What is Dog Daycare?
A doggie daycare is a facility that provides care for dogs during the day, with dogs going home once the day is through. This is a great option for busy pet parents who must leave their dog alone for most of the day. If you choose a dog daycare, you will drop off your dog (or they come pick them up), and then they spend the day playing, socializing, and learning with other dogs and staff. At the end of the day, they go home and go to sleep. There can be many benefits to sending your dog to daycare, including:
- Socialization with all types of dogs
- No mid-day dog-walker needed
- Exercise (a tired dog after work)
- Basic Training
- Separation-anxiety prevention
- Reinforcement of potty-training
Pet parents may choose to use a daycare during the workday, or even on a day where they are having a party at home or just need to get the dog tired out for the night. The dog daycare industry has exploded, and there are so many choices. How do you choose a dog daycare? Here are some tips.
1. Learn more about each facility online:
Every facility will have different rules and operating procedures. Look through the FAQ’s and policies to see if they follow your style of pet-care. Find out about the ownership and management of the facility. Many doggie daycares are owned by people who only have animal care experience because they have owned a pet. Find out exactly what experience and training staff has. If staff doesn’t have certifications, you should be very wary. I advise you to only choose a dog daycare with skilled staff.
2. Check out the reviews:
Ask around your neighborhood, at your local pet-shop, and at your veterinarian to see if they are familiar with the facilities. Yelp, Google, Facebook, and Instagram are also great ways to get to know a facility better before you make the call. Check to ensure that clients are reviewing the business.
3. Call and ask for a tour:
The best day-cares minimize stress to the dogs by doing guided tours during limited hours. Your dog is at daycare to play with staff and other dogs… not to be displayed as if at a zoo. Day-cares should not allow a non-staff member to interact with a privately owned dog. You can be liable if your dog bites, scratches, or knocks down a person other than an employee. During the tour you should ask to see both the play area, and the boarding area. Choose a dog daycare ONLY if you can see the facility.
- Are there tall and sturdy airlock gates before all outside entrances to prevent escapes?
- Do the daycare rooms have safety gates and airlocks so that dogs can carefully be introduced in a controlled manner?
- Are there fire alarms and extinguishers located in the facility?
- What type of flooring is provided? All surfaces should be non-porous. Rubber is cushioned and so more desirable than concrete or tile.
- How does the facility smell? Is it clean?
- How are the dogs?
- Do they seem happy and playful?
- Are any dogs fearful, or overly aggressive?
- Are the dogs grouped appropriately, to prevent bullying.
- Do staff manage the dogs appropriately, or do they ignore the dogs on cell phones?
- Look at the body language of the dogs. What do you see? https://positively.com/dog-
- Do the dogs seem to like the staff, or are they moving away from them constantly?
- What are the boarding kennels like? Kennels should be professionally designed by a company that specializes in them. Parts that can break, or any gaps that a paw or head can slip through are a large red flag. Dogs should not be able to chew parts of the kennel.
- Double decker kennels are not safe, and very stressful for dogs. Your dog could jump or fall from a height, or be very anxious, caused by a dog who is barking or jumping around above them.
- How is the fencing? Fencing should be 6ft high or taller. Dogs should not be able to see over, or stick their feet or noses under fencing. A small dog could be pulled under a fence and badly injured. Fencing must be flush with the ground.
4. You can and should ask lots of questions, to get a better feel for the facility:
- How long has the daycare been in business?
- Have the owners owned a dog care business before, or worked for one?
- What is the daily routine for daycare? Is there structure?
- What is the routine for boarding dogs?
- What is the cleaning and sanitization procedure, and what chemicals are used?
- Are dogs screened before coming in? How?
- What are the qualifications of staff members?
- How are the dogs managed? Do they use positive reinforcement training? Spray bottles?
- What is the procedure for when a fight breaks out?
- Are staff in the facility 24/7? If not, what hours are they there?
- Will my dog have outside access or a walk?
- What is the dog to staff ratio? 15 to 1 is ideal.
Choose A Dog Daycare
5. Ask about cleaning procedures and disease control:
Daycare is an environment where many dogs are interacting throughout the day. Just like people, dogs can carry different diseases and illnesses. Staff should only allow dogs with proof of vaccination into the building. If they let you slide, it means they let many people slide. This is not only illegal, but also unsafe. Many diseases are not covered by vaccinations. This includes parasites, viral warts, most strains of kennel cough, and more. However, with safe standard sanitization procedures, this risk can be minimized. Choose a daycare that uses a hospital grade disinfectant and cleaner daily. It is important that all surfaces be disinfected each day after the dogs go home, to minimize the spread of pathogens and keep a clean facility. In the daycare area, look for non-porous play and resting options. Beds and mats are porous, and should never be used. Plastic dog daycare structures and vinyl beds can be safely sanitized each day. Choosing a dog day care that is sanitary is essential!
6. Find out more about the care philosophy of the facility:
The best establishments use positive reinforcement based techniques. This means that they are using positive training methods to work with the dogs. This will provide a safer, more dog friendly environment. Spray bottles, shake cans, and air horns should only be reserved for emergency situations, such as dog fights. Allowing staff to use punishment based techniques on your dog could result in your dog learning to be afraid of people or other dogs. If your facility provides board and train, ensure that the trainers are skilled in positive reinforcement. At no time should a staff member be punishing your dog for normal dog behavior such as play, barking, or jumping up. Consider choosing a certified fear free professional staffed facility. Click HERE for more info. I would only choose a dog daycare that uses positive reinforcement based techniques.
7.Ask about emergency procedures:
Staff should quickly know what to do in the event of an emergency such as a dog fight or fire. Accidents can happen even in the most well run daycare. Staff should easily be able to tell you what they would do if your dog were to face an injury.
8. Are there live cameras? If so, watch them for red flags:
- Large groups of unattended dogs
- Non-staff members interacting with dogs
- Staff members bullying dogs
- Inattentive staff
- Loose dogs wandering around the facility
- Gates left open
- Unsafe play groupings
- Items not removed for cleaning at the end of the night
9.Choose a dog daycare with a structured day:
The best daycare focuses on what is best for the dog. The daycare is set up to minimize stress, and maximize fun and safety. You should look for a daycare that:
- Has a defined drop-off and pick-up range. Dogs coming and going all day is stressful for all the dogs.
- Encourages dogs to reserve certain days. Having dogs come on set days allows them to form a bond with other dogs, and have a more predictable environment.
- Provides a structured nap-time of 1-2 hours. All day play is tiring, and dogs need some rest.
- Has an outside area for the bathroom. It is very stressful for dogs to not have access to a bathroom area for a long period of time.
Pay attention to your feelings:
If you don’t feel like you can trust the staff or owners, then don’t leave your dog! Daycare should be fun, but when mismanaged they can be a dangerous or even deadly environment. Your dog is counting on you to make the best choice.