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Answering Your Questions About Doggie Daycare

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Two brown Cavadoodle dogs running in a grassy area.

What’s doggie daycare? How is it different from boarding your dog? Are all doggie daycares created equal? How do you know if your dog enjoys going to daycare? Let’s dive in to answering common questions about doggie daycare so you can have the information you need to decide if this is the best choice for you and your pup.

What’s the Difference Between Dog Boarding and Daycare?

Dog boarding is a service made for pet parents who need a little extra help taking care of their furry friends for an extended period. Whether you're jetting off on a vacation, heading out on a business trip, or dealing with a major life event, boarding your dog at a reputable kennel can be an ideal, overnight solution. At a boarding kennel, your pup will get lots of attention, regular meals, exercise, and, of course, friends to keep them company. You can board your dog for a day or two all the way up to a couple weeks, with some long-term boarding facilities being specially qualified to board dogs for several weeks at a time.

Doggie daycare, on the other hand, is perfect for busy pet parents who can't be with their dogs during the day or may not be able to provide adequate exercise, typically because of work obligations. Daycare offers your dogs a fun and social experience while you're away for the day. Unlike boarding, which is for overnight stays, daycare focuses on daytime care. Your pup gets to play, exercise, and enjoy human interaction in a safe and stimulating environment during business hours. At the end of the day, you pick them up and enjoy your night at home together.

What Are the Benefits of Doggie Daycare?

Doggie daycare offers a dynamic setting where pups can interact with other dogs, stay active, and participate in supervised play all day long. Dogs are given opportunities to engage in interactive play sessions, exercise in designated play areas, and participate in activities tailored to their needs. They are watched carefully by trained staff, fed well throughout the day, and given lots of belly rubs and ear scritches whenever they want.

Keeping your dog active, engaged, and entertained throughout the day can help prevent boredom and destructive behavior that may occur when dogs are left alone for long periods. For dogs that struggle to be alone with destructive behaviors like barking or chewing, daycare can be a great option as you work on teaching your dog more appropriate skills.

Daycare can be especially great for young puppies who need regular socialization to thrive. Likewise, daycare is great for keeping older dogs in shape and can offer them the mental stimulation they need to prevent cognitive decline.

Well-run dog daycares work because of the structured framework of the playgroups. Instead of dog parks where dogs of unknown health and temperament are set loose (not infrequently resulting in fights, injury, and the spread of illness), daycares generally involve a more structured and supervised opportunity for dogs to play together. This can offer extra peace of mind to pet parents; knowing that their furry companion is being cared for by professionals who understand their needs may help alleviate any guilt or worry associated with leaving them alone at home.

Do Dogs Enjoy Going to Doggie Daycare?

It really depends on the individual dog, but many dogs do enjoy going to doggie daycare--especially social breeds like Labs and Golden Retrievers. It’s a great opportunity for them to socialize with other dogs, burn off energy, and have some fun while their humans are busy. Plus, they get lots of attention and playtime from the staff.

However, daycare may not be suitable for every dog. Some dogs may find the noises, scents, and bustling atmosphere overwhelming, which can result in fear, anxiety, or even more overt displays like growling, snapping, and lunging to try to keep other dogs away. It's important to understand that not all dogs will enjoy daycare, as preferences can vary greatly. Ultimately, the only way to determine if your dog will thrive in such an environment is to give it a try.

When deciding whether or not to send your dog to daycare, it is crucial to think about whether it is a place where your dog will genuinely enjoy going and if it will provide any benefits for them. Here are some signs that indicate your dog may not love the doggie daycare experience:

  • They become reactive or show aggression when they encounter other dogs.
  • They've had little socialization with other people and animals.
  • They're fearful around unfamiliar people and pets.
  • They're prone to sensory overload.
  • They guard resources (like toys or even people) or show signs of food aggression.

By paying attention to these signs, you can make an informed decision about whether doggie daycare is the right choice for your four-legged friend.

How Will I Know If My Dog Enjoys It?

Most of the time, dogs make it pretty clear when they enjoy their daycare program. For example, you may notice your pup wagging their tail enthusiastically or eagerly heading towards the door at the mere mention of daycare. Another telltale sign is when your dog becomes excited and eagerly peers out of the car windows upon arriving at the facility. On the other hand, if your dog appears nervous or hesitant to leave when you bring up daycare, it's likely an indication that they do not enjoy going. (Keep in mind that some dogs may display similar behaviors if they experience fear during car rides. In these cases, it is possible that the anxiety is caused by the car itself rather than the daycare environment.) Ask the staff for feedback and updates on your dog’s demeanor and behavior if you’re unsure. Even better, opt for a daycare that offers live video feed, allowing you to observe how your dog is doing throughout their stay.

How Do I Find the Right Doggie Daycare?

If you're a pet parent thinking about enrolling your dog in daycare, keep in mind that not all daycares are the same. Daycare facilities that prioritize providing top-notch care typically have a smaller dog-to-staff ratio and a larger team to ensure effective supervision. They also take into account the size and energy levels of dogs to form playgroups that are both safe and suitable for their individual playstyles. Additionally, well-run daycares incorporate structured downtime to allow dogs to take a break and rest before playtime resumes.

When exploring different daycare options, it's important to inquire about the training and education requirements for the staff. This will help ensure that they possess the necessary knowledge and expertise in understanding dog behavior and body language.

A reputable doggie daycare facility should place a high emphasis on safety and follow rigorous protocols to ensure the welfare of all dogs under their supervision. This entails enforcing necessary vaccination requirements, conducting routine health checks, and employing well-trained staff members who are capable of handling any potential incidents. They also may require an evaluation before allowing your dog to join the daycare on a regular basis.

While the most expensive doggie daycare isn’t necessarily the best daycare, a good daycare that is safe, well maintained, and with well-trained staff isn’t always the cheapest option, either.

When considering enrolling your dog in daycare, it may take some research and trial days to find a facility that suits both you and your dog. If possible, look at multiple doggie daycares to see how they operate. Select the one that feels like the best fit for both of you.

It’s also important that you find a daycare that isn’t using any aversive techniques. This includes punishments such as:

  • throwing shaker cans to startle/distract dogs
  • utilizing physical correction
  • collar corrections
  • shock or e-collars
  • spray bottles or “dog off” spray
  • airhorns, which affect every dog within hearing range

Instead, seek out a doggie daycare that utilizes positive reinforcement training methods and manages the setup of the space to help dogs to be successful, rather than punishing their behavior.

With these doggie daycare questions answered, you can find a hangout that you and your dog can feel good about. Dog daycare isn’t only a new adventure for your pup — it’s a change for you, too, and with some research and lots of extra love, you and your dog can tackle this new experience together.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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