Travel is limited this 2020 holiday season and chances are you’re working and staying at home more often—but that doesn’t mean your dog has to be cooped in the house too! Whether your work has you busy or you simply need some quiet time to be productive, a doggie daycare can be just the answer you and Fido are looking for this holiday season and into the new year.
As avid dog lovers, dog parents and dog agility specialists, we at RiteChoice Dog Agility know from experience that not all doggy daycares are created equal. So, we compiled a list to help you pick a doggy daycare that keeps your pup active, happy, mentally stimulated, socialized and most importantly, safe.
1. Tour the Facility
It is imperative that you tour the daycare center in person. You will want to pay attention to the indoor and outdoor areas’ safety features, cleanliness, and ventilation.
- Outdoor Areas: You will want to ensure that the area is secure, properly fenced, has security gates, security cameras and is free of hazards like cords, wires, broken toys, or animal waste. What types of activities do they have to ensure your pup is getting enough exercise? Make sure there is a healthy mix of open space and up-to-date pup playground equipment such as high-quality agility tunnels, splash pads or water features, modular ramps, and ball pits. Pay close attention to the playground equipment; although it cannot be expected that the equipment is brand new, you do not want your pup to be around old, worn down, possibly faulty or unsafe equipment.
- Indoor Areas: Similar to the outside area, inspect equipment, ensure there is an ample play area that is secure and safe. Take notice if they have dog-safe flooring. Flooring made from rubber and epoxy have better grip and can help prevent possible injuries from slips and tumbles. Inquire on how they separate dogs after playtime. Would your pet have their own space to take a nap and decompress? Is the area clean and well-ventilated? Do they place pets in kennels or rooms? Do they have webcams so you can check in on your pooch? You will also want to ask if the indoor area is kept safe with alarms, temperature monitoring, proper ventilation system/air scrubbers, and what emergency protocol they have in place.
2. Do Your Homework
Inquire about how long the facility has been operating, what the application or evaluation process is (such as a temperament test), do they have any pet care certifications (First Aid is an important one) and how they handle medical emergencies such as injury or sickness. We also recommend that you seek out a daycare with professionally trained staff. Some daycares hire employees with little to no training or dog handling experience. Be sure to ask what training, if any, its employees are required to have and who will be attending to the dogs. Ask the doggie daycare about the staff-to-dog ratio. Some states have a mandated dog-to-human ratio, some do not. The International Boarding and Pet Care Services Association (IBPSA), a professional association serving the pet care services industry, recommends a ratio of 15 dogs per human as a safe standard. Concessions are made for more active groups (10 dogs per one staff member) or less active groups (20 dogs per staff member).
Confirm with the facility if they group or separate dogs appropriately. Typically, larger daycare facilities spilt dogs into different playrooms based on size, temperament, play style, familiarity and/or dog history. Ask what their grouping protocol is and decide if you are comfortable with their guidelines. Inquire about discipline. You will want to settle on a facility that uses methods that do not use punishment for bad behavior but do reward good behavior. Finally, check on their toy and treat policy. Every facility is different on what they provide, how they provide it and if you can bring in treats or a security item (special toy or blanket) for your dog. Some dogs have toy and treat aggression and it should be brought to the facility’s attention if your dog has any history of these types of aggressions and if they have special dietary requirements.
3. Ask for References
Whether you feel comfortable striking up a conversation with a fellow fur parent in the parking lot of the facility or you ask the staff directly for referrals, hearing from others is sometimes just what you need to feel at ease with your doggy daycare choice. Do not be afraid to ask for a few referrals from owners of different breeds and temperament so you can have a better feel for how the facility addresses/handles different dog personalities.
4. Observe Pick-Ups and Drop-Offs
You can learn a lot from a dog’s body language. Observe dogs being dropped off at the facility. Are they happy and excited or are they fighting to leave? What do the dogs look like when they are being picked up? Are they happy and tired (but not overly exhausted) or shaking and scared? Also take note of how the staff is handling dogs during drop-off and pick-up. Do they have a genuine interest and love for the dogs, do they know their names and provide updates on the dog’s day?
5. You Know Best
Once you have settled on a doggy daycare and Fido has settled into his routine, you will be able to truly decide if your daycare choice is a good fit for him and you. We think the best sign is if your pup is coming home tired and happy. You know your furry child better than anyone and are the most qualified person to assess his well being and happiness. The best part is, when you finally find the perfect doggy daycare for you and Fido, you will both feel happy and guilt-free when you drop him off for his doggy-cation.