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Is Your Dog a Candidate for Doggie Daycare?

As kids go back to school, daycare can help stem separation anxiety; here's what you need to know.

 |  Aug 29th 2014  |   10 Contributions


It’s the time of year when children go back to school, and many dogs get the blues because they miss their playmates. Unfortunately, these feelings can play out in the form of separation anxiety, and your house and your furniture can suffer from the effects of your overly anxious dog. Doggy daycare could be a good way to provide your dog some relief from boredom and separation anxiety. 

However, not all dogs are cut out for a group environment. Good candidates for doggy daycare are healthy, spayed or neutered and well-socialized dogs who “enjoy other dogs and seek interaction with them at every opportunity,” according to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). And younger dogs seem to adjust better to the daycare environment than older dogs. As much as I would love to take my dog, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, I believe her introverted personality would not be a good match. But if your dog is a social butterfly, read on to see if doggy daycare is a good option for the two of you.

Pros:

  • The opportunity to socialize with other dogs.
  • Exercise! A tired dog is a happy dog.
  • Your dog gets more mental stimulation.
  • It provides relief from boredom.

Cons:

  • Not all dogs are suited to a group environment.
  • Your dog could either get bit or bite another dog.
  • You run the risk of exposure to contagious diseases. Be sure the facility has a vaccination policy.

What to look for in a daycare facility

Many daycares conduct an initial behavior assessment to determine how a dog behaves around other dogs and people. You will also want to assess the daycare to decide whether it’s a fit for your dog. Look at how the playgroups are structured. Dogs should be grouped by size, and the safest number of dogs in a group is no more than 10. Dogs also need times for rest between play sessions.

There aren’t any national standards for canine daycare facilities; however, the ASPCA says a good rule-of-thumb for staffing is one employee per 10 to 15 dogs. The staff should be well-versed in handling dogs and managing canine behavior. The ASPCA recommends dog parents ask details about the facility’s dog handling and training methods, such as, “What would you do if another dog keeps bothering my dog?” and “What would you do if my dog barks too much?” in order to get a better idea how they would handle situations.

Check out the facility. Is it clean? Visit the daycare more than once to get a more accurate picture of what’s normal. The facility should be cleaned once or twice a day with adequate ventilation, and there shouldn’t be any lingering odor. Also, is the space large enough? Overcrowding can lead to aggression with most animal species. The ASPCA recommends a play area be 75 to 100 square feet per dog.

Ask about the daycare’s vaccination policies and flea-prevention plan. Most veterinarians recommend puppies have at least two rounds of their vaccination series before going into daycare. Most veterinarians also recommend that dogs who go to daycare facilities get vaccinated for Bordetella (aka kennel cough) at least one week in advance. Ask about the daycare’s protocol in the event of emergency illness or injury. Does someone on staff know how to administer first aid? Will your dog be taken to a veterinarian or emergency hospital if necessary?

If you decide your dog might be a good fit for daycare, you should visit the facility a couple of times and observe how your dog interacts with the others before leaving him or her for an extended period of time. And pay attention to how your dog seems when you pick him or her up from daycare. Does she seem stressed? A fearful or anxious dog will pant, have his ears and tail tucked down, and might have a wide-eyed look. For more information, read about a dog’s body language here

Do you take your dog to daycare? Tell us your experience in the comments!

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