Over $5 billion is spent annually by dog parents on boarding, walking, grooming, training, pet sitting and doggy day care.
With working professionals spending more time at the office, it is no surprise that doggy day-care is becoming a huge part of the routine for many dog owners.
Just like you wouldn’t send your child to any old nursery, you’re not about to drop Fido in a daycare you do not feel comfortable with, but, what do you look for?
Here we have put together a handy guide of seven key tips to help you choose your doggy daycare.
1. Start With A Tour Of The Doggy Day Care
Call them up and ask for a tour.
Some owners prefer to turn up unannounced, but, you run the risk of the members of staff being tied up with dog related activities and being unable to show you around.
Whilst on a tour check out the layout of the daycare center too. Any well managed day care should have dogs separated based on several factors. This will include, their age, their activity level, their temperament and sociability. Dogs should be separated by barriers or gates; these should all be sturdy and in good condition.
A day in care should reflect a typical day in the life of a dog. They should have ample exercise, play and mental stimulation, but, they should also be able to relax and rest.
Therefore, there should be quiet areas gated off in any Doggy Day Care, there may be beds, blankets or sofas for Fido to chill and sleep.
There shouldn’t be any play witnessed in these areas. Once dogs do start playing, they should be moved into the appropriate areas.
Outdoor areas should be totally secure, with good quality fencing. The areas should be clear of feces and regularly hosed down to eliminate the smell of urine.
If you are in a warmer climate, there should be ample shading outside with numerous bowls of water available.
Ensure the dogs don’t spend excessive time outside if you are in extreme climates. Be even more mindful of time spent in the sun for brachycephalic breeds.
2. Read Reviews
It goes without saying in this day and age, but, it is so simple to get hold of business reviews through social media. Check out the Doggy Day Care’s Facebook page and read what their current customers are saying about them.
Speak with other dog owners and professionals and see if they have any recommendations or have heard any negative feedback about any providers.
3. Interview Their Staff
Ask The Staff Pre-Prepared Questions
Q. What are the ratios of staff to dogs?
Best practice suggests there should be no more than 15 dogs per 1 member of staff. When dogs are particularly active, this reduces to 10 dogs per 1 member of staff.
Q. Do they know about dog training?
We know that dogs respond best to positive reinforcement and reward-based training; ensure staff in the Doggy Day Care use these methods to encourage positive behavior. They should be avoiding the use of aversive techniques at all costs.
Q. Do they know about dog behavior
Watch the staff during your tour. How do they interact with the dogs, are they watching the dog’s body language? Understanding this is key to avoiding any potential disasters in their interactions.
Whilst it may be easy to monitor the behavior and body language of one or two dogs, if they have up to 15 in their care, they really do need to have eyes in the backs of their heads.
You may also choose to ask about what experience or qualifications the staff have.
4. Understand Their Screening Procedure
Do The Doggy Day Care Allow Every Dog?
All Doggy Day Care centers should screen dogs before they accept them into their care:
- They should establish the dog’s temperament, characteristics and sociability towards humans and another dogs
- They should offer a trial morning, or day, to see how your dog fits in with the crowd
For that reason, when you are discussing your own dog with the staff, be honest. Tell them everything about your pooch – the good, the bad and the ugly – this will give them the best chance of placing them with other, similar dogs.
If he gets a little over-protective of toys, they will just put him in an area where they don’t allow free play; he will play on his own with an employee.
Can he get a little boisterous when he plays? He’ll be placed with fewer, but equally boisterous, play mates with a higher staff ratio.
Understand Their Pet Policies
Most Doggy Day Care centers will not take entire males or un-spayed females.
This is because you run the risk of ending up with a dog in heat on the premises and a neurotic male desperately trying to get to her.
Not only that, but neutered males can often become aggressive towards intact males, because, intact males can mate and castrated ones can’t – the castrated male therefore sees the intact male as a threat.
Some day care settings also ban certain breeds of dog – this is often due to statewide guidelines. Check with the setting which dogs are allowed and which ones aren’t.
5. Find Our Where They Walk The Dogs
Does the Doggy Day Care have a large outdoor space or are dogs taken off site to be walked?
Guidelines suggest that no more than 4 dogs should be walked at any one time. Smaller numbers are easier to manage for the member of staff, they can watch their behavior and body language for any signs they aren’t coping or that any potential disastrous interactions are brewing.
You need to inform the day care if your dog is walked on or off leash. Some centers have a strict policy to walk all dogs on leash, some do not.
The last thing you want is for Fido, who has appalling recall, to be taken out off-leash into the city. Also, ask how many dogs are walked at the same time.
Some dogs behave differently when out on a walk.
Hyper-aroused dogs can be problematic as they are just in a state of stress and reactivity. For this reason, this dog may just be happier in the quiet area back at the setting.
6. Understand Their Daily Routine
Ask them what the Doggy Day Care does on a daily basis – what is the typical routine of their staff?
Their day should include ample exercise, play time, mental stimulation and time to rest and relax for your dog.
Most Doggy Day Care centers offer guided activities, whether this is working on some brain games with a member of staff or working on some training/commands.
Let the staff know if there are certain commands or behaviors you would like to work on, they can advise you and start work during Dog Day Dare.
Some day care settings offer collection and drop off services.
Ask them how long their collection and drop off service usually takes. Some Dog Day Cares have been known to take 2-3 hours to run collection and drop off at the beginning and end of the day; we think you’ll agree, this is quite a long time spent in transport and cuts into the time that you thought they were playing in daycare.
7. Discuss Their Policies and Procedures
How Clean Is The Doggy Day Care?
Ask the Doggy Day Care about their infection control, what disinfectants and sanitizers do they use? Are they effective on canine specific virus and bacteria? What happens if there is illness or infection? Do they have isolation facilities to separate unwell dogs from the rest?
Whilst you shouldn’t smell harsh fumes of chemicals or bleach, the areas should be clean and free from rancid odor.
The areas should be well ventilated, with natural or conditioned air.
Are water bowls clean?
A dog’s water bowl is the third most contaminated item in any household. We dread to think how much the risk increases in Dog Day Care with all those other dogs drinking from the same bowl.
The potentially fatal bacteria E. Coli, Salmonella and MRSA has been found in dog water bowls; with plastic bowls harboring the most. Ceramic and stainless-steel fair slightly better.
The daycare center should have plenty of water bowls around for the dogs, being cleaned daily and fresh water topped up regularly.
What happens in an emergency?
You should be asked to provide contact details and another emergency contact, should you not be available. You should also provide your veterinarians details and your consent for the staff to seek veterinarian assistance should they deem it necessary.
What vaccinations are required? You should ensure that your dog is up to date with the necessary vaccinations before attending daycare.
8. Be Realistic
After visiting the Doggy Day Care setting, and even if Fido has attended for a few sessions, monitor how he is coping.
If he seems happy and content at home after each visit, then stick with it, whatever they are doing is working.
Alternatively, if his behavior has changed somewhat, or he appears stressed or more reactive, this daycare may just not suit him. Not because they are doing anything wrong, it may just be too busy for him.
Being busy on a daily basis can, for some dogs, lead to a constant state of distress. We can liken it a little to humans – some of us love being busy and around other people, some of us prefer quiet time, alone, to gather our thoughts.
If you are noticing changes in behavior, in a negative way, it may be worth speaking with the Doggy Day Care center, to see if any changes can be made and consider trying a different one.
If you find a Doggy Day Care which passes your tests you should introduce your dog using a consistent routine.
Dogs introduced on an ad hoc basis can be difficult to manage and it is stressful for the dog. Just like humans, dogs like routine.
You can expect to pay between $12 and $38 for a full day in daycare, depending on the area you live, and the services provided by the daycare. For a half day, you could expect to pay between $6 and $25.
Although it may seem like you are asking a lot of questions of the staff in the center, you’ll be glad that you did show due diligence in choosing a doggy day care.
Dogs cannot tell you how their day has been, so you need to be sure that you trust the staff, their judgement and the policies and procedures they have in place to care for your faithful friend. Let us know how you get on.