If you’re like me (and many people are) you’d rather spend time sharing an experience, be it dinner, a concert, movie and such with one or two friends, instead of 30 or more acquaintances. You can talk, share, and get to know one another on a deeper level. In a crowd, you often can’t.
The same is true with your dog. My dog Yankee has a couple of close friends that he likes to play with. That’s it. He would hate to be with a group of 30 dogs as is the case in a traditional doggie daycare. While a few dogs enjoy hanging out in a crowd, most don’t. It’s not in their nature. If your dog is one of the latter, why subject him to a daycare experience he won’t enjoy?
Many dog boarding and daycare facilities try to get as many dogs as they can in to their business because it’s great for revenue. In that case, a dog’s well-being and enjoyment of the experience takes a back seat to the bottom line. When the dog is picked up for the day, mom or dad may think their dog is tired from playing all day, but in many cases, the dog is tired from being stressed all day forced into a situation he hates.
How can you tell if this describes your dog? There are a few ways. The most revealing is when you drop off your dog. If he hesitates in any way, seems at all anxious or fearful, then he’s definitely not enjoying how he’s spending his day. Sometimes the signs of anxiety are subtle, so you have to know your dog well enough to determine if he’s anxious. We’ve actually gotten a few clients from other facilities because the dogs started “putting on the brakes” when walking in to those facilities. Their owners knew something was wrong, and sought us out. Now their dogs run excitedly into the building to begin their days of daycare.
Another telltale sign is how he acts when you pick him up. Signs of having a stressful day can also be very subtle. Look at how your dog acts, how he carries his tail, watch his body language. Is he panting abnormally? Are his ears back? Is his mouth closed and tense? What about his eyes? Is he shedding when he shouldn’t be? You know your dog, and know when he’s happy. Look closely at him when you pick him up from daycare and notice if there’s any difference from the happy dog you know and love.
A third suggestion is to watch him in action at his daycare. If the daycare won’t let you, I would immediately look elsewhere. If they have cameras, watch him, otherwise watch him at the facility preferably without his knowledge. Again notice how he’s acting and determine if it’s normal.
I can’t think of a worse social situation to be in where I’m anxious, stressed, and uncomfortable for whatever reason. Your dog feels the same. If that’s the case, do the right thing for him and find another option.
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.