Doggy Daycare: Is It Really Worth It?

Written by Eloise Bright

Daycare isn’t just for kids anymore. If your pooch is alone and bored all day, doggy daycare can be just the thing to keep him happy

doggy-daycare

The gang at daycare - source

From your dog’s point of view, the ideal situation would be for him to spend every minute of every day in the company of his wonderful pack leader. Practically speaking, this isn’t possible for most families. Doggy daycare is a service that can fill in the gaps, providing companionship, socialization, and activity for your dog while you are at work.

The Good

A dog who has been playing all day is usually going to be a happier dog than one who has been sitting around with nothing to do but wait. In a good daycare, your pooch can wear himself out playing with the other dogs and the human staff. He’s less likely to be anxious at home or to rip things up out of boredom.

Daycare also provides the opportunity for your dog to socialize with other dogs, and with humans outside the family pack. That’s good for his emotional health.

Doggy daycare can also be good for your emotional health. If you’re working all day, you’ll be reassured to know that your dog is getting exercise, attention, potty-breaks, and the right foods.

having-fun-at-doggy-daycare

Having fun at doggy daycare – source

The Bad

With so much going for doggy daycare, what’s the catch? For a start, you’ll need to figure out how you would pay for the daycare service and how you would transport your dog to and from the daycare.

Some very nervous dogs might have a hard time in a large group of other dogs. Check with your vet or obedience-class instructor if you are worried that your dog might have a problem like this.

There is also the possibility that your dog will pick up an illness from the other dogs, just like a toddler at a children’s daycare. It’s a small risk, but it is there.

On the emotional side, taking your doggy to daycare can feel as though you are out-sourcing your dog’s pack to someone else. It can be hard to let someone else take care of your dog.

more-fun-at-doggy-daycare

More fun at doggy daycare – source

How to choose a daycare that is good value for your money

Choosing a doggy daycare is a bit like checking out a daycare for a child: ask other people for their impressions of the local daycares, read reviews online, and arrange a visit to check the place out yourself. That’s all well and good, but what signs are you looking for?

If people are saying their dogs are excited to go to the daycare each morning and are happily tired out at the end of each day, that’s a great place to start. Watching your dog’s reaction will be a good indication as to whether you’ve chosen the right one, too: is he excited to go in the morning? Or, does he make his objections known by pulling away or acting anxious? Is he tired and happy when you bring him home, or does he seem upset or bored?

napping-at-doggy-daycare

All tuckered out after a long day – source

What is the ration of staff members to pets on site? As with a children’s daycare, the staff ratio is important. Generally speaking, 14 or 15 dogs per person would be the maximum you’d want to see. Ten or fewer per dog would be better.

Check out the safety and security of the facility. Are there two sets of doors, to minimize the risk of a dog accidentally being let out? Is there a good fence, high enough to prevent someone from jumping it and rooted enough to keep the diggers in?

Does the daycare have planned doggy activities, individual play and cuddle time, off-leash running? What is the schedule for walkies during the day? What types of treats and toys are provided, or what types do they encourage you to provide? Depending on your situation, you might find the convenience of letting them deal with those supplies to be worth a slightly higher fee.

playing-at-daycare

Running around at doggy daycare – source

So, you’ve asked the daycare provider some questions, and the answers look pretty good. What do they ask you? At the very least, the daycare provider should be asking about vaccination status, contact information for your dog’s vet, and what parasite controls you’re using.

Avoid any daycare that doesn’t require proof of vaccination. There are too many contagious canine diseases that can spread rapidly in such close quarters for vaccinations to be optional in a daycare. If your dog can’t be vaccinated for some reason (or if you object to vaccinations), make other arrangements for your pooch, for the sake of your dog’s health and that of the other dogs at the daycare.

The next step

If doggy daycare sounds right for your dog, hop onto an online dog forum or Pet Services Finder and ask around for recommendations. There are many excellent daycares out there.

Has your dog been at daycare? What have your impressions been? Tell us in the comments below.

Bio:

Eloise Bright is a mom to Duster, the Pomeranian, and Jimmy, the cat. As a Sydney based veterinarian of 7 years currently working with Love That Pet, Eloise has taken the opportunity to volunteer at charity clinics and is now completing her Masters in Small Animal Practice. Chat with her on Google+.

by A Place To Love Dogs

3 thoughts on “Doggy Daycare: Is It Really Worth It?

  1. Kaitlyn says:

    I have worked at two daycares over the past few years. Maybe call it bad luck, but working in these places have truly shown be how bad they can be. Often run more as businesses than a loving place for pets, a lot of dogs do not get the attention or services they deserve. Sick dogs were rarely taken to the vet and the staff to dog ratio was usually one or two staff members with about 50 or 60 dogs. What was most upsetting to me was the lying of staff to the parents. Scared or resistant dogs were often just kept in a kennel all day so they weren’t overwhelmed. Temperamental dogs often spent more time in crates instead of working with them to teach them proper behavior. This was most common when the facility was understaffed, which was always. Personally, I think that these situations should have warranted a truthful discussion with parents. Relationships based on honesty is what will get more customers, as opposed to many parents pulling their pets out once they hear the truth. During the two hour naptime, animals were often placed in groups of several dogs within a kennel or individually in crates, though we told parents that our dogs were all in individual kennels. To make it worse, staff all left the building at this time. If something happened, and dogs in groups weren’t getting along, no one knew and no one intervened. However, daycare was great for other dogs. If you know your dogs temperament you may better be able to predict how they would behave in daycare, which would reflect the type of treatment they get. I’m sure that they aren’t all run this way but this has been my experience.

    My next qualm is with the boarding procedures at daycares. Parents would often be told that we “only had large rooms left,” which were obviously the most expensive, when in reality we were already overbooked and dogs were ending up in crates or half of a kennel split down the middle. All the owners cared about was money and they didn’t get which dog or human got hurt in the process.

    My advice is to try and befriend a staff member that works there, but not someone in management. The people who work outside and clean up the messes – of dogs and staff – usually know most about what is going on. I think doggie daycare is a great idea but the way that each one is run is extremely important to how you would feel about bringing your dog there. I guess there is truth to “what you know can’t hurt you” but I know people care about their pets and would often be devastated to know the truth about some of these facilities.

  2. Eloise Bright says:

    Thanks for letting us known your experiences. I won’t ask you to name and shame those organisations, but I think it goes to show sometimes it can be difficult to know what goes on behind closed doors. Did those places allow owners to inspect the premises when they were looking for a place for their dogs?

    The overcrowding part is what worries me the most. Particularly for less confident dogs, this could definitely lead to worsening anxiety and possibly escalating aggression issues.

    We have a number of excellent places in Sydney that I would feel comfortable recommending. I also used to work at a vet clinic where we did a fairly casual doggy daycare in the backyard for little dogs. Certainly making sure the place you are thinking of using is okay for you to inspect and possibly spend a few hours there with your dog the first visit to make sure they settle in okay is important. Staff that are aware of dog behaviour and body language and will pick out any anxious or aggressive dogs early before things escalate is incredibly important.

    I think one other option for owners is that if you have a friend or neighbour with dogs, just ask them if they would like to arrange for alternating yard swaps during the day. You would just need to make sure that each dog was comfortable having another dog in their ‘territory’, and in some cases meeting up in a more neutral area like a local park can be a great way of getting acquainted first. Would be a little less overwhelming for less confident dogs compared to going to a daycare situation with in excess of 10 other dogs.

    Thanks again for letting us know your personal experience on doggy daycare Kaitlyn, it certainly hightlights the need to make sure the place you use is not overcrowded and is staffed by sensitive and educated carers.

  3. Belinda says:

    We here at Dog Carers Australia do offer doggy daycare and holiday boarding but we only mind four dogs at a time maximum so this ensures
    proper attention is given to each dog and no problems with overcrowding, I believe there can be too many dogs which is overwhelming for the dogs and the staff. I think owners should be able to inspect where there dog will be staying also. So maybe pet parents need to find a smaller place for their pet daycare. I think it is an excellent idea for the bored puppy or dog as they get socialised, exercise and are tired but happy at the end of the day.

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