You just got a puppy, but you still have a full time job. How do you choose the best dog daycare for your puppy?
Placing him in a dog daycare center can help solve your problem. And it can improve the quality of your puppy’s life.
But you must choose the proper one.
Dog daycares started in the mid-1990s and have been growing in popularity ever since then.
But they aren’t regulated, so you must assess whether it’s well-run and meets your dog’s needs.
Some daycare have “accreditations” that they purchased from a business. These really don’t mean more than that they paid a membership fee, as regular inspections aren’t required.
There are many factors that go into selecting the best doggy daycare for your puppy.
In this article, I’ll discuss those criteria as well as questions you should ask when making your decision.
Why Place Your Dog in a Doggy Daycare?
Of course if you work long hours, your puppy can’t stay alone too long. He has to potty.
And he needs some exercise and mental stimulation.
Adult dogs have the same needs.
If your dog is friendly to other dogs and people, a dog daycare center can be great.
A well-run daycare will provide an opportunity to meet and play with other dogs and the daycare staff.
It should also provide mental stimulation and physical exercise. So your dog will be socialized to new experiences in addition to canines and people.
Puppies need to be socialized to develop into well-rounded adults.
It also can help dogs who have separation anxiety or prevent them from developing such stress.
How To Choose The Best Dog Daycare For Your Puppy
The Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) says to look at certain things such as how clean and safe the facility is.
The PACCC is a nonprofit agency that certifies that the daycare meets certain standards.
So if the daycare doesn’t provide the following information, you should ask about it specifically when determining whether to leave your beloved puppy there.
Consider the following factors when choosing a daycare.
The staff should openly inform you of the facility’s policies and training and pack management philosophy.
There are many questions you can ask.
Do They Temperament Test?
Not all dogs are meant to be in dog daycares. A well-run dog daycare center will test each prospective client’s dog to determine whether he should be there.
Even friendly dogs may be overwhelmed in a setting with numerous other dogs.
They should assess each dog’s temperament and personality. And whether a dog guards resources such as toys, space, or people, because such dogs aren’t appropriate for daycare.
They should also take a health and behavior history from each dog owner.
The daycare should have a process of slow introductions to other dogs when assessing whether a candidate should attend.
They should also assess how well your pup does with being handled by other people. After all, the daycare’s staff will have to handle your pup, placing and removing collars and leashes, petting, and maybe even picking up your dog.
What Training Does the Staff Have?
Ideally, the staff should be trained in animal behavior, including canine body language, and warning signs of danger, stress, or illness.
The staff should be trained in basic canine care and safety procedures. And in first aid.
And the staff should be compassionate, caring, and patient.
What’s the Staff-to-Dog Ratio?
The staff-to-dog ratio is important so that all dogs receive enough attention and for safety.
Generally, there should be one well-trained, experienced staff member for every 15 dogs.
That ratio should be smaller if the group is composed of high-energy dogs. Then, there should be one such staff member to every seven to 10 dogs.
Or, in a less active group, one staff member to every 20 dogs is considered acceptable.
Is the Facility Safe and Appropriate?
The facility shouldn’t have any outlets or wires that can pose a safety risk.
It also should have safe entries and exits. Usually, this means a double-door system so that dogs can’t escape. Even safety latches help so that dogs can’t accidentally open doors.
Any fences should be at least six-feet tall. There should be no gaps in the fencing so that dogs can’t escape.
Also, dogs should NEVER be left alone–even for a minute–inside or outside.
Are There Procedures in Place for Emergencies?
Even though we want everything to be trouble-free, sometimes things go wrong.
A dog may be injured or a natural disaster may occur.
It’s important to determine whether the daycare center has any emergency procedures it will follow in such an event.
They should have a plan regarding when a dog should be taken to receive vet care. The plan should name what veterinary facility the dog will be taken to if necessary and whether your vet would be contacted.
Note that the facility should have an adequate number of staff members to take a dog to a vet should an emergency occur.
It’s also important to determine how and when they’ll communicate with you in the event of such an injury.
This should be in writing and you should make sure that you agree with any such matters before signing any documents.
Will You Be Informed of How Your Pup’s Doing?
It’s important to determine whether your dog’s thriving in daycare. Will you receive any daily or weekly reports how he’s doing?
Is there webcam access for you to watch him during his day? Does the daycare post videos or photos of the dogs during the day?
Will the daycare notify you if they see a change in your dog’s behavior or well-being?
Although not every daycare will have all of the above, it’s important for you to be able to determine how he’s actually doing while at daycare.
What Vaccines Do They Require?
At a minimum, they should require basic vaccinations such as DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza) and rabies.
So, the age a puppy may attend can depend on when he’s had certain vaccines.
Many also require bordetella (kennel cough) and canine influenza vaccines.
In addition to vaccines, some even require that your pup be on a flea and tick preventative.
What Are Their Spay/Neuter Policies?
Most facilities require that dogs attending be spayed or neutered.
Although sometimes puppies who haven’t been neutered may attend, many facilities require that they be neutered between six months and one year old.
This rule is for the safety in managing the pack or group of dogs, not because of any particular philosophy regarding neutering.
What Type of Discipline Is Used?
You have to determine whether the facility uses punishment, such as shock collars, shake cans, or water hoses to discipline dogs who go over threshold or are aggressive.
First of all, aggressive dogs shouldn’t be in a daycare setting. But things can escalate when dogs are playing–even in a well-run facility.
That’s why it’s important for the staff to be well-trained and experienced and for them to place the right dogs together.
Punishment should never be used. Not only is it cruel, but it can also escalate unwanted behaviors.
A well-run facility would use techniques to redirect dogs before things escalate. It would reward good behaviors by using praise, petting, or play.
Some may use short time-outs, which is acceptable if done properly. Or playing fetch may end if unwanted behaviors occur regarding such play.
It’s important for the facility to also give dogs a rest period so that they don’t become overly tired and stressed.
What Routines Are in Place?
Dogs thrive when they have a great routine. So the daycare should have a variety of activities in place in which the dogs can participate.
Some dogs are higher drive than others and need more activities that are appropriate for them.
Facilities may have safe, low agility equipment. And kiddie pools. And balls for fetch.
Dogs should also have a designated, comfortable rest area where they can re-charge.
Also, check what the toy and treat policies are.
Not all dogs will be great when nearby dogs receive treats. So they may have to give treats individually. And some dogs need special diets.
What Is the Facility Like?
You should be able to take a tour of the facility at some point before you decide.
You want to see that it’s clean and doesn’t have an unpleasant odor.
Find out what their cleaning protocols are. They should use veterinary hospital grade disinfectants to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses.
The facility should have good ventilation.
It’s best too if the floor surface where the dogs will play is made of rubber or epoxy rather than slick linoleum or cold concrete.
The dogs will have better footing and not be as prone to injury.
There should be about 75 to 100 square feet of play space per dog, so that too many dogs aren’t crowded in too small an area. So a facility should have about 1500 square feet for a play group of 15 dogs.
Is the Daycare Bonded and Insured?
Your pup is your prized companion. You want to be sure that, should anything occur where your dog is unnecessarily injured, the daycare is solvent to pay any bills.
Of course, there’s always some risk when a pup attends daycare.
Dogs may pull a muscle or get a scratch while playing. And daycares usually don’t cover such events.
What Is the Cost?
Of course you want what’s best. But daycare is costly.
The costs vary depending on the area of the country and the type of facility. And some places charge additional fees for some services, such as individual play with a staff member.
Find out the exact price you’ll be charged. Some offer packages which make the per-visit fee cheaper.
Types of Daycares
There are different types of daycares depending on their size and how they manage the dogs in their care.
Dog Park Style
These may have indoor facilities or indoor/outdoor facilities. They are generally larger places.
Find out how they plan for weather that’s too hot or too cold for the dogs.
The larger areas in this type of facility generally lends itself to high-energy dogs because they have more room to play in.
Very social dogs like this type of facility and do well there.
Cautious or shyer dogs generally don’t prefer this type of facility.
Note that facilities that have only indoor facilities might not have an outdoor area where the pups can potty. If the dogs must go to the bathroom inside, their potty training may be hampered.
Separated Play Area Style
In this type of facility, dogs are separated into different playgroups based on energy level, play style, or size.
The groups are usually smaller than those in the dog park style type of daycare.
The groups usually consist of 10 to 20 dogs, depending on the size of the room and number of staff members.
Cautious and shyer dogs generally do better in this type of facility.
Home Style Daycare
This type of daycare is held in someone’s home. Local law and licensing requirements govern how many dogs may be present.
Usually only a few dogs can attend.
This smaller-type facility is usually better for more cautious or shyer dogs who may be overwhelmed by too much activity in larger centers.
What You Can Look for To Determine Whether It’s a Good Fit
Although it’s important to take the above factors into consideration when choosing a daycare, it’s also important to see if it’s a good fit for your puppy.
Each dog’s an individual. He may or may not like being there.
See if he seems happy when you take him there.
Does he want to go into the facility or does he pull away and not want to go inside?
Of course, it may take a few sessions for him to really love being there. But if he seems totally stressed going in, it may not be a good fit for him.
My Aussie mix Millie is currently in daycare two days a week. At first, she didn’t seem thrilled when I took her inside.
But after about three sessions, she got the routine, learned to love the staff, and would pull to get inside. And when I pick her up, she seems relaxed and happy.
Dog daycare can be a great place for your pup. But you have to make sure that the place meets certain requirements. And it’s important to choose one that fits your dog’s personality and needs.