Is Daycare Right for Your Dog?

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Doggy daycare can be a great alternative to spending the day at home alone. It provides both physical and mental stimulation, as well as socialization with other dogs. Some daycares also provide light manners training. But not every dog has the personality for doggy daycare. Here are few tips to help you decide if it’s a good choice for your pet.

All dogs must pass an evaluation before they are permitted to attend daycare. The evaluation consists of observing the dog’s behavior within the playgroup for a period of fifteen minutes to one hour. For most dogs, fifteen minutes is enough for experienced staff to assess a dog’s suitability. If the behavior is borderline, then a longer evaluation may be necessary.

The ideal dog is neither too aggressive nor too shy. It is normal and appropriate to show a certain deference, when entering the group, to the dogs who are already present. This body language lets the other dogs know that there is no threat and a desire to just get along. Within a few minutes, the new dog will get a feel for the group and begin to join in with play, or calm watching, whichever is his preference.

Dogs who are not appropriate for daycare are those who are overly aggressive, bullying other dogs, playing too roughly, or humping excessively; and those who are overly nervous, hiding and nipping. These dogs not only fail to gain any benefit from group play, but their energy increases the level of tension in the group.

Most daycares require that attendees be neutered. This is because the stronger hormonal odors of unaltered dogs disrupt the harmony of the group. Unaltered dogs are often picked on, and otherwise well-behaved dogs can become competitive in their presence.

One reason that people choose to take their dogs to daycare is because their dogs are destructive at home. Dogs become destructive out of boredom, and daycare gives them something to do with their time. It also burns physical and mental energy, so they’ll be calmer overall and will often cease being destructive entirely.

Dogs with separation anxiety are sometimes helped by attending daycare, where they have something to take their minds off of being apart from their beloved owner. However, some, especially those with severe anxiety, are unable to relax. The only way to know which way your dog will go is to give it a try. In my experience, a dog who eventually calms down will do so within fifteen minutes to a half hour. If she is still expressing anxious behavior at this point, daycare is not going to be a solution for that dog.

Among the benefits of daycare is that your dog will be as tired as you are at the end of the day. Instead of being a ball of energy when you get home from work, he’ll be happy to just curl up and watch television with you.

It’s best if your dog attends daycare at least once a week. Every day can be too much, That leads to overstimulation and overexertion. Once a month or less, and your dog doesn’t get the same sense of routine and the staff doesn’t have the opportunity to become familiar with your dog’s personality and typical behaviors.

If you think your dog could benefit from attending daycare, visit the facilities in your area to choose the one that best meets your needs.

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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