Some dogs don’t do well alone at home for lengthy periods; they get bored and destructive, or they suffer from separation anxiety. Sometimes they just need more opportunities to burn off steam, play, and be physical. Yet you have to work to pay for the kibble and vet bills, so what choice do you have? Few people are lucky enough to be able to take their dogs to the office or job site.
One terrific solution is doggie day care. The cons are cost (although some places have multidog family discounts) and the time spent getting there twice a day, but the pros can be tremendous. Your pal plays all day, socializes with people and dogs, burns off energy, and comes home one tired pup. As the adage goes, a tired dog is a good dog, and you can both enjoy your downtime together. Day care is particularly helpful for energetic young dogs.
Finding a good doggie day care
While a convenient location is important, there are many other factors to consider. The most important is how happy and calm the dogs seem in the facility’s care.
Select a few places to look at and visit them without your dog. Watch the dogs and see if they seem stressed. Some places allow too many dogs, and chaos can result. Watch the staff interact with the dogs; are they positive and gentle? Are they in control? How do they handle dog interactions? Ask how they introduce new dogs into the scene.
If you have a small dog, find out how they handle the wee ones, and whether they separate small dogs from large ones.
Another qualifier is what kinds of extra services they offer. Do you need grooming, baths, nail trims, ear cleanings, group training classes, pick up and delivery, boarding? Ask if there’s a charge to give medication.
What day cares require from you
You won’t be able to just waltz in one day, drop off your dog, and leave. Each facility is different, but day cares have requirements that must be met before your dog can spend the day romping.
They generally require temperament testing–and if they don’t, think twice–your dog will likely end up in a group with some aggressive dogs. Common sense dictates that dogs who go to day care must play nicely with others.
During your dog’s temperament test, be honest with yourself and the staff; if your dog has aggression problems, day care is not the place for him to work them out (a behaviorist should handle that). Your dog could end up causing the equivalent of a freeway pileup, and you would be financially liable.
Other than temperament testing, day cares typically require proof of vaccination (usually including Bordetella, also known as kennel cough), negative fecal exams, and a liability statement that you have to sign.
Most people take their dogs to day care two or three days a week, rather than Monday through Friday. It depends on your needs, what you can afford, and how much difference it makes in your dog’s behavior.
Bottom line: A day care should be a happy, easygoing place that provides benefits other than not having your couch shredded. Your dog should come home in a good mood, calm, and tired. A sign that you’ve found that right place: life with your dog is a lot more pleasant.