How to choose a dog daycare

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Dog daycares used to be a rarity. But during the past few years, the number of dog daycare facilities throughout the United States has increased. Because of this growth, there’s been a proportional increase in the number of facilities which are less than desirable.

So it’s more important than ever to thoroughly evaluate a daycare before leaving your dog in their hands. I won’t discuss how to decide if you want your dog to go to daycare. That’s a topic for another day. If you have already made the decision, here are some things to look for.

Of course, you should consider proximity to your home or workplace. Look at a couple of different facilities if possible before you decide. This will give you a better idea of what is typical and what characteristics are unique to each facility. You may find that driving a little bit out of the way is worth it. Staff should be friendly to you and to your dog. Avoid a facility that seems to treat your dog as anything but the beloved pet he is. Staff should take an interest in asking your dog’s name and greeting him. They should be happy to answer any of your questions. Ask for a fill tour of the facility. A reputable daycare will be glad to take you through the main areas. There may be some areas which, due to insurance, are not accessible. You’re looking for a facility that is clean and well-kept. Dogs are dogs, so even the cleanest facility may have certain odors.

All dogs should be required to pass an evaluation before they are permitted to attend regularly. The evaluation should be at least fifteen minutes, preferably an hour. At this time, staff assesses how your dog reacts to other dogs and the playfloor supervisors. It’s a new situation for him, so a bit of nervousness is expected. Dogs who show excessive anxiety, snapping or biting, or other inappropriate or aggressive behavior will not pass the evaluation. In my opinion, the evaluation should be free to you, but some daycares do charge. You may be permitted to watch the evaluation but, honestly, it’s better if you don’t. Your presence will affect your dog’s behavior, and it’s best for staff to see how he reacts without you there.

Dogs must be spayed or neutered and have all shots up to date. This is for the protection of your dog, and in some areas is required by state regulations. Be prepared to show evidence of your dog’s shot records when you enroll. The more often a dog attends daycare, the more comfortable he will become. However, for some dogs, every day is too much. They become overstimulated which can lead to anxiety. Two or three days a week is enough to give your dog some activity without becoming overwhelmed. Daycare isn’t right for every dog. Don’t be upset or offended if a daycare tells you that your dog hasn’t passed the evaluation, or if he is asked to leave even after attending for a while. In fact, this is a sign that the facility puts the safety and comfort of the dogs first. You should be provided a straightforward and complete reason for your dog’s dismissal.

NR Tomasheski is a dog trainer who spent seven years as co-owner of a canine daycare, boarding, and grooming facility in Sherman Oaks, California. She has competed with her own dogs in agility, obedience, and rally.

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