Daycare can be a great option for dogs who would otherwise be left alone for 8+ hours a day, or if they have isolation distress / separation anxiety that you are currently modifying. We must advise that there are few dogs that are a good fit in a daycare environment. Dogs are not built to be physically and mentally stimulated for long periods of time, and daycare can do just that. Overstimulation can cause aggression and inappropriate play between dogs.
If your dog is any of the following, then daycare is NOT the right option for your dog.
- New to you (less than 2 months in the home),
- Under 6 months,
- Lacking in socialization or poorly socialized,
- Fearful, anxious, reactive, aggressive or bullying tendencies.
Daycare is for well-socialised, stable, behaviourally sound dogs who are reliably appropriate with other dogs and enjoy play. Daycare and dogs parks are not meant to “socialise” your dog.
If you choose daycare, know that more than a couple days a week in that environment may lead to behavioural issues. We might suggest alternating days with a dog walker so that your dog can get appropriate rest and practice being home alone. Did you know dogs need 14-17 hours of sleep out of 24 hours? The remaining hours are best used as appropriate physical and mental stimulation.
What are our criteria? We want to ensure the following:
- Trained staff (body language, group management, fight protocols, pet first aid & CPR)
- Gentle / humane handling of all dogs
- No aversives (leash corrections, physical punishment, compressed air, spray collars, shock collars, alpha rolling, pennies in a can, air horns or other startle tactics
- Appropriate human to dog ratio (ideally 6:1 and no more than 10:1 is acceptable)
- 100% supervision – dogs must never be left unattended even for 30 seconds
- Behaviour assessment in advance of acceptance and a well-supervised, short trial
- Refuse admittance to dogs with a bite history to protect other dogs and staff
- Ideally, live webcams to check up on dogs during the day – promoting transparency
- Climate controlled environment
- Frequent access to a safe / clean outdoor area for potty breaks
- Non-skid flooring to prevent injury, sanitised daily to prevent communicable disease
- Access to fresh / clean drinking water at all times
- Separate playgroups for large breeds and small breeds to prevent predatory drift injuries and fatalities
- Frequent opportunities for rest to prevent overstimulation
- Interruption of rough play and bullying behaviours
- Veterinarian-approved protocols for communicable disease (kennel cough, parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis, parasites, etc…)
- Immediate notification of loss, illness, or injury (of dog) and any outbreaks
- Immediate removal of dogs showing signs of fear/anxiety and/or aggression
- Fully insured
- A clear contract in layperson terms that outline responsibilities and action to be taken in the event of an incident (ask a few “what if” questions to get an idea of what would happen and who would take responsibility, and how.)
Should you choose to utilise a daycare for your dog, keep the lines of communication open with them, asking about any changes in behaviour, play style, and health on a regular basis.
Again, consider whether a dog walker might be a better fit because dogs need 14-18 hours of sleep out of 24 and you really don't want an overstimulated dog whose endurance has been built to a level that you can't maintain going forward!