Doggie Day Care Part 2: How to Choose a Doggie Day Care

In Doggie Day Care Part 1, we talked about whether your dog would be suitable for attending a doggie day care.

Unfortunately, there are many dogs with a variety of characteristics who wouldn’t be happy or suitable for this type of situation. The dogs best suited for most day cares are well socialized, well trained, stable, happy and playful. However, many day care businesses are able to accommodate dogs of various ages, temperaments and with other characteristics. Since each doggie day care business is as unique as each individual dog, it’s important to choose the right facility for your dog.

Look for Websites

Do some online searches for doggie day care businesses in your area. On each website, look at the photos of the facility. Are dogs inside, outside or both? Is it spacious enough for a number of dogs or are there several areas so different populations of dogs can be served? Perhaps smaller dogs are in one and older dogs are in another. Does the facility look secure? Are there double doors or double gates to help prevent dogs from dashing out doors or gates?

Look for their policies and requirements. Most importantly, what are their vaccination requirements? Is this consistent with your vaccination protocols? Do they accept vaccination titers and if so, what are their policies regarding titers? Would you need to provide any information from your veterinarian?

When looking at their policies, do they require a new dog to come in for a test visit before being accepted as a regular? This is important because, as was discussed in Part 1, not every dog is suited for doggie day care.

Take a look also at their hours. Would these work with your work schedule? What do they do if an owner is later picking up a dog?

Check for Online Reviews

Many people check online reviews for various businesses and you can do the same for doggie day care facilities. Find out which ones within comfortable driving distance have online reviews. No one can please everyone, so there will be negative reviews for every business just as everyone will have five star reviews. Is there a trend, though, with too many negative reviews? Do many people have the same complaint? Or, hopefully, many people praise the business. Make note of the businesses that have a number of similar four and five star reviews with consistent praise.

Ask Dog Owners for Referrals

Once you have a few names of businesses close to you, ask friends, family, co-workers and other dog owners if they’ve used any of these businesses. If so, did their dog love it? Was he eager to get out of the car in the morning and go inside the business? Did he come home tired but in good shape? Was he clean? Was he happy?

Call your veterinarian too and ask if they’ve had any problems with dogs attending this day care. Your vet might have had to patch up some dogs after a fight or perhaps dogs commonly needed to be treated for kennel cough.

Once you’ve narrowed the list down to a few facilities, then it’s time to go take a look at them.

Drop in on a Visit

Visit the day care during business hours but don’t call ahead for an appointment; you should be able to see the facility at any time. However, to be kind, wait until after the morning rush of drop offs is done and before the evening pick up rush. If you drop in at these times, it could be difficult for someone to spend much time with you.

As you look at the facility, pay attention to security (such as double doors, gates and fences). Cleanliness is also important. Urine and feces should be cleaned up right away and even with a number of dogs there, it shouldn’t smell bad. Facilities maintenance is important too. Are there broken or damaged fences or furnishings that could harm a dog?

Does the facility have cameras to observe the dogs, as well as dog and staff interactions? Can dog owners tune in online to see their dog throughout the day? This is a great reassurance for many dog owners, especially when the dog first begins to attend the doggie day care.

Talk to the Staff

When touring the facility, without interrupting their work, talk to the staff. Do you find them friendly? Do they appear to like dogs? That may seem like a strange question, but just because someone works there doesn’t necessarily mean they really like dogs.

Do the staff members know the dog’s names? Do the dogs relate well with the staff members?

Do the staff members seem to have control over the dogs? Can they calm overzealous dogs? Would you be comfortable with these people watching and caring for your dog?

Is the staff also knowledgeable? Ideally, they should be good at reading canine body language so they can identify dogs who are worried, overwhelmed or being a bully. They also need to be able to identify potential personality problems between dogs.

What is the staff ratio of staff members to dogs? A ratio of one staff member per three to five dogs is great. Too many more dogs could be a problem.

Do You Have More Questions?

Although most businesses today make it a point of posting their policies online, you may still have some questions. Keep in mind, for something like this, when you’re entrusting your dog to strangers, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

What times can dogs be dropped off? When can they be picked up? What happens during the day?

One question that needs to be asked is concerning any accidents or injuries; will they notify you if your dog is hurt? Do they take the dog to a particular veterinarian? Who pays for the cost of treatment?

What is needed for the application? What other questions or concerns do you have?

Take Your Dog in for An Evaluation

If you feel comfortable with the facility and staff, and if all of your questions have been answered, then take your dog in for an evaluation visit. See how he does, whether or not he feels comfortable there, and find out what the staff says. Ideally, your dog will have a great time and come home happy and tired.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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