For many busy and working pet parents, doggy daycare can be a lifesaver. You can go to work knowing your dog is safe and sound, getting the exercise they need, and having the time of their life.
But daycare isn’t right for every pup, and finding a daycare you can trust with your fur baby’s well-being isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide on everything you need to know about choosing the right doggy daycare.
WHY SHOULD I SEND MY DOG TO DAYCARE?
There are plenty of reasons why you should send your dog to daycare (besides the fact that you can’t be in two places at once). In addition to giving your dog the exercise they need, daycare offers other valuable benefits:
- Socialization: Daycare offers lots of opportunities for socialization, something that’s crucial for dogs’ well-being and development. If your dog doesn’t socialize with other dogs early on, they can become antisocial and even aggressive towards other dogs. After all, dogs are social animals, and they enjoy (and even crave!) contact with other dogs — and they’ll get plenty of that at doggy daycare.
- Learning Social Cues: Not only does attending daycare help your dog get used to being around different dogs, but it can also help them learn how to understand other dogs. As dog trainer Fernando Camacho explains, “If dogs don’t get the proper exposure to other dogs, they have a hard time reading them and get into more conflicts. It’s almost like they never learned the canine language.” At daycare, they can learn to pick up on social cues, something that can help them avoid trouble down the line.
As valuable as the benefits of attending daycare are, doggy daycare isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and not all daycares are cut from the same cloth.
HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE A DAYCARE FOR MY DOG?
Before your dog can attend a daycare, they’ll likely have to undergo an evaluation to see how well they play well with others and to ensure they won’t pose a threat to the safety of the other dogs. But even before the daycare conducts their evaluation, you should conduct yours.
Read reviews and ask your veterinarian and other dog parents for recommendations. Try to suss out the reputation of each place. If you hear stories of dogs coming home with bleeding ears, steer clear!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DOGGY DAYCARE
After you’ve asked around and found some options, you should visit potential daycares to evaluate the facilities. The right daycare will check every box:
- It doesn’t smell (If it smells bad, so will your dog. Plus, that shows poor cleaning methods.)
- There’s no poop or pee in the play areas
- Plenty of space to play
- A fenced-in outdoor area where dogs can hang out
- Dogs are separated by size
- Constant supervision (dogs should never be alone!)
- A dog-to-person ratio you’re comfortable with
- Meals and medication can be administered
- A timeout area where they can go when they need to relax or eat lunch
You might have a separate list of “nice-to-haves” that aren’t dealbreakers, but can definitely give a potential daycare bonus points. Amenities you might want for your dog could be:
- A live video feed that lets you check in on them from your phone or computer
- Add-ons like bathing, grooming, and training services
- Options for boarding
IS DOGGY DAYCARE RIGHT FOR MY DOG?
Doggy daycare isn’t the right fit for every pup. In general, doggy daycare is a great fit for:
- Dogs that are outgoing and playful
- High-energy dog breeds that need more exercise than other dogs might (AKA more exercise than humanly possible)
- Working dogs and adolescent dogs that need something constructive to do to keep them out of trouble
- Puppies. The socialization puppies undergo at daycare is invaluable. Plus, it’s a great way to wear them out and prevent them from destroying your home.
On the other hand, doggy daycare may not be right for your dog if they:
- Aren’t playful
- Aren’t well-socialized
- Are scared of or anxious around other dogs
- Don’t like or get along well with other dogs
- Are prone to “fear aggression”
- Aren’t comfortable in big groups
WHERE CAN I SEND MY DOG IF DAYCARE ISN’T A GOOD FIT?
Luckily, there are different options for dogs who don’t necessarily jive with traditional daycare. Instead of sending your dog to a large daycare facility, you can:
- Send your dog to in-home doggy daycare where a small group of dogs are watched and cared for by an experienced dog sitter.
- Find and hire a local dog walker. Look for postings on NextDoor or flyers around your neighborhood.
- Hire the teenagers on your block to come walk and play with your pup while you’re away or at work.
- Download the Wag! app. This dog walking service lets you schedule a local dog walker in advance or book one right before you need it. The best part? You get a free lockbox when you sign up!
- Use the Rover app to book trusted dog walkers and sitters. You can send your pup to daycare at a sitter’s dog-friendly home (in-home daycare), have a walker take them for a walk, or even drop by for a play date!