Note: The info below is based on our personal experience of having our dogs at a few different dog daycare facilities over the years. It may differ from the experiences of others - we want to share this information as it could help decide if daycare is right for your dog.
Sending a dog to doggy daycare is very much like sending your kid off to school. You drop them off in the morning, hoping they will have a great day, and pick them up in the afternoon, hoping to find a tired, happy pup. Dog daycare was a relatively new concept when we had our first yellow lab, Indy. There weren't any local dog daycares to us, and we did not know anyone who sent a dog to one. Back then, if you were going away, you brought your dog with you or had someone come to the house to watch your dog or sent them to a kennel to board. These days, we take both of our dogs to daycare at least once a week – but is doggy daycare right for your dog? Here is our experience.
Indy came to work with me and liked to keep her eye on me.
When dog daycare became a thing, we had Sammy, our Akbash rescue. Sammy was a homebody who was the happiest hanging around with us, but we did need a solution for boarding him when we traveled. Personality-wise, he wasn’t really interested in other dogs, but he LOVED people. Being put in a kennel/boarding facility with a bunch of other dogs was not the best option for him. We decided to send him to a home-based dog sitter. He tolerated the dog sitter’s house, but it was not for him, and he let us know it by yelling (barking) at us when we picked him up. LOL. From then on, we had a dog sitter come to our house when we traveled. He was happy - and we could relax knowing he was comfortable while we were away. The takeaway? Dog daycare was not a fit for Sammy...and will not be some dogs.
Sammy, cozy at home.
That being said, doggy daycare is PERFECT for our dog, Moses. Moses is an Anatolian Shepherd rescue that lived in a boarding kennel for several months before coming to us. He LOVES being with other dogs. People? Not so much. Being at a park-like doggy daycare is the best fit for him. This daycare has lots of dogs for him to socialize with, open spaces to play (and dig!), and a staff of caregivers that he has bonded with. We call it his home away from home. If you tell Moses he is going to Frisky - the name of the doggy daycare – there is a celebration in his step!
Moses, cooling down inside his dog daycare on a hot day.
And our dog Lewie? His dog daycare is more active with hikes and swims but, he’s a Lab - he’d have fun in a paper bag, and he loves everyone with and without fur.
The doggy daycare you choose really depends on the kind of dog you have and what you, as the owner, feels is the best fit for your dog.
What You Need to Know
There are a few different types of dog daycare options. The best option really depends on your dog's personality. We recommend that you ask for a tour of any dog daycare you consider to see if it is a good fit for your dog. Many daycares offer new dogs a free trial day. It is a great way to see how your dog interacts and how they do away from you for an extended length of time. If a dog daycare you are looking at will not let you tour, move on to another daycare on your list.
Homebased doggy daycares are run out of private homes. This kind of daycare is best for dogs who may have anxiety and/or are not great at being part of a daily play pack with large groups of dogs.
Dog-park style doggy daycares group dogs together in large outdoor fenced areas. Many also have an indoor space where dogs can gather and play when too hot, cold, rainy, or snowy. Some daycares also pay close attention to the sizes of dogs they care for and have specific days or certain play areas just for big dogs and just for small dogs.
Training/Obedience-based dog daycares provide training/tune-up and lots of structure in playtime, walks, and activities that reinforce good behaviors.
*Boarding – many dog daycares also provide boarding. Many places that board dogs require that the dog has visited a few times prior to boarding so the dog and the staff get to know each other. Boarding situations can range from sleeping in a person’s home (home-based daycare) – to having individual kennels/crates to sleep in. If you plan to leave your dog overnight for a period, think about where your dog will most be most comfortable.
All dog daycares should require you to have proof that your dog has at least the most important vaccinations, like rabies. We currently use two different dog daycares and one requires a few more immunizations than the other. The goal is to keep your dog, and the other dogs, healthy.
At dog daycares, a pack is formed each day – comprised of all the dogs who show up in the morning. Most daycares have a certain drop-off time that allows the pack to form. Any latecomers can disrupt the pack, so it’s important to stick to drop-off and pick-up times for that reason.
Lewie and the pack of the day.
Other Things to Consider
It’s like school – you may get a call from the “Principal”. Imagine a big schoolyard with a lot of different personalities. Things happen. Yep – just like a kid, your dog may misbehave. They may get snarly, or in a tangle, or exhibit behavior that the caregivers question or are concerned with. Take this as good feedback and appreciate that the caregivers are doing their job. The caregivers are there to make sure your dog, and the other dogs, are safe.
Is doggy daycare right for my dog? If your dog is socialized, likes other dogs, is somewhat trained with basic commands, and does not display separation anxiety, doggy daycare can be a great fit.
If your dog is anxious when away from you or the house, this may not be the right fit. For dogs who are not great at being around other dogs, daycare may not be a great fit. There are other options. A dog sitter who comes to your house can be a great alternative and there are dog walking companies that can walk/exercise dogs who have excess energy to burn.
How will I know if my dog likes doggy daycare? The main indicator is that they will want to go when you mention it or when you pull up to the doggy daycare! The dog will be eager to get in the car, they will be happy on the way, and they will be excited when they arrive. If you sense excess anxiety or hesitancy from your dog when you bring them daycare – chances are they are not loving it.
What is the best way to find a doggy daycare near me? When we needed to find Lewie a new daycare (Moses became overprotective when they were together at the same dog daycare), we asked our friends and posted a question on our town's Facebook page. Within a few minutes, we had several names of highly recommended dog daycares in our area to check out.
Photo credit: Rory Schmidt
I love the picture of Moses digging and the other dog off to the right just watching. LOL For some reason is just cracked me up.