If your dog seems to have endless energy, shows destructive behaviour when left alone, or is anxious or lonely, then dog daycare may be a great way to help. There are many benefits of dog daycare services, and you may be surprised just how much a weekly play-date can improve yours and your dog’s life.
Most Dogs are Extroverts
Dogs are very social animals, and although many dogs adapt well to our routines, some dogs aren’t as excited about spending the day alone while you go about your daily routine. Any extroverted person can vouch for the fact that spending that much time alone can be frustrating, depressing, and can lead to unhealthy habits.
There are many ways to keep your dog entertained when they are alone, like puzzle toys or natural chews, but even these can only occupy your dog for so long. Eventually, they will finish with whatever distraction that you leave them, and they will be looking for the next activity.
The average person works an 8 hour work day. Once you factor in your commute, errands, and social activities, your dog could be spending 10+ hours alone everyday. Besides the obvious need for bathroom breaks, 10 hours alone can get pretty boring. It’s easy to understand why your dog acts out.
While it’s true that some dogs will sleep all day if they are left alone, this type of sedentary lifestyle isn’t healthy long term. The lack of mental and physical activity can lead to weight issues, mobility issues and destructive boredom behaviours.
To prevent this, you need to find ways to provide activities for your dog on a regular basis, even when you are away. Dog daycare's are a great option to keep your pet busy and prevent undesired behaviours resulting from boredom or loneliness.
Benefits of Dog Daycare
Dog day cares is very popular and widely available. Daycare offers a variety of services and types of facilities that will provide your dog with the stimulation that they need to keep them active and happy.
To help explain the benefits of dog daycare, we connected with some local experts from The Dog House here in Edmonton, Alberta. They provided us with some valuable information about dog daycare services to help you decide if daycare is the right choice for your dog.
1. Safe Socializing
If your dog is an only child, doesn’t have many dog friends, or has terrible recall, opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people may be limited. Dog daycare provides a safe and controlled environment for your dog to play with other dogs of all sizes, breeds, and personalities.
The Dog House team is well versed in dog behaviour and body language. They work hard to ensure each dog is having a positive experience, and they facilitate new experiences for dogs that haven’t had the opportunity to socialize as much.
They allow dogs to engage in supervised playtime at their own pace. For shy dogs, this routine can help build confidence and good manners.
Every dog is different, and their habits, personalities, and energy levels vary. Allowing each dog to enjoy their experience in their own way lets your dog properly express themselves and work through any pent up energy without being overwhelmed.
2. Physical Exercise
Less active lifestyles can be damaging to both their bodies and minds. Dogs who spend a lot of time alone can learn to adapt to this slow-paced routine, but by limiting their physical and mental activity, they could be prone to weight issues, mobility issues, overeating, and poor digestion.
Weekly or even daily daycare sessions will keep your dog active both physically and mentally. Very energetic dogs will benefit greatly from dog daycare, as they will be able to run and play to their heart's content, tuckering them out before home time.
Managing weight in some dogs can be a challenge, especially when they don’t have any desire to play or exercise some of that weight off. Daycare can provide a supportive environment that will allow your fat or lazy dog to be excited about physical activity. This will help shed pounds and build muscle.
Dog daycare is especially valuable in winter months when we are less inclined to venture into the frigid weather. You can maintain their physical routine without either of you risking hypothermia and frostbite.
3. Separation Anxiety Cure
If you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety, then you know that it’s hard on both of you. Without some kind of outlet and social environment, your dog can feel very anxious about being left alone.
They may spend their day crying, howling, licking, chewing, or stressed out and anxious. It’s hard to watch and know that your pet is suffering.
We must go to work or school, or whatever your daily routine is, and dog daycare can allow you to do that without leaving your pet alone to stew in their loneliness.
Even if you aren’t using daily dog daycare services, weekly social interaction, especially in group set-ups, can help provide your dog with the activity and structure that they are craving. While it may not completely cure separation anxiety in all dogs, it is a healthy way to limit alone time.
Schedule daycare for your longest work days. If you have to work late, have longer classes, or have errands to run on your way home, that is the best day to send them to daycare. Just make sure you pick a daycare that is open late.
4. Maintains Routine
When you are home, your dog has a routine. This includes feeding times, playtime, bathroom breaks, and even naps. Working long hours may affect that routine.
Consistent routines and structure are important for dogs, just like they are for kids. Daycare can facilitate structure throughout the day that is more consistent with their preferred routines at home.
Frequent bathroom breaks and regular feeding times can improve digestion and urinary tract health, as well as aid in weight management and calorie distribution.
Think about your morning routine. You get yourself ready, you feed the dog, let them out to use the facilities, and then hit the road.
Their food is still digesting, but there is nowhere for those calories to go, similar to you having a big meal right before bed. It’s not a healthy eating habit.
Structuring their daily activities can help overly excited dogs pace themselves as well. Dogs with limited mobility, senior pets, and even puppies can over do it without realizes the consequences. The daycare staff can break up playtime and activities into more manageable chunks of time.
The Dog House team have received professional-level pet care education and truly care about your dog's daycare experience, safety, and their specific needs. At daycare, your dog can learn new games, both from the staff and the other dogs, and will provide continual mental stimulation to keep your dog's brain active.
Ask your daycare what kind of activities your dog most enjoys participating in. There may be some games that you are able to try at home during your one-on-one playtime to help encourage activity and strengthen your bond.
5. Peace of Mind
Coming home to a destroyed house, damaged property, “accidents”, or even just a very sad pup can be stressful. It’s easy to get frustrated and reprimand your dog for their actions, but the fact is, their actions are telling you that they are upset.
Enrolling your dog in daycare will rid you of the stress and worry of what you may go home to. You will have the peace of mind in knowing that they are happy and safe, and so is your house, your other pets, and your neighbours.
Don’t be mad or upset if you come home to a mess, just ignore your dog while you fix whatever needs fixing, or clean whatever needs cleaning. Once you have settled in, then you can engage your dog. This will show that the behaviour will not get them what they want, which is your attention.
Ignoring your dog for the first 5-10 minutes that you are home is a good idea in general. In that time they can get out the initial excitement, and start to relax before you say hello. This will help them understand that only when they are calm will you pay them attention.
Do this when you pick them up from daycare as well. Give them a minute or two to relax before greeting them, or any other dog.
Daycare is not for Every Dog
There are a few factors to consider before enrolling your dog in daycare services. Sadly, not every dog is suited for dog daycare. In fact, daycare services could do more damage than good if your dog falls under any of these categories:
- Poorly or not socialized dogs are likely to be overwhelmed, aggressive, or anti-social at daycare
- If your dog has past incidents of dog or human aggression, then daycare could be unsafe for your dog, other dogs, and the staff
- If they are not vaccinated appropriately, your dog is susceptible to illness or disease
- If your dog is injured or requires care beyond what the daycare staff can provide
- While not a deal breaker, unaltered pets can be challenging to incorporate in daycare activities and group play
Fortunately, daycare staff will do an initial assessment of your pet to determine whether or not they are suited for daycare services. At The Dog House, the assessment begins by letting your dog meet the staff to ensure that they are able to handle your dog with relative ease, touch your dog's collar, hold their leash, and approach them without signs of fear or aggression.
After that, they will allow your dog to meet a few dogs of varying sizes and personalities in a controlled area of the facility. If that goes well, your dog and their new friends will be brought into a larger play area in the facility.
After being given an opportunity to sniff and explore for a few minutes, new dogs will be introduced, one small group at a time. This gives the team the opportunity to see if your dog is going to continue to be comfortable with meeting dogs as the group gets larger and larger.
If tails are wagging and positive introductions are made, then you will be able to schedule your dog for a full daycare experience.
If your daycare tells you that your dog does not enjoy daycare or is not the right fit for their daycare group, it doesn’t mean that your dog is bad. It means that your dog simply doesn’t want to be there.
The Dog House staff offer full transparency, as their goal is to provide the safest, most fun experience for all daycare visitors. If your dog shows signs that they aren’t suited for daycare, the team will be open and honest about it.
A Day at Doggy Daycare
Leaving your pet at daycare for the first time is like your child's first day of school. You’ll worry about whether they’ll miss you and whether they’ll make new friends. To quell some of your fears, we’ll walk you through a typical day at doggy daycare, according to the team at The Dog House.
Drop-off starts at 6:30 am. Drop-off is an exciting time. Friends are reunited and new introductions are made, so it takes some time to get the initial energy bursts out of the way.
The dogs are not sorted by size, but may be separated into larger or smaller groups depending on their level of socialization, or at the request of the owner.
Lunch time is at noon, where dogs can refuel or just take a load off. The dogs get an hour of quiet time after lunch to ensure proper digestion.
To help out the dogs that don’t self-regulate within the group, the staff will encourage occasional quiet and nap times.They are having too much fun, and just don’t know when to take a breather. An overtired dog can get stressed, so this down time is a great way to prevent scuffles triggered by anxiety and over excitement.
Weather permitting, the dogs have constant access to the spacious outdoor area. There are tons of toys and games to play with outside, so dogs that need more space to run and chase have the run of the mill. In the summer, kiddie pools, bubble machines, and various play structures are available to further encourage exercise.
The colder months require more controlled access to the outdoor area so that dogs don’t get too cold. Many games are played inside during those colder months to maintain physical activity.
All day, the team are with the dogs, playing, monitoring, and cuddling. This type of human interaction can help reduce separation anxiety behaviours, and can give the dogs a break from each other when needed.
From the moment they arrive at daycare, to the moment that they go home, the dogs are offered a safe, comfortable, and structured environment.
How to Choose the Right Dog Daycare
Not every dog daycare is the same. The facilities, the staff, the training, and the price will vary depending on which daycare you choose. I’m sure that none of us would be comfortable leaving our precious pups in daycare, unless we are sure that they are going to be safe, comfortable, and well cared for.
Make sure you vet the daycare before you commit to anything. Consider how you might look for a house, or even a hotel. Price is going to be a factor, but choosing the first cheap option you find may not be the safest, cleanest, or most convenient for you. The same goes for your dog's daycare.
The first thing to look for will be the facilities themselves. Any dog daycare that is proud of their services and facilities will be willing to provide a tour of the facilities. This gives you a chance to vouch for cleanliness, size, and the quality of equipment.
You may come across a daycare that does not allow pet owners to view the facilities, or only allow you to tour a small portion. This is often done to limit the possibility of overstimulating the dogs at the daycare, but could also be indicative of unsatisfactory facilities.
You wouldn’t leave your human child at a new daycare without seeing the facilities, so it’s not a good idea to do it with your dog. Transparency should always be offered when you are entrusting your pets safety into someone else's care.
Another thing to verify is the knowledge and experience of the team. Talk to the staff to get an idea of their training, policies, and experience working with different types of dog behaviours and personalities.
Leaving your pet with someone who is trained to understand animal behaviour and/or is certified in pet first aid, will ease your mind. Don’t feel bad asking tough questions.
Lastly, read online reviews from other pet owners who have used their services. They can give you a clearer understanding of the level of care and compassion that the staff and business provide. It can also help you decide if the routine and facilities are a good match for your dog.
If you’d like to learn more about The Dog House daycare services, check out their website and book a tour or a meet and greet.
Does your dog love dog daycare? Tell us about how dog daycare enriches your dog’s life in the comments below!