Does your dog spend long hours home alone? Do you worry that they aren’t getting the love and attention they need while you’re at work? Have you ever thought of sending your dog to daycare while you’re away?
What started decades ago as a trend for thoroughly spoiled pooches living life in the big city, has turned into a common solution for lonely dogs and the people who love them. So, what exactly is doggy daycare, and should you consider bringing your dog?
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What is Doggy Daycare?
If you’ve ever sent your children to daycare, you already have an idea of what the canine counterpart is all about. Doggy daycare is boarding facility that caters to daytime visitors — dogs who come to spend the day while their parents are at work. While doggy daycare may not be the answer for all dogs, it tends to be a good choice for the extroverts of the dog world – Labradors, golden retrievers, and other highly social pups.
Most doggy daycares are staffed by professionals who arrange play times between dogs and monitor their interactions. Visiting dogs spend the day playing with toys and other dogs, hanging out with the staff, and socializing to their heart’s content. Not all dogs or doggy daycares are created equal, however, and it’s very important to do your homework before deciding if it’s the right decision for your dog.
Should I Bring My Dog to Doggy Daycare?
This is is a simple question with a complicated answer. I’ll start by saying, “it depends on the daycare and on the dogs.”
There are so many variables at play here, and each family will have a different experience. Not all dogs have the appropriate personality or skills for the daycare experience, and not all doggy daycare staff have the professional expertise to handle every situation. Let’s take a look at some of the variables to help you decide if doggy daycare is right for your dog.
Does Your Dog Enjoy Socializing with Other Dogs?
Some dogs could run around all day with their canine companions and never get bored. These dogs are true extroverts, generally happy-go-lucky pups, who aren’t aggressive, nervous, or anxious. The majority of dogs, however, don’t fall into this category. In fact, many dogs aren’t comfortable spending time in a large group, and many become stressed and overwhelmed.
Before you decide to send your dog to daycare, observe them in small and large groups for short periods. Pay close attention to their body language and reactions. If they appear relaxed with the group dynamics, there’s a good chance that they’ll enjoy a stint at doggy daycare. If they do show signs of stress, you may need to do some more research. Some doggy daycares only let the dogs play one-on-one or in small groups, which may be a better situation for your pup.
Is the Staff Capable and Professional?
It takes a lot of expertise and knowledge to run a successful daycare facility for dogs, and this is where many establishments fall short. You should look for a high ratio of staff to dogs, perhaps one person for every 10 or 15 dogs. Each staff member should also be highly educated and well-versed in canine behavior and management. They should be able to read dogs quickly and accurately for signs of stress, facilitate appropriate play, and divert inappropriate behavior.
If you are unsure about the professionalism of the staff at a day care facility you’re looking into, ask the management if you can come for a visit without your dog and observe. Ask the staff what experience and training they have, and how they deal with common issues between dogs — fights, aggressive behavior, bullying or other emergencies. I you are even a little bit uncomfortable with the knowledge and expertise of the staff, take your business elsewhere.
Is the Facility Clean, Spacious, and Comfortable?
When choosing a doggy daycare facility, look for plenty of room for dogs to play, cozy corners for dogs to opt out of interactions, a floor that isn’t slippery, and room for outdoor play. There should be places for the dogs to nap and relax, so the dogs can find a good balance between play and rest. The space doesn’t have to be immaculate, but it should be relatively clean.
What are the Other Dogs Like?
Every doggy daycare facility will have a process for vetting and evaluating the dogs they allow. Some ask dog owners to fill out a simple questionnaire, while others want to evaluate the dog in person to ensure a good fit. An in-person evaluation will give the staff a much better idea of a dog’s personality, and enable them to look for potential issues that may come up.
Some questions to ask:
- Are dogs organized by age and size?
- Are they separated into different play groups based on temperament?
- What is the policy for dealing with dogs who are bullies or who initiate fights?
Obviously, when you put lots of dogs together in a group, issues will arise. The goal is to ensure that your dog is able to socialize and interact with other dogs in a way that is not destructive to your dog’s well-being.
The Benefits of Doggy Daycare
Up until this point, this article has been cautionary, and that’s because there is so much potential for harm if you choose the wrong facility for your dog. There are lots of benefits to sending your dog to a well-run doggy daycare, however, especially if you work long hours, and your dog is otherwise left home alone. Here are some benefits to doggy daycare that are well worth considering.
- It may curtail some negative behaviors. Dogs who become destructive at home out of boredom or loneliness may benefit from the company of other dogs.
- You won’t have to let them out for bathroom breaks. Dogs can usually go hours without being let out for a potty break, but during an eight-hour work day, plus commute time, you may have to make arrangements for canine bathroom breaks. If your dog is a daycare, you can put this worry out of your mind.
- Your dog will be happy and tired in the evening. Many people enjoy coming home from work and walking with the family dog, but after a long day, sometimes you just want to veg out on the couch for a bit. When your dog spends the day playing with friends, an evening curled up by your feet in front of the TV may be just what they’re looking for.
- Your dog may learn a few things. Depending on the variables mentioned above, your dog could potentially learn positive and negative behaviors from attending daycare. At a well-run facility, they will learn healthy dog-to-dog interactions with dogs of different ages, breeds, and sizes.
- You can leave the guilt behind. As a dog lover, you want to give your dog the best life possible, but that often conflicts with a busy work schedule and other time commitments. Bringing your dog to a place where they can romp and play while you’re at work will ease the guilt you feel when leaving them home alone.
Tips for Making the Most of Doggy Daycare
Now that you’ve decided that doggy daycare is a good solution for your family, there are a few last things to consider. Follow these tips to make the doggy daycare experience positive for you and your dog.
- Continue training and exercising your dog at home. You want to maintain the special relationship you share with your dog, which means you still have to be accountable as a dog owner. The benefits of doggy daycare will certainly take some of the pressure off, but you’re not entirely off the hook. Be sure to keep up a solid training and exercise program with your dog to maintain a positive, healthy relationship.
- Protect your dog against fleas and ticks. With so many dogs in close proximity to each other, the risk goes up for a flea infestation. Take precautions against fleas, and save yourself a lot of trouble. It’s much easier to prevent fleas and ticks than it is to get rid of them once they’ve moved into your home.
- Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations. Protect your dog from contagious disease by keeping them up-to-date on their shots. Most doggy daycares won’t let your dog in without proof of vaccinations.
Last Thoughts on Sending Your Dog to Doggy Daycare
While daycares aren’t the answer for every situation, they make a lot of sense for social, exuberant dogs. In fact, some dogs will go to great lengths to spend time with their friends at daycare.
Most dogs are incredibly adaptable, integrating into our busy lives with ease.
For some dogs, spending hours and hours home alone each day can really take its toll on their well-being. Those are the pups who will benefit from playing and socializing at a well-run doggy daycare.
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