Both my and Chi’s lives have dramatically changed since Chi started going to doggy daycare!!
Not only are his social needs being met, but I have more time to accomplish work and other tasks while Chi is away. It’s been hugely beneficial for both of us! But not all daycares are created equal and nearly all daycares I’ve personally seen and used have excelled or faltered in various areas of management or functionality.
Having taken Chi to several doggy daycares, I have observed how important it is for the staff to engage the dogs. Sometimes, Chi will want to sit around but when given a little prompting, he is happy to get engaged. That is not all that different from how it works with people- when I’m at a party or some sort of social gathering, sometimes I need someone to come and talk to me before I get in the groove! Without stimulation or guidance, many dogs might not even realize they are at daycare to play and have fun.
In the early days of Chi going to doggy daycare, I had the good fortune to watch him on a live video cam which gave me a chance to watch Chi learn better socialization skills. I watched as he learned what’s appropriate and not appropriate and saw him become much more confident and well-adjusted when interacting with and playing with other dogs. I find that when a daycare provides access to live webcams, I feel a lot of reassurance and comfort being able to see what is happening and how the staff members are or are not interacting with my pup. After all, some workers are better than others, especially when people are new and still being trained. I am able to provide feedback to the daycare management based on what I see on the live stream and give them an outside perspective on things they otherwise might not notice.
I am a strong advocate of doggy daycares with live webcams. I find myself more productive and less concerned when I can check on my little Chi myself without having to go through a middleman. I feel happy and comfortable knowing at any time, with one click, I can see him happy and having fun. The cameras can also assist employees as a learning opportunity. When an employee knows there’s potentially someone always watching it forces them to be more on the ball and not sit around on their phones.
But why don’t all dog daycares have webcams?
I personally believe it is because of liability issues. When my dog daycare took away the cameras, they justified the decision by stating that many clients would call the daycare regularly irrationally upset about ridiculous things like “dogs fighting” when they were simply playing. While I understand that people out there might not have the knowledge of how dogs interact and play, I believe a dog daycare has a responsibility to educate the clients either directly or through literature to avoid these calls rather than hide from them. For that reason, I always recommend doggy daycare with livestream cameras.
Having a doggy daycare you can trust can go a long way in improving your and your dogs quality of life. Think of it: no more rushing home after work because Fido needs a walk, no more guilt because your dog is home during the day, and no more chewed up couches because your dog is bored and destructive when left home alone and suffers from anxiety.
A well-run dog daycare can provide your pooch with emotional and physical stimulation, give them an invaluable opportunity to socialize with other dogs in a controlled environment, and offers them ample time to exercise and play.
Most doggy daycares function very much like daycares for children. You drop your pup off in the morning before going to work and pick them up on your way home. Many dog facilities also offer boarding, which is a great option if you travel frequently or have vacation plans that don’t or can’t include your four-legged family member.
Unfortunately, though, not all doggy day cares are created equal. For every stunning facility that’s clean, organized, and staffed by genuine animal lovers, there are others that are unhygienic, poorly run, and even unsafe.
It’s extremely important to do your homework before committing to a doggy daycare. Your dog’s safety and happiness depend on it!
So, what should you hope for, and look out for, when it comes to choosing a daycare for your pooch?
Here are a few steps you can take to help you find the perfect facility for you and your dog.
1. Ask around. People who are happy with their doggy daycares are often happy to tell you about it, as are people who have had a bad experience! Use this to your advantage and ask some like-minded, local dog owners for a recommendation. Current customers often offer the most thorough and unbiased opinion.
2. Check online reviews. That’s what they’re there for! Keep in mind, though, that reviews often skew towards the negative (people are more likely to go online to complain about a doggy daycare than rave about one) so read the reviews carefully and see if you can find any patterns, like many people complaining about sanitation or the staff, for example.
3. Take a tour. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few daycares, it’s time to take a tour. Ask to see the entire facility and be wary if the manager claims that some spaces are “off-limits”. Note how the other dogs are acting- do they seem happy and comfortable? Are they relaxed? Look at the tails, happy dogs will always be wagging while fearful dogs will hold their tails low. Are large dogs and small dogs separated? This is important as some daycares mix all sizes. I personally believe small and large dogs should be separated for safety reasons. I understand that sometimes incidents between dogs will happen and sometimes they are unavoidable. However, should an altercation occur between a large and small dog the small dog could suffer great injuries in an extremely short amount of time. How does the staff seem? If they are sitting around and jump up when they notice you question why they weren’t already up on their feet to begin with? Would they have even gotten up if you didn’t take the tour? Are the staff happy and excited to meet your dog? If they don’t show a high level of enthusiasm when meeting you why would you expect them to be enthusiastic when you are not around? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your intuition if something just feels “off”.
4. Inquire about a camera. Some doggy daycares have cameras with a live feed of the dogs all day long, so you can check in on your pooch from your smartphone whenever you feel like it.
5. Try it out! Not all dogs warm up to the idea of doggy daycare right away, but it’s important to have a “trial day”, perhaps on a weekend when you can pick your dog early up if necessary, to see how they fare.
6. Trust your instincts. If your dog doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves or stiffens up when you arrive at the door to the doggy daycare, take note of that and find them another place to spend their day. I know your priority is your dog’s wellbeing, and do not second guess yourself if you just have a feeling that something isn’t quite right. You should never force your dog into an environment or situation they are uncomfortable with.
Is my dog right for doggy daycare?
You spend weeks and weeks researching to find the perfect doggy day care in your area. Finally, the big day comes and you drop off your pup in the morning, full of hope and anticipation for the wonderful day to come. But when you pick them up in the afternoon, your dog is miserable. Your dog doesn’t look particularly happy, and the staff tell you that they had a hard time adjusting.
Some of this could just be part of the adjustment period. If your dog is used to hanging out at home during the day, they may be a little shocked to spend their morning and afternoon with 10 other dogs and a bunch of people they don’t know. Many dogs, after a couple of days, will adjust swimmingly to the transition and enjoy themselves at daycare.
While your dog might be perfect alone at home with you, things can quickly change once they are in an active environment without you around. This is why it’s always preferable to start your dog at doggy daycare as a puppy. The sooner you bring your puppy to doggy daycare, the more likely they will benefit from and enjoy this type of environment.
However, there are some dogs who simply won’t. The truth is that not all dogs are cut out for doggy daycare. How do you know in advance if your dog will be one of them? Well, there are some tell-tale clues:
1. Your dog is aggressive. If your dog is dog-aggressive or people-aggressive, doggy daycare likely is not a safe or reasonable option for them. In fact, many daycares don’t allow dogs with aggression to attend, as it poses a safety risk for everyone involved. If you do find a daycare that accepts dog aggressive dogs they are kept isolated from the pack and spend the day alone feeling anxious. At this point, it’s probably better that they stay at home!
2. Your dog is very old or very young. Unvaccinated puppies are not permitted to attend daycares, and old dogs may not enjoy it. If your dog is a senior and prefers a relaxed and quiet life, it’s quite possible they won’t have much fun with the younger dogs playing around them and would prefer to stay at home. If continence is the issue, speak to your vet on ways to keep them home and get them outside as needed.
3. Your dog is fearful. If your dog is very shy, has a history of abuse, or is just generally anxious and timid, the hustle and bustle of doggy daycare may not be appreciated by your pup. Consider your dog’s temperament carefully.
4. You don’t vaccinate. Dogs who are not up-to-date with their vaccinations (including Bordetella) will not be permitted in doggy daycares for health and sanitization reasons. If you have not vaccinated your dog, doggy daycare is not right for you. All daycares will ask for proof of vaccination from your veterinarian in order to keep all the dogs in their care safe and healthy.
5. Your dog must be neutered or spayed by usually 7 or 8 months. There is a little flexibility on the timing, but most daycares won’t accept intact dogs (male or female!)
Doggy daycare can be a rewarding and enriching experience for both you and your pet, as long as it’s well researched on your end and well received by your pup. If you think your pooch would enjoy the time socializing with other dogs and humans, I encourage you to do your research and tour a few places before making a decision. After all, your dog’s happiness and your peace of mind are the top priority!