Enrolling your dog in daycare is a fantastic way to keep him from getting lonely or bored when you’re away from home a lot. For large dogs living in small homes, daycare facilities are often the best way to ensure that dogs release their energy in healthy, non-destructive ways.
Not every dog is a good fit for daycare situations and every daycare facility is unique. But if you have a playful, well-behaved dog, it’s worth looking into. Since there is no one-size-fits-all answer for dog socializing, evaluate the options by visiting a few daycare facilities to see if one is a good match for your dog.
(Note: I used part of this article for a guest blog post on the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Blog. You’ll find loads of useful posts on their blog.)
How do you know if your dog would do well in a doggie daycare situation?
Generally speaking, a daycare situation might be a good fit if your dog behaves well at dog parks and enjoys playing with other dogs. Of course, not all dogs are social and not all social dogs are comfortable in every social situation. Personality plays a big part.
Ideal canine candidates for daycare situations are:
- Spayed or neutered
- Well-socialized (that is, they really enjoy being with other dogs and they seek interaction with dog pals)
- Has more energy than their humans (for example, you often come home exhausted and your dog greets you with a smile, wagging tail, and whining for a hike or play session)
Dogs who are not usually well-suited for daycare situations are:
- Possessive about toys and/or food
- Panicky or anxious
- Constant barkers
- Herders who are too pushy with other dogs
- Those who suffer from separation anxiety. (True separation anxiety – dogs having a panic attack if separated from the one human he has bonded to – is rarely resolved by putting them with other dogs or humans.)
- Fearful, tense, or anxious around other dogs
- Undersocialized (resulting in intense or unpredictable behavior around others)
Can dogs go to daycare on a trial basis?
Most reputable doggie daycare centers actually require a trial run. If a facility accepts your dog without first doing an assessment, stop right there and look for another provider. (Read about the evaluation days at one reputable daycare.)
During these introduction days, their staff will watch your dog closely to assess your dog’s needs and personality. If the daycare has several smaller social groups, they’ll take this time to guess which play group your dog will be most comfortable in and they’ll introduce him to other dogs in the different groups.
When you pick up your dog after his first day at daycare, take time to talk with staff about how things went. This is another opportunity for you to evaluate the daycare staff and decide whether this particular provider is the best fit for your dog and whether you want to have a trial run at other providers before deciding which is best for your dog.
After his initial introduction to other dogs at the daycare, staff might advise you to bring your dog in for just a few days on a trial basis. Many dogs do well the first time, but after a few visits their behavior might change and you might discover that they’re overstimulated or stressed and are not enjoying daily visits to the daycare.
Can dogs go to daycare on an occasional part-time basis?
Many people enroll their dogs with daycare providers for two or three days a week, half-days only, or only at times when they’re busier than usual.
Keep in mind your goal: giving your dog enough activity and social time without over-doing it. Reputable daycare facilities will help you figure out what works best for your individual dog.
What can you do for daily dog care if being at a daycare doesn’t suit them?
In-home pet sitting or daycare in a home with no other dogs is a fantastic alternative for dogs who don’t do well in daycare but who need more activity than their family can provide. Most professional pet sitters and dog walkers will come to your house to play with your dog. Some pet sitters will have your dog go to their home to hang out and play together while you’re away. Working one-on-one with a pet sitter is the best way to give dogs individual attention, if that’s what they need most.
Another great option is arranging play dates with other dogs. Many people meet canine play mates at dog parks or by joining meetup groups for people whose dogs want to meet play mates. Your pet sitter might also be able to do some match-making if they have other clients whose dogs are also looking for a play mate.
(Note: Nonexclusive use of this article has been granted to other organizations but Kari Kells retains copyright.)
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Daycare for dogs“. Virtual pet behaviorist. 17 Nov 2013. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/daycare-dogs
- Eckstein, Sandy. “Choosing doggie daycares and kennels: Prices, safety, and services“. WebMD: Healthy dogs. 23 June 2009. 20 Nov 2013. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/choosing-doggie-daycares-and-kennels
- Gates, Jenna. “Interview with dog trainer Colleen Safford“. Jenna and Snickers. 9 June 2009. 20 Nov 2013. http://jennaandsnickers.com/2009/06/interview-trainer-daycare-boarding/
- Milan, Ceasar. “Finding the right doggie daycare“. Ceasar’s way. 26 Nov 2013. http://www.cesarsway.com/training/socialization/Finding-the-Right-Doggie-Daycare
- Miller, Pat. “Doggie daycare can be a wonderful experience: but is it for every dog?” The Whole dog journal. Nov 2010. 15 Nov 2013. http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/13_11/features/Doggie-Daycare-For-Canine-Socialization_20127-1.html