Do your Homework When Choosing Dog Daycare

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It’s so nice when your dog comes home from a day at daycare and sleeps for the rest of the evening. This is the desired result, right? Unfortunately an exhausted dog isn’t always a happy dog. Ideally your dog is tired from a day of learning and playing and is resting well. On the flip side exhaustion also comes from a day full of anxiety, stress and barking.

Dogs are social animals. Although, it’s not a substitute for regular exercise, many dogs benefit from getting out of the house and can get antsy when stuck at home for long periods of time. Dogs tend to enjoy new experiences and a release for their energy. Just like humans, some dogs love being social and some would prefer being at home with peace and quiet. Not all dogs are appropriate for daycare. A good daycare program will help you decide if it’s a good option for your dog.

Once you’ve decided that your dog is a good candidate for daycare, it’s time to pick a good one! The experience your dog has at daycare can vary widely depending on the facility you choose. It can be a wonderful thing for both puppies and adult dogs. Puppies can have many good experiences with new surfaces and objects, other puppies and friendly people. Shy adult dogs can gain confidence; and pushy dogs can learn new social skills. Their experiences can have a huge effect on their development and behavior outside of daycare. This can be a great thing! Drop your dog off all day and know he is learning many good skills and behaviors.

Since all daycares are not alike, it can also be a disaster, leading to detrimental and lasting effects on your dog. If poorly run, your dog might be in very large, unsupervised groups, not given rest time, or even learning bad habits. Avoid places that immediately put your dog in the mix with no prior knowledge of temperament or play style. It’s also important to know how problems are handled. The use of verbal or physical punishments by daycare staff is not recommended.

Some Questions to ask a Potential Daycare for your Dog

Is the program managed by a dog trainer? The staff should have education in animal behavior and body language. Since it’s not a regulated industry, it’s up to you to look into this! An experienced trainer can observe play groups and make split second decisions to intervene to prevent over arousal, tension or discomfort.

Are the play groups small and supervised? It’s impossible for any one person to manage a group that is larger than 10-15 dogs. Crowded play groups are more likely to have fights. Dogs shouldn’t be left “to sort out problems themselves”.

How are unwanted behaviors handled? Ensure that your dog isn’t subjected to harsh punishments.

Is there some structure during the day? Dogs need a break during the day. Constant interaction with other dogs, can be a negative, overwhelming experience. The facility should have quiet time with beds or crates for relaxation. Quiet time does not mean barking in a crate all day. In addition to periods of rest and play, there should be opportunities to go potty outside.

What other enrichment is offered during the day? Puzzles? Training? Ask what other activities, besides playing with other dogs, are offered.