another important thing to consider is what that daycare is all about. Will your dog do nothing but play all day long? Will the staff reinforce good behaviour or is it just a free-for-all? Does the daycare schedule breaks and down time? Most dogs need a break, especially young puppies who still have soft growth plates. At what point do they separate players? What methods do they use to separate players? What methods do they use to discipline when necessary? Do they separate dogs by size? Do they separate dogs by play style? Do they separate puppies? A young puppy taking a body slam from an adult dog can cause serious injury. How do they introduce new dogs to the daycare? Is it one dog at a time or do they just throw them in with an entire group? Are washroom breaks encouraged and facilitated or do dogs just get into the habit of peeing wherever and whenever?
A good Doggie Daycare will take the time to answer your questions, address your concerns, find out about your dog and their temperament/play style and make the experience fun and safe for all. A poorly run daycare could be your and your dog's worst nightmare. Remember that you need to advocate for your dog and make the right decisions on their behalf, so take the time to make sure that daycare is the right fit!
As always, Happy Training!
Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.