Our furry companions work hard to make us happy, and most of us are just as determined to keep our four-legged friends healthy and content. In recent years, doggy daycares have emerged as a popular option for busy dog parents to ensure that pets are well socialized and happy members of their families. In this article, we discuss if doggy daycare is a good fit for your dog, how to find a good doggy daycare, what services they offer, doggy daycare costs, and the pros and cons of leaving your dog at daycare.
Doggy Daycare: How to Choose the Best Doggy Daycare Near You
Is Doggy Daycare a Good Option for Your Dog?
Dogs are adaptable creatures, much more so than cats. Still, not all dogs are cut out to fit well into a doggy daycare environment. Some dogs are too aggressive and some are too anti-social. The best dogs to benefit from doggy daycare are outgoing, playful, energetic and require plenty of exercise. If a dog has social issues, daycare may not be the place to work on socializing your dog. On the other hand, doggy daycare can be a good place for very young dogs to learn socializing skills.
How to Find the Best Doggy Daycare for Your Dog
How should you go about finding that perfect doggy daycare for your pup? Ask other dog owners if they have used a doggy daycare and if they can give you a recommendation. Your veterinarian is also someone you could ask. Once you have found a potential daycare, you may want to visit the nearby veterinarian and ask for their opinion about the establishment.
Visit the daycare yourself before bringing your dog in for a visit. Notice if the place looks and smells clean, not antiseptic, and if the staff appears friendly, patient, and loving toward their canine guests. Do they keep a constant watch on the dogs in their care, and do they appear to maintain control over them, diffusing any potential fights before they start? Does the daycare have enough staff supervising the dogs? There should preferably be no more than 15 dogs per staff member.
Come prepared with a list of questions to ask the daycare staff, such as:
- How are the dog’s evaluated to determine if they are a fit for your daycare center?
- How are the dogs grouped, and how large is each group?
- What kinds of activities will my dog be engaged in?
- How often are the dogs exercised, and how does the staff handle potty breaks?
- Are there indoor and outdoor play areas?
- What is the dog to staff ratio?
- What types of training and experience does the staff have?
- Are staff members trained in canine first aid?
- Is smoking prohibited around the dogs?
- Are there video cameras that allow for live feeds?
- How does the staff handle behavior problems?
- Will I get a report on how my dog is doing?
- What is the cost of daycare and are there cost-saving packages available?
- What are the vaccination requirement?
- How is an emergency handled?
Dog Screening and Interview
Once you have evaluated the daycare facility, you should be asked to bring your dog in for a formal screening to determine if your pooch is a good fit for the daycare. If the daycare does not do an evaluation on your dog, you should be wary about using their service.
Your dog should be evaluated by the staff, who may look for the following-
- Is your dog healthy and mobile?
- Does your dog appear to be social, not painfully shy and hesitant to interact?
- Does your dog appear calm, not over-reactive to noises, stimulation or contact with other dogs and staff?
- Is your dog too young or too old to enjoy a daycare environment?
- Which playgroup is best for your dog?
Once the staff has evaluated your dog, they should evaluate how your dog interacts with the other dogs. They will look for signs of aggression in your dog and signs that your pooch is uncomfortable around the other dogs. A good daycare will not accept a dog that could be a potential danger to the others or one that could be harmed by the others.
What You Need Before Taking Your Dog to Doggy Daycare.
Doggy daycares may expect you to provide the following upon the admission of your pet:
- Current records showing proof of vaccinations
- Name and number of your veterinarian
- Your name and contact information
- Name and number of an emergency contact
- Your dog’s food if the daycare will be feeding your pup
- Any medications that the staff is expected to administer
Doggy Daycare for Puppies
As young puppies require special attention, look for daycares that keep puppies away from the older, larger dogs and make sure that the puppies are well supervised. There should be a separate area reserved for young puppies as they pick up bad habits quickly, which can then be extremely difficult to break. Look for daycares that are aware of the special needs of puppies and who are willing to cater to those needs.
Introducing Your Dog to Doggy Daycare – Take it Slow
Try a short visit of a few hours at first to see how your dog responds to being in a daycare situation. Pay attention to how your dog interacts with the staff and the other dogs and look for any signs of anxiety when you drop him off and when you pick him up.
What to Expect from a Doggy Daycare
Exercise and Playtime
Doggy daycare should provide your dog with supervised playtimes with other dogs and possibly one-on-one time with the staff members. There should be clean, uncluttered play areas inside and out, with the outside play area large enough to let the dogs run and play safely. Indoor areas should have non-slippery surfaces and be climate-controlled in case of extreme hot or cold weather. Smaller dogs should be separated from the larger dogs to keep them safe.
There should be allotted times for potty walks throughout the day in an area that is designated specifically as potty areas. Make sure the staff knows your dog’s particular needs. Older dogs may require more frequent trips to the potty area.
Rest and Nap Times
Your dog should have ample opportunities for rest after expending all that energy during playtimes. The facility should provide a comfortable area for dogs to rest during their stay. If your dog is accustomed to resting on his or her own blanket or doggy bed, ask the daycare staff if you could bring in these items from home. Most daycares, particularly ones that are equipped for overnight stays, will allow you to bring blankets or beds. Just make sure they are clearly marked with your dog’s name.
If you plan to leave your dog at daycare all day or for extended hours, you may want to find one that accommodates mealtimes. Ask about their feeding schedule and ensure that there is a clean area designated for that purpose. Most daycares expect you to provide your own food. Be sure to inform the staff of any food allergies that your pup has.
A good daycare should give your four-legged-friend plenty of mental stimulation, such as games and safe toys for controlled playtimes.
How Much Does Doggy Daycare Cost?
The cost of doggy daycare can vary widely depending on where you live. Even within your own area, rates vary depending on the amenities that the facility provides. Higher cost-of-living areas are generally more expensive, and daycares in larger cities normally have higher rates than those found in smaller cities and towns. If you take your dog in often, you may be able to take advantage of lower rates through memberships or weekly and monthly packages that many daycares offer.
The cost of a full-day care in cities and metropolitan areas generally range from $20-$50, half days from $12 to $30, with a 10–20% discount for the second dog. Overnight boarding can range from $35 to $60. Some daycares provide bathing and grooming for an additional fee, generally around $25 for smaller breeds.
Extra costs can include:
- Application fees – generally between $5 to $30
- Late fees – Expect to pay a late fee for arriving past normal pick-up time
- Emergency vet fees – this can run higher than a normal office visit
- Transportation fees, generally from $5 to $10 each way
Pros and Cons of Doggy Daycare
Doggy daycares provide well-needed exercise, particularly for breeds that are very energetic and require lots of exercise. Dogs that require plenty of exercise need more than a morning and evening walk, with 8 hours or more of rest in-between. Daycare is an ideal way to ensure that active dogs get the exercise they need and crave.
Dogs are social creatures and they naturally crave social interaction with other dogs. If your dog is the only dog at home, he may want some social contact with some canine friends. Doggy daycare can provide a supervised setting for this. Dogs learn socializing skills that will help them behave appropriately around other dogs at daycare and in other public places, such as parks and playgrounds.
Mental and Emotional Stimulation
Dogs can become easily bored when they do not get the necessary mental and emotional stimulation they need. Boredom translates to destructive behavior such as chewing and scratching items around the house. Daycare can provide them with the necessary stimulation through games, socializing, and playtime to ward off boredom and destructive behavior.
Some dogs can become overstimulated, particularly breeds that are hyperactive and very excitable. Overstimulation, resulting from hours of high activity and rowdy play with a room full of other dogs, can leave your dog overly-tired, stressed-out and irritable.
Dogs that are shy or not particularly social may be traumatized by hours of interacting with more social dogs, leading to fights or other aggressive behavior. Even the most attentive daycare staff may not be able to prevent dogs like this from being harmed or harming other dogs.
Illness or Disease
Any good daycare would make sure that all of their guests are up to date with their shots and vaccinations. Still, there are diseases and illnesses that can spread among groups of dogs, such as canine flu, kennel cough, and mange. These could, in turn, jeopardize your pup’s health.
What if Doggy Daycare is Not an Option?
Just as parents sometimes find a babysitter or nanny to provide child care services in the home, you can find individuals who offer daycare services for your dog in your home or theirs. Home daycares should be evaluated in the same way that you would evaluate a regular doggy daycare. Check if the home is clean and free of clutter, and that there are no more than three or four dogs per each caregiver. Ask to see a schedule or itinerary of the day’s activities to ensure that your pup is getting enough attention and exercise.
If your dog isn’t keen on daycare, there are other options to ensure that he or she gets enough exercise and stimulation to keep your dog happy and healthy.
Here are some suggestions:
- Play some games with your pup and go for a brisk walk prior to leaving for work. If he or she is tired out a bit, your pup will likely take a few long naps while you are gone.
- Do not put your dog in a cage or kennel during the day. Instead, dog-proof your home or at least the area he or she is confined to, and leave plenty of toys and doggy games to keep your pooch well occupied. Consider leaving food toys or safe chew toys around the room.
- Leave the television on with the volume low but loud enough for your dog to hear, so that he or she does not feel so alone.
- Leave recording equipment on with your recorded voice playing.
- Consider putting a webcam in the room so that you can monitor your dog throughout the day.
- Go home during lunchtime to be with your dog and to break up the time that he or she is alone.
- Hire someone to walk your dog at least once during the day so as to give your pup exercise and stimulation.
- Consider putting your dog in training classes a couple of days a week.
- Check out some dog sports for you and your dog. There are many different dog sport events that will exercise and entertain your dog AND you, while allowing you to bond even more strongly with your pup. The American Kennel Club can provide you with a list of dog sports in your area.
Top 15 Questions Asked About Doggy Daycares
1. How do I prepare my dog for doggy daycare?
First, make sure you are comfortable with the facility before enrolling. Check that the doggy daycare you choose has all the required safety qualifications and certifications for the area in which you live.
Visit the facility before taking your dog in and interview the staff. Watch the way they interact with their four-legged-guests. Staff should be open and friendly, and should exhibit a true love for the animals. Take your dog’s vaccination and medical records and discuss any health concerns with the staff. Ask whether you can bring your dog’s blanket or one of their toys to make them feel more at home during their stay.
The daycare should evaluate your dog to ensure that they are a good fit for their facility. Leave your dog for a short visit the first time and note any negative or unusual behavior when you drop him off and when you take him home. Discuss any concerns with the staff and make sure that they address your concerns appropriately.
2. Are there any special vaccinations that my dog should have before taking him to doggy daycare?
A good doggy daycare will ask for your dog’s vaccination and health records prior to accepting them as a client. Daycares expect your dog to have all required vaccinations and tests up-to-date and for you to provide written proof of these. Most daycares require vaccinations against:
- DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza)
- Bordetella (kennel cough)
- Fecal testing for parasites
- Flea and tick maintenance
Bordetella vaccines are not routinely given by veterinarians but most daycares require that your dog be vaccinated within the past 6 months, Bordetella vaccines have gotten some negative press in recent years, so make sure that you are aware of any possible complications. All dogs should be free of flea and ticks, if not, you’ll need to treat your dog at your own expense.
3. What should I do if my dog suddenly dislikes being around the other dogs?
Dogs are very social, particularly certain breeds like labrador retrievers, collies, golden retrievers, bull terriers and australian shepherds. Sometimes, dogs become less social or more aggressive as they grow older. Adolescent dogs may develop antisocial behavior similar to teenage angst in a human.
Certain illnesses or diseases may also cause a dog to become less social, so you may want to have your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian. Other reasons can include fear or anxiety, so discuss any situations in daycare that may have caused your dog’s personality to change.
Make sure the daycare is providing plenty of rest time and mental stimulation for your furry friend. It is best to continue to have your dog interacting with other dogs. Isolation can actually increase your dog’s anti-social tendencies. Some daycares have knowledgeable trainers available to work with your dog to improve his social skills and limit his aggression.
4. What are the top questions I should ask the daycare staff?
It is important to feel confident that your dog will be safe and well cared for when leaving them in a daycare facility. When you visit the center, you should come prepared with a list of questions for the staff. The 10 most important questions to ask are:
- What are the health/vaccination requirements to enroll my dog in your facility?
- How do you decide if a dog is the right fit to be eligible for enrollment, including health and temperament?
- Are the dogs placed into groups according to age, size, or other categories?
- What methods are used to manage the dogs’ behavior within the groups?
- Do the dogs have access to indoor and outdoor play areas?
- What kinds of activities, both physical and mental, will my dog be involved in?
- Does the staff have the required/necessary training and certifications?
- What is the procedure in case of a medical emergency, including contacting me and transport to the veterinarian?
- What is the ratio of staff to dogs at the daycare?
- Will I receive daily reports on my dog’s activities and behavior?
Finally, ask about the cost of daycare, application and enrollment fees, whether there are discounted rates for weekly or monthly packages, and the cost of additional services they provide.
It is important to tour the facility and observe the staff. Check to see that the environment is clean and safe for your dog and that the staff is friendly, open to any questions, and interact with the dogs in a loving, compassionate way.
5. How old does my dog need to be before I take him to doggie daycare?
Doggy daycare can be a good environment for your pup to learn socializing skills but doing so before you have had the time to teach and reinforce good habits in him could cause problems. Pups are particularly social and high-energy. A well-run doggy daycare can be a place where he or she can socialize with other pups and expend their energy. It can also be a place where your puppy can pick up bad habits that may be very hard to break. Hence, you may want to wait until you have had the time to train your pup and reinforce good habits.
Doggy daycares have a list of required immunizations, so it is best to wait until they have had all their puppy shots before seeking to enroll them in daycare. If you are in the process of potty-training your puppy, daycare may interfere with this process, unless you can find a daycare with trainers who are willing to work with your routine. If you have a naturally shy puppy, a daycare situation may create anxiety and fearfulness in your four-legged baby.
Veterinarians recommend that a puppy be between 6 and 9 months old before they are altered, and most daycares require that dogs be neutered or spayed. If your dog isn’t ready to be neutered, you will need to find a daycare that is willing to make that exception until he can be neutered. Otherwise, you might have to wait.
6. When were the first doggy daycares established?
Doggy daycares have become increasingly popular since the early 1990s. Dogs were traditionally outdoor animals, often living and working on farms and ranches. After World War II and the spread of urbanization, dogs frequently lived indoors and were treated more like a member of the family.
Two-earner families created a need for daycare centers to care for children during working hours. Many ‘dog parents’ were not comfortable with leaving their four-legged children at home alone all day and needed more options to provide their dogs supervision, exercise, and company while they worked. Doggy daycares were established to fill that need.
The first modern doggy daycares began to spring up in cities on the east and west coast in the late 1980s, and the trend has continued to thrive. There are now thousands of doggy daycares spread throughout the United States.
7. Should I tip the staff who cares for my dog at daycare?
Many dog owners tip a groomer without a second thought but consider kennels and daycares to be a product-based business rather than a service provider. While there’s a wide range of views on this subject, most doggy daycares do not specifically ask for tips. Some even discourage tips for fear that their clients might resent being pressured to shell out a tip in addition to the cost of the daycare fee.
It is entirely up to the dog owner whether they want to tip or not. Some dog owners will tip the staff on special holidays or on days that they are running late, although daycares generally charge a late fee if the owner doesn’t pick up the dog on time. Staff members might appreciate a tip and it certainly doesn’t hurt to let the person who takes care of your beloved pet know that the care they show is greatly appreciated.
8. What training and certifications are required of the doggy daycare staff?
Doggy daycares are largely unregulated, so any requirements for licensing and certifications are established by local city and county ordinances and local governments. Some cities require that certifications in animal care and handling be held by one or more members of the staff, and that one certified member must be present at all times. Even if no certifications are required, members of the staff can obtain independent certifications through organizations that offer certifications relevant to the pet care industry. Obtaining professional certifications shows that the staff is serious about their knowledge of pet care and pet handling, and that they strive to provide the best care for your pup.
9. Are caregivers at a doggy daycare supposed to know CPR?
There are no requirements in the United States that pet care workers be trained and certified in pet first aid and CPR, but with the popularity of doggy daycares steadily increasing each year, the demand for workers with training in pet safety and first aid has increased right along with it.
In a play group of 10 to 15 dogs romping and running around at any given time, accidents and injuries can happen. The American Animal Hospital Association states that one out of every four pets would have survived if even one first aid technique was performed prior to getting emergency care.
Ask about training and certifications in animal first aid and CPR when you are interviewing the daycare staff. If you and members of your family would like to become trained in pet first aid, there are many organizations throughout the country that offer pet first aid training and certification through online courses, one-one-one personal training sessions, and group classes. Your local veterinarian clinic or animal hospital may offer classes, and the American Red Cross can also help you locate training classes in your area.
10. Do doggy daycares have an evacuation plan in case of a natural disaster?
Natural disasters happen, and with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires on the 24-hour news cycle, knowing what to do in an emergency is as essential for a doggy daycare facility as it is for a school or childcare center.
All doggy daycares should have an evacuation plan in place before a disaster strikes. Ask about the evacuation procedures when you interview the staff, and make sure that these key points have been addressed:
- Does the center have a designated staff member monitor weather conditions and keep the rest of the staff updated?
- Is there a person appointed to begin evacuation procedures when it becomes necessary and to make sure all staff members understand who is in charge?
- Is there a designated assembly point to evacuate the animals to for safety?
- Is there survival gear in place to facilitate an evacuation? Survival gear should include leashes, transport carriers, animal records, including medical records and owner contact information stored at a safe location off the premises, in a separate hard drive or on the “cloud”.
- In the event that they experience a wide area of power outages and internet outages, are there back-up generators and a WiFi hot-spot device available to access records?
- Are there evacuation drills carried out at least twice a year to keep all staff members up to date on evacuation procedures and ensure a smooth evacuation?
11. Can a doggy daycare give my dog medication by injection?
Many daycares will administer medication by injection. Make sure that the daycare has enough syringes to administer all the injections your dog requires. Syringes should only be used once and should be disposed of in a proper medical waste receptacle.
Provide a medical chart for your dog’s medication unless the facility prefers to use their own. Make sure that the medical chart includes the type of medication, amount of medication and how often the medication is to be administered. The staff member giving the injection should document the time the medication is given and initial off on the type and amount of medication administered.
Let the staff know if your pup’s medication requires refrigeration. If the medication has the potential for human drug abuse or theft, ask that it be kept in a locked area or office.
12. Are doggy daycares required to be bonded and insured?
Pet care facilities are largely unregulated but any reputable daycare facility will carry insurance to cover their clients’ pets and property in the event of an accident, injury or theft. General liability insurance should cover bodily injury or property damage resulting from negligence by the daycare owner and employees.
Bonding is an additional form of insurance that businesses with employees carry to cover theft or harm to the client by an employee. It is basically secured money held by a bonding company that can be paid out in the event of a claim against the daycare center. Ask the facility for proof of insurance before leaving your pet with them.
13. What is the appropriate dog to staff ratio to expect?
Most dog behavior experts agree that the ratio of dogs to staff should not exceed 15:1. That should be the maximum ratio acceptable, but smaller ratios are preferable. There should never be more than 10 to 15 dogs in a group at any time. Therefore, an assignment of at least one staff member in charge of a group is what you should expect the staff to provide.
14. If another dog injures my dog, should I expect compensation from the owner or the daycare?
Individual daycares have their own policies about how to handle injuries to their guests. They should have these policies clearly spelled out in the contract that you sign. Many daycare contracts include a waiver of liability releasing the daycare of responsibility in the event that your dog causes or incurs any illness, injury or death as the result of interaction with another dog in their care. The contract may also state that the owner of a dog in their care is solely responsible for any costs incurred due to injury, illness or death from interaction with another dog in their care.
You may pursue the cost of any veterinarian bills and other related expenses with the owner of the other dog to see if they are willing to pay all or part of the costs. They may also want to turn the matter over to their homeowner’s policy and let them respond on their behalf. If you feel that the daycare staff did not take reasonable steps to keep your dog safe, try working with them to come to an agreement about sharing the costs incurred before taking any further action with the facility.
15. Do a doggy daycares provide pick-up and drop-off services?
Most doggy daycares have a transport service that will collect your dog and bring your dog back home. Make sure that the daycare uses a roomy, air-conditioned vehicle and confines the dogs to a veterinarian-approved crate to keep them safe during travel. Some dogs can get agitated while riding in a vehicle, so keeping them in a separate crate prevents an over-excited dog from injuring other dogs. It also allows the staff to open individual crates when arriving at the dog’s home instead of opening a vehicle door and possibly allowing other dogs to escape.
Find out what times the daycare makes its transport runs. If the dogs are transported during rush hours, say at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., they may be confined for a much longer period of time compared to off-peak hours. Longer transport times also mean less time that your pup will have to play at the daycare facility.
You also want to make sure that the drivers are screened to ensure that they have good driving records and that they have experience handling dogs.
Typical fees for transporting dogs range from $5-$10 each way.
Doggy daycares can be a great solution for dog owners who are away from home for long hours due to work or other demands but who also want to ensure that their four-legged friends get the physical, mental, and emotional stimulation that they need. These tips will help you select a daycare with a safe, loving and stimulating environment for your beloved companion. Your pup will thank you with lots of love and affection in return.
Have any great tips about doggy daycares? Leave them in the comments below so we can share with our readers.