Now that a new school year is almost upon us, you may be thinking of what to do with your dog during the day while everyone is out of the house. Perhaps doggie daycare is something you’re considering. If you feel your dog may benefit from doggie daycare, how do you find the right one for your pup? Not all dog daycare facilities are created equal, so do your homework before sending your dog off to a place he may not enjoy. While most people know to look at things like cleanliness, staff courtesy and safety practices, there are other factors you may not think of when trying to find the right daycare for your dog. Consider the following:
• Look at your dog’s personality and choose a facility that matches it. While a few dogs are very social and love being with a large group of dogs (something that’s common in most daycare facilities), the majority hate being in a group of 20 or 30 “acquaintances.” If your dog is one of the majority, why force him to go to such a facility? Research shows that dogs in large groups rarely play because the risk of being ganged up on is so great. Instead, they may just hang around, trying not to incite something. Others become very overwhelmed and spend their day stressed. In this case, the dog goes home exhausted, not from playing but from spending the day stressing. If you want your dog to engage in healthy play, pay careful attention to the number of dogs the facility takes, and how many dogs are in each play group.
• Find out how big each play area is. It’s not safe or healthy for dogs to be crowded into a space that’s too small. It’s well-documented that overcrowding leads to aggression, even in humans. Ideally look for a facility that provides a minimum 100 square feet per large dog and 50 to 60 square feet for each small or medium dog.
• Another important factor concerns the staff-to-dog ratio. This is how many people are watching how many dogs. Ideally you want a high number of staff to dogs. In our facility, we have no more than four or five dogs to one staff member. Most other facilities have one person watching 15 to 30 dogs. This can be a recipe for disaster.
• Ask about staff training. Does the staff have experience or training in reading dogs for signs of stress, knowing the difference between appropriate versus inappropriate play, and dog signals? Knowing this and intervening when necessary using positive reinforcement makes for a great play experience for your dog.
When in the right daycare setting, your dog will thrive because of healthy play, the right socialization with people and other dogs, appropriate exercise and attention. Consider your options and choose the best for your four-legged friend!
Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat, an intimate and personal boarding, daycare, hydrotherapy and fitness center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com