Is Doggie Daycare Right for Your Pup?
You’ve got a vet you trust, a trainer you love and you shower your dog with love and attention. What more could a dog need?
Have you thought about doggie daycare?
‘Isn’t doggie daycare only for those people that work out of the home all day? Since the pandemic, I work from home now, so why would I need doggie daycare? I’m always home to care for him.’ Though this is one reason people send their dogs to daycare, there are many more reasons to consider it for your dog.
You might be home all the time, but are you engaging your dog during that time? Just because you’re home, you may not be able to give them everything they need to thrive. This is where doggie daycare comes in.
You know the saying “A tired dog is a happy dog”? It’s true! Doggie daycare can give them an outlet for their energy. The obvious form this takes is in exercise -- all that running and around and playing is exhausting! -- but it also takes the form of mental stimulation. There are a ton of new smells, new dogs to meet, places to see and explore at doggie daycare. There’s often opportunity for some basic training as well, which helps keep their minds sharp. At Unleashed on 42, we also offer agility obstacles! Even dogs who are older and not as active can greatly benefit from the mental exercise doggie daycare and our staff can provide.
Whether you work from home or an office, you can’t keep an eye on your dog every minute of the day while working. Bored dogs can get themselves into trouble. Doggie daycare gives you peace of mind that they are being well cared for while you get work done.
Socialization is a very important factor in your dog's development and it is important for a well balanced pup. Doggie daycare is a supervised place for dogs to socialize without the constraints of a leash. Meeting other dogs on leash can be stressful for some dogs as they don’t have an ‘escape’ if they don’t like the dog they meet. Dogs generally are more relaxed meeting other dogs off leash because of this. Daycare provides an opportunity for continued socialization. During COVID, it’s especially important to socialize your puppy at a time when normal socialization isn’t available. Doggy daycare can help with that.
Most doggie daycares will require proof of up-to date vaccinations which often include Distemper, Rabies and Bordetella, to name a few. Depending on age, your dog may also need to be spayed or neutered. For reference, you can find Unleashed on 42’s vaccination requirements here: https://unleashedon42.com/pages/questions
Is my dog suited for daycare?
If your dog’s socialization skills are low, or they are fearful or anxious, it may be a little more challenging to integrate them into a doggie daycare setting, though not impossible! The right daycare will work with you to find the best solution for your dog.
Your dog may need to be slowly introduced to daycare by starting out with a shorter time period and a smaller group, gradually increasing both as they progress and become more comfortable. This may take several weeks, but it’s always best to go slow, than to rush your dog into a situation they are not comfortable in.
You want your dog to be happy going to daycare and happy when they leave. If they are exhibiting signs of stress or anxiety at these times, it may be necessary to pull back from daycare and address those issues before continuing. Otherwise you could exacerbate them and cause more harm than good.
If your dog is very reactive and/or aggressive, you may need to work one on one with a trainer to address these issues before enrolling in daycare.
At Unleashed on 42, we have a trainer on staff to help address any issues that may come up. We also complete behavioural assessments not only on the first day, but everyday your dog is in our care, which allows us to cater to all types of dogs and to tailor the day to them.
Know your dog's needs. Not all daycares are the same, therefore one may be a better fit for your dog than another. Be open with the staff about what your dog likes and dislikes as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This will help them know your dog better and place them with the correct pack. Some adult dogs dislike puppies, so an adult only pack would be better for that dog. Some breeds might try to herd smaller dogs, so it may be better for them to be in a group with large dogs only.
Open communication is key in building your relationship with a doggie daycare provider. Because doggie daycare is so much more than just a place for your dog to be supervised, you want to ensure you have an open and honest relationship with the staff.
Most daycares will communicate with you in some manner regarding your dog’s stay. It could be in the form of a report card at the end of the day or updates throughout the day. Many also have social media accounts you can follow for lots of fun updates and pictures. At Unleashed on 42, we provide midday texts as well as a daily report card. Any issues that may have come up during the day are addressed at pickup. Mainly, you want to make sure the staff is upfront about any issues that may have occurred during the day. You should want to know both the good and the bad that happened while your dog was at daycare. If the daycare will not be upfront about issues or milestones, it should raise some red flags on other things they may not be honest about.
Structure and Set up
You’ll want to know how the physical space is set up and what a normal day looks like. Is the space one big open space or several smaller spaces to separate dogs by size, age, and/or temperament?
Outdoor space isn’t a requirement, but it can certainly be a perk for your dog. Not all facilities can accommodate an outdoor space, and may supplement their stay at daycare with a group walk or playtime at a nearby off-leash park. If there is an outdoor space, do the dogs have unlimited access or are there structured periods?
Dogs thrive on routine, so a scheduled day is great for their development. As much as they may love to go-go-go all day, some time to relax is required to prevent overstimulation. You’ll want to see some naps/downtime scheduled into the day for this reason. To see a sample schedule, check out Unleashed on 42’s daily schedule here: https://unleashedon42.com/pages/doggy-daycare
There likely won’t be a lot of time spent on 1-on-1 training with your dog, but you do want to ensure they will enforce/reinforce the behaviour/training you have already established for your dog. What kind of corrective measures do they use? Are they inline with your own training?
You may think it doesn’t matter how clean the place is as it’s just for a bunch of dogs, but dog daycares need to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the transmission of illnesses among their canine customers. You should look to see if not only the reception area, but the dog area looks and smells clean.
Procedures if dog is injured or ill (Emergency Plan)
It’s not unusual for a dog to come home with a small scrape from daycare, just like it’s not unusual for a kid to cut their knee on the playground. This shouldn’t be any cause for concern. However, staff should be well trained to recognize potential issues before they become a bigger problem. Accidents can happen and how a doggie daycare reacts to those situations is very important. If a dog gets injured or ill while in their care and requires vet care immediately, what plans do they have in place? What vet(s) do they work with? If they don’t have a plan or are reluctant to divulge what they would do, that should be a red flag.
Dogs are naturally social creatures, but doggie daycare isn’t necessarily the right fit for every dog, and that’s perfectly okay. Though there are many benefits of doggie daycare, you still need to consider if it’s right for your dog. That being said, most dogs benefit greatly from doggie daycare and can help your dog live a more active, happy and fulfilled life.