Doggy day care is a growing trend for busy dog parents. It’s an excellent place for many dogs to socialize with other dogs, get exercise and burn energy while the humans are off at work. But, is doggy day care the right option for all dogs?
Dogs Who Would Benefit from Doggy Day Care
Doggy day care is an exciting place. There’s lots of activity and many other dogs and people with which your dog gets to interact. Some day cares allow free play most of the day while others bring the dogs to the play yards in shifts so that dogs get play time followed by quiet time. I prefer the second approach. Dogs function best when they have bursts of energy followed by naps. In fact, most dogs will spend 16-17 hours per day relaxing or dozing if allowed. Just like young children, if dogs get overly tired, they can become “punchy” which means they’re more likely to get irritated or snappy.
Dogs who enjoy spending time with other dogs will likely enjoy doggy day care. Dogs who would love to be active throughout the day rather than napping on the couch while they wait for their person to come home are also likely to enjoy doggy day care. It can be an excellent adjunct to the overall exercise and enrichment plan for many dogs. Some dogs will benefit from spending several hours daily while you’re at work. Other dogs will do better with shorter visits, or fewer visits, over the course of the week. Puppies, nervous dogs, and older dogs may prefer going just one or two times per week, and perhaps for half-days instead of full days because they need more recovery time.
Dogs Who Would NOT Benefit from Doggy Day Care
Doggy day care is not the right option for every dog. If your dog is sick or quite fragile, then running around a yard with other dogs who are active and playing may be risky for both your dog and the others. If your dog is very fearful or reactive toward other dogs, then a day care environment would likely escalate your dog’s fear or reactivity. This is due to a process called Flooding in which the dog is overwhelmed by the very thing that makes them uncomfortable.
If your dog has separation distress in which they panic when left alone, then a day care environment might be an option. It will depend on the level of panic your dog experiences and the setup of that particular facility. If the day care rotates dogs to the play yards, allowing them to rest for an hour or two at a time in their private rooms, then a dog who panics at being left alone will be panicking that whole time. If the day care can keep the dog with a person in between play times, then day care might be a very useful adjunct to a broader behavior plan to help your dog feel more confident when you’re not there.
If the day care has trainers dedicated to working with dogs who lack some social skills, then this might be an option to help your dog learn better communication and play skills. But you’ll need to research the day care you’re considering to determine if they have the resources to help your dog become day care savvy.
In short, day care is an excellent addition to the lives of many dogs. But it’s not right for every dog – and that’s okay. Just like not every human wants to go clubbing, not every dog wants to go to day care. Some prefer a dinner-party experience where they get together with a couple close friends for a private play date but avoid the big parties. Determine your dog’s preference and then provide them opportunities to socialize as they are most comfortable. Your pup will love you for it!
Author - Jody Epstein
Jody Epstein is a certified behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and holds a master’s degree in animal behavior from Tufts University. She has been training professionally for more than 12 years and is pleased to be part of the Academy of Pet Careers team, teaching the next generation of trainers. Look out for her blogs on all things dog training and animal behavior.