For individuals or couples who both work away from the home, one important factor to consider for your dog’s physical and mental welfare is what to do with your dog during the time when no-one is home. For too many dogs, all they face are long, boring days by themselves. But there are alternatives, one of which is doggy daycares, a concept which has grown significantly in urban areas in recent years. Unheard of twenty years ago, doggy daycares reflect the need people have to provide stimulation and care for their dogs whilst themselves holding down demanding jobs.
As doggy daycares are an unregulated industry, you can expect to find good and not so good facilities so it’s worth doing your homework before you leave your beloved pet with a stranger who is advertising doggy daycare services. With so much in life, you get what you pay for. Let’s look at some key factors in comparing doggy daycares, as provided by The Bark Editors:
- Does the facility pass the sniff test? Follow your nose. A kennel will obviously smell doggy but it shouldn’t be stinky nor should it smell like a bleach spill. Daycares should be disinfected routinely. Ask about cleaning procedures and products, especially if your pup is sensitive.
- What about the non-negotiables? In addition to a sanitary environment, there are a few other essential criteria for leaving your dog in the care of others. Dog daycare expert Robin Bennett, CPDT, says facilities should require proof of up-to-date vaccines; provide enough space (70 to 100 square feet per dog for off-leash play); segregated areas for large and small dogs; and employ knowledgeable employees and enough of them (around one person for every 10 to 15 dogs). She also recommends asking if employees have education in behavior, positive training and first aid.
- Can I observe and visit? Don’t just hit and run; hang around. Drop by when you aren’t expected, and be sure you have a chance to observe your dog in the mix. Most facilities require trial runs and some sort of temperament evaluation if dogs will be mixing. If they don’t, that’s not a good sign.
- Is the joint escape proof? You’re leaving your dog behind, and he may want desperately to get back to you. Some dogs can be ingenious about launching their own incredible journey. Look for sturdy, well-maintained fencing, gates and dividers between runs. Don’t rely on staffers to realize Houdini has special skills. If he’s an escape artist, fess up so they can take extra precautions.
- How did my dog perform? Engaged supervisors will be happy to provide a report when you pick up your dog (and they’ll pay more attention to your dog in the future). You’ll learn a lot about attentiveness based on what they tell you and you might discover if something is amiss.
- What do other clients say? Phone or Internet directories are just a starting point. You need more information than a listing or an advertisement can provide. Some facilities are accredited by the Better Business Bureau, which is a good start. Ask your friends in Agility, obedience class, at the dog park, your pet supply shop and so on. Also, tap other folks in the know via Twitter and Facebook.
Would you ever just leave a young child with the first person you come across that advertises daycare? I would hope not. The same applies to your dog. By doing your research, you will be acting in a way that reflects how you care about the needs of your dog and in a manner befitting a responsible dog owner.