Here are some tips on how to find a good dog daycare:
Ask for recommendations from other dog owners, trainers and veterinarians and visit the daycare or daycares you are considering and spend some time there.
Whether the daycare is indoors, outdoors or a combination, the daycare should be spacious. The dogs should have lots of room to run and they should be able to get away from one another if they want or need to.
Note the odor of the facility. It should smell fresh and be clean and not like dog waste or harsh cleaners.
For playtime, dogs should be divided into groups (divided by size, activity levels and playstyles) either by having the groups in separate areas from one another or by having the groups out in separate playtimes.
Check what size the groups are. More than 10 or 15 dogs per group is risky. Consider also the staff to dog ratio. Most dog professionals recommend 1 staff member per 15 dogs with adjustments made for more and less active dogs. There should be continual supervision of the dogs.
Ask about the daycares’ policy on toys. Some dogs become possessive over things and many daycares avoid having toys out with the dogs for this reason.
Look for a daycare where there are rest areas for the dogs and where dogs are given rest periods.
There should be clean fresh water always available.
If it is an indoor facility, there should be a designated area where the dogs can do their business so that they are comfortable all day and so that they do not lose their housetraining skills. Some daycares incorporate walks into the day for this purpose. If you have an older dog, check to see if there are additional times for a dog who perhaps needs to void more often.
Look at the fences surrounding the outdoor area and make sure they are high and solid. I like fences which also have buried wire to avoid dogs digging their way out. Are there double gates and double doors so that dogs are secure when people are coming in and out of the facility?
Meet the staff! The staff members should really care about dogs. They should employ reward-based methods to encourage good behavior from the dogs and understand that punishment is known to create aggression. They should easily recognize stress signals in dogs. Staff members should know the difference between play and aggression and when to interrupt dog interactions. Be sure to ask what training the staff have in dog behavior and care. Your dog’s daycare experience is going to be as good as the staff who make it happen.
Ask how the staff break up fights and what tools they use. Walk away from any facility that tells you they allow dogs to just “sort it out”.
There should always be at least one staff member with current pet first aid present. Staff should also be able to give medications to your dog if required.
Ask how the daycare screens the dogs who attend the daycare (the dogs should be screened for suitability). Is there a detailed application form (there should be!)? Are there vaccination requirements (there should be)? Ask about the daycares’ policy is on emergencies.
Decide if your is dog a good candidate for a daycare. Dogs who like to play with other dogs, are active and well-socialized are good candidates for daycare. Dogs who are distressed when left at home alone can be good candidates for daycare, but they also may prefer to hang out at a friend’s house or have a caregiver come to the home in the absence of the owner.
Once your dog has been to a daycare, observe your dog to see if it looks like he likes it when you go again. Is he excited when he arrives and eager to meet up with the other dogs or is he showing stress signals and reluctant to approach the centre? If it’s the latter, then that daycare isn’t for him. Some businesses offer video access to their customers which can give peace of mind to an owner who wants to see first hand that their dog is having a great time.
Decide how long your dog will attend daycare. Some offer hourly and half-day services.
Daycares can be great for dogs but choose wisely!