Doggy Daycare – What to Look For

Thinking about putting your dog into daycare?  Wondering what you should look for when choosing the right daycare for your beloved pooch?  Here are a few things to consider:

First Impressions

Look at the premises. The office should be well-organized, but even more importantly, the actual dog care areas should be clean and well-ventilated. The yard should be clean, and free of feces.  Fresh water in clean containers should be provided in play areas. If the dogs are going to be playing outdoors, there should be access to shade.  Are you allowed to tour the premises? There are two schools of thought on this issue. Of course you want to inspect the fence line and facility for safety and cleanliness. Tours may be allowed only at certain times. Some facilities only allow tours by appointment either before or after daycare hours to keep the stress level down for the dogs. Imagine how excited your dog gets when a visitor comes to your door. Now, imagine a dozen or more dogs getting excited every time someone comes to tour the facility where they are playing. It can be quite stressful!  Visitors can also pose a security risk for the dogs, so be sure to call the facility and ask about tours before showing up!

Rest and Play

Dogs might become over-tired or over-stimulated if not allowed to rest for brief periods during a full day of playing with their buddies.  Does the facility have areas specifically for your dog to rest in? Is there a scheduled rest time during the day?  Just like kids, dogs can become a little cranky when they are tired, even if they are having the best day ever!

Staff

Does the daycare staff love your dog as much as you do?  It is important to have an affectionate, well-trained staff in a daycare situation. Check out the interactions between the staff and the dogs present. Is your dog happy to see the staff upon his return to the daycare? If so, he’s probably getting the attention and affection he needs during the day. It is important to have an attentive staff so that minor disagreements between friends don’t turn into major arguments, with the potential to cause injury or stress. You want to know that the staff can handle these situations, as well as recognize when a dog is over-tired and needing a break, or if he is sick or hurt.

Is there enough staff on hand to give constant supervision to the dogs while they are playing?  You want to be sure that you are comfortable with the dog-to-supervisor ratio.

Playgroups

Playgroups can be determined in a number of ways. Some daycares put similar-size dogs together, while others focus on similar temperaments.  Either way can be right or wrong, and both require adequate supervision. Dogs of similar size do not always get along. Some big dogs prefer to be with smaller dogs. In temperament-based playgroups, a large dog could accidentally hurt a smaller dog. With adequate supervision, either way can work well. Ask questions about how dogs are put together in playgroups and make sure you are comfortable with how it’s done and with the staff’s ability/willingness to supervise and change things up if necessary. 

Screening

There should be some sort of screening process for the dogs allowed into the daycare. Daycares screen for things like vaccination records, health history, and temperament. Screening is good and should be done by all daycares and boarding facilities. Some require extensive paperwork, others require you to bring your dog in for a temperament test, while some require both. Screening is something you should expect of a daycare, as it can help ensure that your dog has the best, safest daycare experience possible.

Only you can decide if a daycare is right for your dog. If you feel something is not right, keep looking. If you feel you have found “the one” but your dog seems stressed when you pick him up, you may want to look for another daycare. But, if you feel good about the facility and staff, and your dog seems happy and tired (but not TOO tired) at the end of the day and is excited to go back, then you probably have found a great daycare!
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