Amy Rosenthal, owner of Minneapolis-based Metro Dogs Daycare & Boarding, gave us the scoop on Doggy Day Care 101. No matter what city you live in, Rosenthal recommends doing a little digging on potential dog day cares to ensure you are selecting the best place for your pet. Here's what to ask before taking Fido to day care.
Ask the day care owner or manager for a tour of the facilities. 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 day care has a chain-link fence, that doesn't mean the day care isn't safe -- these are just the things that you, as a dog owner, want to look out for."
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Large doggy day cares 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 stay on the safe side, 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 day care environment that has four walls, you don't have that."
Some states have a set dog-to-human ratio for dog day cares, and others don't. Ask the dog day care 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.
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."
Some dogs can be very toy-aggressive. 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 day care managers -- they will keep a careful eye on your pup.
Some dog day cares use treats to reward good behavior, and some don't. Ask the day care manager about their use of treats and be sure to tell them if your dog displays aggressive behavior around food.
If boarding is something that you will be interested in down the road, ask if the day care 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."