Chances are you’ve heard at least one dog parent rave about doggy daycare. What’s not to love about dropping the little furball off for a day of fun while you head to work? But entrusting your dog to the care of others is a big, even scary, step to take. To make it easier, we’ve laid out the most important benefits of dog daycare as well as how to choose the best daycare center for you and your dog.
Why Consider Dog Daycare?
One of the most common worries dog owners have is that they aren’t able to give their dog enough attention. Life gets busy, and we worry that our stuck-at-home dog isn’t living its life to the fullest while we’re away.
Daycare offers a solution: improve your pup’s quality of life while taking some of the pressure off you. Vets bemoan that, like people, few dogs truly get as much exercise as they should. At daycare, they can run around with doggy pals instead of lazing about on your furniture for hours on end. Beyond exercise, one of the most significant benefits of dog daycare is how much mental stimulation it provides, keeping canine minds sharp and satisfied.
These days, most providers offer a range of plans, allowing you more flexibility and choice when it comes to hours and days of the week. So if you’re worried daycare isn’t in your budget, you may be surprised how many options are out there. Even a day or two a week can make a big difference! Keep reading to find out why.
The Benefits of Dog Daycare
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
There’s just nothing that beats a good, hours-long play. You know it when you see it — the look of a dog who is so tuckered it’s never been happier. A quick game of fetch or a walk around the neighborhood just don’t compare.
Dog daycare can give this gift to your dog on a regular basis. Many veterinarians have begun calling attention to a growing obesity problem in dogs, and lack of exercise is a big factor in it. On the other end of the spectrum are dogs who can’t seem to stand still. A game of fetch squeezed in before dinner, even a high-intensity one, isn’t going to cut it for these pooches. In these cases, a lack of exercise can lead to behavioral issues.
The quality of exercise dog daycare can give your dog, even if only for one day a week, can make a big difference in your dog’s happiness and health. Selfish owner bonus: they’ll be so tired at the end of the day, they’ll probably just want to snuggle up with you!
Dogs are naturally social animals, and most thrive in groups. Finding ways to let your dog socialize safely can be difficult, though. Have you ever had that terrifying feeling in a dog park when an interaction with another dog turns unfriendly? When you’re aware that your fear and anxiety aren’t helping, but you can’t help yourself?
One of our favorite benefits of dog daycare is that your dog can socialize under the competent surveillance of professionals. At a good facility, trained staff and (ideally) a certified trainer will be on hand to make sure everything is happy in doggy land. Your dog can satisfy its social instincts safely and securely.
When it comes to behavioral problems in dogs, one of the biggest culprits is simple boredom. A bored dog might tear up household items, make a mess in the yard, or jump excessively on you or your guests. You can always integrate more exercise or more exciting toys into a dog’s routine. However, if your dog has to be left alone for longer periods, boredom can still rear its ugly head.
At daycare, your dog’s favorite thing to do may be to run with the other dogs, play with the staff, or chase that ball over and over (and over). Whatever they gravitate towards, they’re going to receive stimulation all day long, which can do wonders for a dog’s emotional health.
Separation Anxiety Relief, Potentially
On the subject of emotional health, many owners and providers swear by dog daycare as a balm for separation anxiety. We believe in managing separation anxiety on a case by case basis. Because of this, daycare may not be a magic cure for every dog. But it is an option worth trying. Our research found that dogs who exhibit severe panic attacks due to their separation anxiety were often triggered by daycare. In contrast, dogs with less extreme cases often responded positively.
Be honest with yourself about your dog’s manifestation of separation anxiety. When you interview prospective providers, talk openly with them about it and ask for specifics on how they handle such cases.
As always, trust your instincts, and keep a close eye on how your dog is reacting.
Dogs don’t necessarily need rigid routines, which can lead to frustrations for you both when things don’t go according to plan. But having structure in their lives is satisfying for dogs, and daycare can provide that. Structure helps them understand what to expect from you and what you expect from them, which is a foundation for a strong relationship.
After a few visits, your dog will start to settle into a rhythm with their daycare provider. Knowing what’s coming, they’ll be excited to see their friends, both human and canine, and then again to see you at the end of the day.
Anxiety Relief for Busy Owners
Okay, this benefit of dog daycare is ostensibly for the humans involved, not the pets. But your mental wellness as a caregiver is important too, and affects the bond that you create with your dog.
If you frequently feel guilty about your dog being alone or find yourself distracted while away, your quality of life is being affected. And the last thing you want to do is bring your anxiety home to your dog. Knowing that your dog is well cared for and entertained in your absence will put your mind at ease. It will take some of the stress off of you both.
Whoever said the phrase “it takes a village” can’t apply to our fur babies too? Daycare can be one pillar of the healthy household you create for yourself and your pet.
Is Dog Daycare Right for Your Dog?
While the benefits of dog daycare are substantial, every dog is different. For some dogs, particularly those struggling with behavioral issues and anxiety, daycare may not be a good fit.
Daycare is a space for socializing but not socialization, as Dr. Marty Becker over at Vetstreet points out. If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety or aggression issues, we recommend starting with one-on-one training sessions with a certified dog trainer. Your trainer can help you decide when or if your dog is ready to try dog daycare.
Tips on Choosing the Right Daycare Provider
To fully reap the benefits of dog daycare, you want to be sure you’ve chosen a high-quality provider. Shop around! Go to several daycares, which will provide tours and have an intake interview process.
Since we know you want to be sure your pup is in good hands, we’ve compiled a list of questions you may want to ask prospective providers:
- Does the provider have any certifications? More and more daycares are seeking certifications. We recommend seeking out a provider approved by the Professional Animal Care Certification Council, a reputable nonprofit with high standards.
- What are the vaccination, flea & tick, and spay/neuter policies? A responsible daycare will want all of its dogs to be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and protected from pests for the health of the group.
- What is the staff to dog ratio? The higher, the better!
- Is there a certified trainer on staff? We feel it’s in everyone’s best interest if there’s a qualified trainer on hand.
- What are the cleaning protocols? Cleanliness is a sign of care and respect.
- How are fights between dogs handled, and what are the procedures in case of injury? There is always a risk of a fight breaking out, just like there’s always risk of injury (even from friendly play). Make sure the provider you choose has a plan for these situations.
Finally, trust your instincts! Leaving your beloved pup with new people will be an adjustment no matter what, but it’s one that comes with great reward. You (and your dog) will know when it’s right!