Doggy Daycare – What to Look For

Doggy Daycare

Bro, I’m a little tired. Let’s just lie down here for a while and rest up so we can play some more.

Doggy daycare is a great option for dog parents looking to socialize their dog, get him out of the house and having fun while they’re at work, or just to burn off some of that extra energy. But before you ship your furry friend off to day camp to play with his dog buddies, you’ll need to consider what you want from your doggy daycare service provider.

Since we actually provide this service, we know what you should look for – that’s because when we started “Daytime Playtime”, we thought of what we would want our own dogs to do while they were away at dog day camp…then we built our processes and our facility around those needs. Here’s what we came up with.

Doggy Daycare Must-Haves

1. Run by a certified dog trainer: Seems obvious, right? If you’re going to watch and care for dogs all day, especially in a group setting where various behaviors and play styles are at work, you should know about dogs, dog body language, and dog behavior. In fact, you should know a LOT about these things. While simple and repeated observation will supposedly teach anyone the very basic principles of dog behavior, we’ve actually found that people end up forming so many misconceptions about dog behavior in this manner that their “knowledge” does more harm than good.

If your dog’s daycare service isn’t run by a dog trainer (and a purely positive one), RUN, do not walk, away. A good dog daycare manager/dog trainer will make sure her staff has a working knowledge of positive training techniques as well. Staff need not be trainers – that’s unrealistic, since the process of certification (the CPDT-KA, for example) takes years and is fairly expensive. However, staff should be fairly well-versed in basic training and dog behavior.

2. Purely Positive: Yes, we already mentioned this above. But purely positive is the way to go. No shock collars, electric collars, air horns, spray bottles, etc. These “training tools” serve only to confuse and confound your pup and detract from effective training. If the trainer running your dog’s day camp isn’t purely positive, think about that for a moment. Do you pull hard on your dog’s his leash or collar? Do you yell at him to excess, or push or hit him? Probably not…and if you don’t want anyone else to do any of those things, make sure your dog’s daycare staff have a mindset and service that is grounded in the purely positive mentality.

3. Pet First Aid and CPR: You may not know pet first aid and CPR, but your doggy daycare provider should. If you’re checking your best friend into day camp, make sure the staff know what they’re doing. Not only should they know about positive training, all staff should know pet first aid and CPR.

4. Cleanliness: Let’s face it…dogs are messy. REALLY messy. Between dog hair, the inevitable “accidents,” and slobber, a dog daycare facility gets really, really dirty during the day. Pretty smelly too (believe us, we know). The facility itself should be cleaned daily. This will typically involve vacuuming, followed by disinfecting/cleaning the floors and other surfaces frequented by dogs. Any dog beds, toys, and anything else the dogs come into contact with will also have to be washed daily (if possible) or replaced periodically.

5. Safety: Safety in a doggy daycare setting is primarily a product of knowledge – including behavioral knowledge (understanding dog behavior and play styles) and first aid/CPR. But other factors include solid flooring that offers traction for dogs. It’s fine for areas to be covered by tile, wood, or other hard surfaces, but there should also be areas where dogs can run and get good traction. Rubber flooring is especially good for this, though there are other options.

6. Outside Time: At a minimum, dogs should go outside to go to the bathroom and get some fresh air. A simple walk for each dog a couple times each day will suffice, but is difficult for daycare staff to maintain. A better option is a fenced-in area outside. During nice weather, many dogs will never want to come inside. That’s fine, as long as they don’t get too cold or hot! Speaking of which – the inside of the facility should be properly heated or air conditioned.

7. Special Accommodations: Daycare facilities can sometimes be a “one size fits all” deal, and the truth is that there is very little that anyone can do to avoid this dynamic to at least some extent…but there should be enough flexibility to have your dog stay on his eating schedule (if applicable), be given medication at certain times, and not be exposed to treats that he may be allergic to. Doggy daycare services will sometimes charge extra for administering medications – that’s no problem, but the service itself should be available.

Measuring Up

There are, of course, other things to look for in a doggy day camp, but these are the basics, and it’s surprising how many fail on several fronts even among the items on this simple list. If you’re taking your pup to daycare, make sure to ask questions, talk to the owner or manager, and find out what type of training they do, what their dog training certifications include, and what experience they have dealing with dog behavior and various play styles. You (and your pup) will be glad you did!