Pet ownership is a full-time commitment, and all dog owners know how important regular interaction and exercise is to a happy pup. Unfortunately, we can’t always spend as much time as we’d like with our dogs, and we can’t always offer our pets a canine companion for regular socialization. Fortunately, dog day care centers have stepped up to improve your dog’s health and happiness by helping to meet their social and physical needs.
Although not recommended for everyday use, doggie day care (which may also be called day boarding, puppy gyms, or something similar) can be a way to provide socialization, human interaction, and play opportunities for your dog under professional supervision. Dogs can be dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening, working around your work schedule. Regular visits to doggie day care, while not an alternative to spending quality time with an owner, can help shy dogs become more social and help eliminate problems with separation anxiety. At the end of the day, you’ll pick up a very tired—and hopefully very happy—dog.
What to expect at a doggy day care
When enrolling your dog:
- Find out and settle on monthly or daily rates. These can range widely, depending on your location and what amenities the day care provides.
- Medical screenings: You’ll be asked to provide proof of current vaccinations and possibly also commit to a flea or tick control regimen. You should share any special dietary needs or allergies at this time.
- Temperament screenings: A temperament screening will help workers ensure the care center is a safe place for all dogs. It will also help workers familiarize themselves with your dog’s personality.
At the day care:
- An off-leash, cage-free play area where your dog can socialize and interact with other dogs and with the staff. Toys and a variety of play surfaces should be provided.
- Outdoor space or regular walks for doggie business.
- A daily “report card” or update from staff members on your dog’s activities and behavior. Some locations even offer webcam access for members—you can check in on your dog throughout the day!
- Your dog should have constant access to fresh water and at least one meal, although many dogs are too excited to eat their regular amount!
4 Tips for Selecting the Right Day Care
1. Look for clean facilities, with plenty of fresh water. You should be allowed to tour or view the play areas before enrolling your dog.
EXTRA TIP: Ask for a one day free trial for your dog before committing to a day care.
RED FLAG: Pet messes that are not cleaned up immediately by staff.
2. Your doggie day care provider should be bonded and insured – but you should know that these certifications do not indicate any specific pet care certifications. Some locations hire certified vet techs to work at their centers, but these are NOT legal requirements. Ask up front what qualifications they look for in a day care worker.
EXTRA TIP: If your dog has some mild behavioral problems, consider looking for a doggie day care that trains or certifies their workers to promote positive behavior.
3. Observe whether the day care accepts dogs of all sizes, and whether they are separated by size during play times. If you have a small, timid dog, consider bringing them to a small dogs only facility to avoid anxiety.
RED FLAG: Observing aggressive behavior in other dogs. Although rough-housing is a regular component of active play, most day care centers have strict biting or aggression policies to ensure the safety of all dogs.
4. Before selecting a day care, consider what amenities are non-negotiable to you. If you choose a doggie daycare that has luxuries like a webcam or grooming services that you won’t be utilizing, you might be overpaying.
EXTRA TIP: Take the time to read reviews and carefully select the day care that feels right for your dog – you know their needs better than anyone.
A dog day care center can be an invaluable component to raising a healthy, happy pet. But keep in mind that all dogs have different personalities and respond differently to group play environments. And as with any lifestyle change, it’s important to monitor your dog’s behavior carefully when introducing new routines.
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