There are a lot of reasons you might want to put your dog in daycare. If you have an unpredictable schedule or work long hours, you may have to leave your dog at home for large chunks of time. Maybe your puppy is hyperactive and needs more hands-on attention and stimulation throughout the day. Perhaps you have a dog that has separation anxiety, and he needs more opportunities to socialize with other pups and learn to play without you around. Doggy daycare can provide dogs with exercise, playtime, mental stimulation, and, if applicable, special care.
But what exactly is doggy daycare, and what type of doggy daycare is best? Do doggy daycare centers have health and vaccination requirements? How do you find a reputable doggy daycare in your area, and how much does it cost? Will your dog thrive in daycare?
Here is what you need to know before you enroll your dog in daycare.
In a nutshell, doggy daycare is just what it sounds like: a place that takes care of your pup until you can pick him up on your way home. For most dogs, it is a great alternative to being left in a crate or confined to one room for 4-5 hours per day. Doggy daycare offers nutritious and delicious meals, supervised playtime that suits each dog, a safe space to relax, and scheduled potty breaks. Dogs are also put into playgroups and rotate between indoor and outdoor play areas. Some doggy daycares even have add-on medication, grooming, and/or training services.
There are 2 types of doggy daycare: commercial doggy daycare and in-home doggy daycare.
COMMERCIAL DOGGY DAYCARE
Commercial doggy daycares are best for well-socialized pups that enjoy being around other dogs. That is because there might be 20-40 dogs on campus each day. Some doggie daycare centers have indoor swimming pools or kiddy pools filled with plastic balls. They might be equipped with webcams, where you can watch your dog having fun with his canine friends throughout the day. They also have a fenced-in outdoor area with pet-drinking fountains, climbing boulders, and jump hurdles. Trained staff members may also take dogs on off-leash hikes or group field trips.
IN-HOME DOGGY DAYCARE
In-home doggy daycares are run by one or two people and only take in a few dogs at a time. This might be a good option if you have a rambunctious puppy who needs extra play sessions, or an arthritic senior dog who needs extra health care or specialized equipment like pet stairs. While there is less space for your dog to run and play, in-home doggy daycare offers him one-on-one attention.
Most commercial doggy daycare centers have add-on medical, grooming, training, and/or overnight services.
Many doggy daycare businesses have add-on services for dogs that need extra medical care. These services cost extra. For example, Play All Day Doggie Daycare in Delaware County, Ohio charges $1 for oral and topical medications and $5 for injections. Medications have to be in their original packaging and accompanied by a vet’s dosage recommendation. If your dog needs bandage changing, hand feeding, insulin injections, or walking assistance, contact the doggy daycare center to see if there will be any additional fees.
Many professional doggy daycare centers offer spa and grooming services. They may include anal gland expression, ear cleaning, nail trimming, tooth brushing, and sanitary trims. Some doggy daycare businesses will even give your dog a blueberry facial, an aromatherapy skin treatment, or temporary hair stencils while he is at daycare.
Many doggy daycares have on-campus training programs. They teach basic commands like come, down, and sit. They may also teach your dog how to walk on a leash (with management equipment such as a no-pull harness or a gentle leader head harness). They may tackle common behavioral problems such as nipping and jumping. Most training programs also give your dog a daily report card, so you can practice the skills he is struggling with at home.
Most doggy daycare facilities will keep your dog overnight for a separate fee. If you cannot pick your pup up before the daycare closes, a $35-$50 overnight fee may be automatically applied.
To ensure the health and safety of every dog and staff member, most reputable doggy daycare centers will want you to comply with the following health and vaccination requirements:
Most doggy daycares require a temperament test before your pup is allowed to play in a group with other dogs. It may include an initial phone interview, followed by an in-person interview where the doggy daycare owner looks at the initial intake paperwork and answers any questions. The 30-minute behavior evaluation also may include taking your dog to another room to see how he behaves around a calm and interactive “tester” dog and/or bringing in food and toys to see if he lunges, growls, or bites. Some dog daycare facilities charge a non-refundable $30 fee for temperament testing, but others offer it for free.
Most doggy daycare centers will ban puppies that haven’t been spayed/neutered by 6 months of age. That is because dogs that have not been fixed are more likely to get pregnant or impregnate other dogs. Unneutered males may also mount other dogs when they are excited or to show that they rank higher in the pack. Anxious, nervous, and shy dogs may mount playmates to deal with stressful situations.
Most doggy daycares will require all the dogs in their care to be on year-round parasite prevention. Make sure your dog uses flea and tick, heartworm, and intestinal worm preventatives to avoid getting or spreading disease-causing parasites.
Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for personal recommendations. And do not forget to also ask your veterinarian, local pet supply shop, and/or social media connections for suggestions. When you get recommendations, look them up on internet rating and review sites like Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, or Yelp. And Google the name of the doggy daycare center and its owners.
The cost of doggy daycare is influenced by a few factors, and it starts with where you live. Just as the cost of living varies by state, you can expect bigger cities like NYC and other popular travel destinations to have higher prices and smaller cities to have cheaper prices. Live in a rural area? You may also see higher prices. There are not as many doggy daycares in rural areas to choose from, so they can charge higher prices without worrying about being undercut by their competitors.
Whether you leave your dog in daycare for a full- or half-day will also affect the price. Generally, rates do not double if your dog goes to daycare for half a day instead of a full day. Rather, the cost gradually increases.
Here are some examples of what a half and a full day costs:
K-9 University in Plano, Texas
Dog Days of New York in New York, New York
If you know your dog is going to need ongoing care, daycare packages are the cheapest overall. While the upfront price is more than an individual session, the cost per day drops when you purchase a daycare package.
Using the doggy daycares listed above, here is how this works:
Dog Days of New York
Doggy daycare is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Before you enroll your dog in daycare, answer these questions:
If your dog is aggressive, shy, or highly intelligent, he may not thrive in a doggy daycare setting. Is your dog already attending doggy daycare? If he seems stressed at the end of the day or has to be dragged to the door in the morning, switch him to shorter or quieter days. If these changes do not work, consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter instead.
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