Doggie daycare can be a great way to provide dogs with exercise and stimulation while their people are at work, but it has numerous other benefits as well. Spending the day at a well-run daycare can help high-energy dogs burn off steam, so they are more likely to be happy and well-behaved at home. The socialization can also help relieve dogs’ separation anxiety and loneliness, and relieve their humans’ guilt about leaving them alone all day. (In fact, both the Humane Society and the ASPCA recommend bringing dogs to daycare while they are learning to overcome separation anxiety.)
But daycare is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and daycares vary considerably in quality. How can you tell if daycare is right for your dog? And once you’ve decided to try it, how do you choose a safe and responsible daycare?
Is Daycare Right for Your Dog?
Would you describe your dog as high-energy, or maybe a social butterfly? Is she prone to separation anxiety? Like magic, a day of daycare can transform a bored, restless, possibly anxious “problem dog” into a sleepy pile of fur. But that doesn’t mean that daycare is the right fit for every dog. If your dog just doesn’t like the company of other dogs, daycare won’t change that. (And if your dog has known dog-aggression issues, daycare definitely won’t help!) You know your dog best, and it’s important to be honest about her temperament and personality.
Choosing a Doggie Daycare
So you’ve given it some thought, and you think your dog is ready to try daycare. How do you choose a good one? Here are some factors to consider:
New client process
Ask about a trial. A reputable daycare will have some kind of assessment and try-out process to ensure it’s a good fit for all involved.
Location and hours
As with daycares for children, location (near home and work) is often a determining factor for doggie daycares – especially if the dog will be going to daycare five days a week. For most people, a daycare would have to be truly extraordinary to merit a big detour from their commute. And don’t forget to verify that the daycare’s drop-off and pick-up hours will fit your schedule. The most amazing daycare won’t do your dog any good if it closes before you get out of work.
Depending on your area and how often your dog will attend, the cost of daycare can add up quickly. (Typical rates are around $15 to $30 per day.) Some daycares offer half-day rates, punch cards, multi-dog discounts, and other incentives to attract your business.
Look for a daycare that offers a lot of space and different ways for dogs to enjoy themselves. Do dogs who want to run have space to do so without disturbing dogs who are taking a nap or a quick break from the action? There should be both indoor and outdoor areas, and the outdoor spaces should have shade, a source of clean water, and tall fences. The whole area should be reasonably clean—a daycare for dogs will never be pristine, but it shouldn’t reek of dog waste, either. For everyone’s safety, small dogs and large dogs should have separate play areas.
You should be able to tell immediately that the daycare employees actually like They should be interested in getting to know your dog individually, and committed to every dog’s safety and wellbeing. That means the staff should be supervising the dogs in person, not watching from a monitor – or scrolling through their phones! Ask if the staff has had any training in canine first aid or canine behavior.
Communication with clients
Ask how the daycare keeps in touch with their clients, both routinely and in case of emergency. Many daycares offer a live webcam or a daily Facebook photo album so you can see what your dog is up to during the day.
Some daycares are part of a complex that also includes grooming, boarding, training, or veterinary care. A familiar one-stop shop can be convenient for the humans and reassuring for the dogs.
Dog daycares in high-end areas may try to dazzle customers with fancy amenities, such as spa treatments and hot meals.
What’s the best way to know if your dog enjoys daycare? Her reaction to the second visit. If she can’t wait to run through the door, tail wagging a million miles an hour, you know you’ve found a winner.