7 Important Tips for Choosing the Best Dog Daycare

Doggy daycare is a great option for busy pet parents who don't want to leave their furry little ones home alone all day. But you want to make sure you find the right dog daycare for you and your pet. You wouldn't trust just anyone with a child; doesn't your dog deserve the same consideration? Get our expert's tips on what to look for in a dog daycare before you enroll your pooch.

So you've made the decision to find a doggy daycare for your pup. You’ll be able to go to work or out for the evening without feeling guilty for leaving your canine companion cooped up. It's a win-win situation! But how do you choose the right daycare for your pooch?

Amy Rosenthal, owner of Minneapolis-based Metro Dogs Daycare & Boarding, gave us the scoop on what to look for in a good dog daycare. No matter what city you live in, Rosenthal recommends doing a little digging on potential dog daycares to ensure you are selecting the best place for your pet. Here are seven things you need to do before taking Fido to daycare.

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When you visit a prospective dog daycare, watch how the workers interact with the dogs. You want to see people who are happy to be at work and enjoying their jobs. If you don't, chances are your dog won't get the attention and care you want her to have.

1. Tour the Facilities

Ask the dog daycare owner or manager for a tour. It's a good idea to see that the environment your dog will be hanging out in is clean and properly sanitized. You'll also want to learn about the safety precautions the owner has put in place.

"We have solid fences, as opposed to chain-link ones. With chain-link fences, dogs can see each other and they might try to fight through the fence," Rosenthal explains. "Of course, if a daycare has a chain-link fence, that doesn't mean the daycare isn't safe—these are just the things that you, as a dog owner, want to look out for."

Top Dog Daycare Safety Features:

  • Ventilation. Make sure fresh air is getting to the dogs, whether it's through open doors or a fresh-air exchange system.
     
  • Proper fencing. Make sure the facilities have fencing that is strong enough to resist the weight of a dog and high enough to keep adventurous dogs from jumping over.
     
  • Proper gating. Double gating provides a space for the dog to get acclimated to the play area before it joins the other dogs inside, which can improve safety.
     
  • Safe floors. Rubber and epoxy floors provide better grip than slick linoleum or cold concrete.

2. Make Sure Dogs are Grouped or Separated Appropriately

Large doggy daycares typically split dogs up into different playrooms based on a variety of factors. "Some facilities may have all dogs playing in one room," Rosenthal says.  "We like to separate the dogs based on size, temperament, and play style, because we feel that is important."

Rosenthal reminds dog owners to play things safe, even if your small pup routinely plays with larger breeds at the local dog park. "The dog park environment and the day care environment are very different things. In a dog park the dog can run and escape, but in a daycare environment that has four walls, you don't have that."

 

3. Ask About the Staff-to-Dog Ratio

Some states have a set dog-to-human ratio for dog daycares, and others don't. Ask the dog daycare owner about possible state guidelines. Both Rosenthal and International Boarding and Pet Care Services Association (a national organization that's involved in day care) recommend a ratio of 15 dogs per one human as a safe standard. The IBPSA also notes that allowances are often made for more active groups, where a ratio of one staffer per 10 dogs is desired, or less active groups, where 20 dogs per staffer is adequate.

4. Pick a Dog Daycare with Guided Activities

Rosenthal encourages dog owners to ask about the activities the dogs will do throughout the day. Is there any kind of training happening? If so, you might see improvements in your pup's behavior! "We do training and behavior modifications inside the playrooms," she says. "When the dogs go home, we often hear from owners that their dogs are behaving better, because we don't just have a doggy free-for-all. We like to work with the dogs to improve their behavior."

5. Check the Toy Policy

Some dogs can be very aggressive with other dogs, particularly when they are protecting a toy they think is theirs. If you know your dog isn't going to get along with another dog or dogs with toys, Amy suggests that dog owners bring the issue to the attention of the daycare managers—they will keep a careful eye on your pup.

6. Ask About The Daycare’s Treat Policy

Some dog daycares use treats to reward good behavior, and some don't. Ask the daycare manager about their use of treats and be sure to tell them if your dog displays aggressive behavior around food or if he’s on a special diet of any kind.

7. Look for a Daycare that Also Offers Boarding

If boarding your pet is something that you will be interested in down the road, ask if the daycare has boarding options available. "It's always going to be easier for a dog to acclimate to an environment if he's already been there playing," Rosenthal says. "It won't be as stressful for your dog to spend the night if he has already been there before."

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