Dog daycare wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. According to most resources, the first dog daycare was opened in 1987 by Joseph S. Sporn in New York City. In the following 30 plus years, dog daycares would pop up in every major city, and millions of dogs would attend. There is no doubt that dog daycare is a huge convenience for busy families, but is dog daycare really good for your dog? Well, the answer is, “It Depends”.
There is a misconception that dogs are “pack” animals and therefore all dogs are social with all other dogs. While it is true that some dogs absolutely love the constant big group play and social experience, most dogs are a bit selective in who they want to spend time with. Also as even the most social dogs get older, they become more dog selective in who they choose to be with. For these reasons, most dog daycares group dogs according to size, age, temperament and play style. Also most dog daycares work very had to keep groups small, and under the constant supervision of well-trained dog handlers.
To decide if dog daycare is right for your dog you should consider the following. First, consider your dogs social history. Does your dog generally enjoy the company of other dogs? Enjoying being around other dogs is a must for daycare. Also consider your dog’s history with unfamiliar people. Understand that your dog will be supervised and handled by unfamiliar people. If a dog is shy and fearful toward people, that can make managing them in daycare difficult. Finally, consider any behavior problems that your dog may have. For example, resource guarding can be very problematic in a daycare setting. As can humping and mounting, generally anxiety, separation anxiety, and any form of aggression. If you have concerns about any problematic behavior, be sure to talk with the daycare staff before enrolling your dog in daycare.
Most daycares, including Wagmore Canine Enrichment, have a trial daycare/evaluation in which we do our best to evaluate whether your dog will enjoy and be safe in daycare. At Wagmore Canine Enrichment, the daycare trial is a 2 hour session. During the session we will attempt to slowly integrate your dog into play groups. We will do our best to learn your dogs play style and fit them appropriately. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get all the information we need. If this is the case, we will admit them to daycare on a provisional basis. This is common if you dog is at first a little shy, but we think they will come out of their shells with a few more visits.
We know that all dog’s personalities and preferences change over time. For that reason, we will do our best to keep you informed about how your dog is doing in daycare. If we ever feel that your dog isn’t enjoying or has become too much of a risk to have in group play, we will inform you.
One important aspect of daycare to understand is that there are inherent risks to having dogs play in group settings. Dogs can get injured, even when just playing. Dog scuffles, and fights can erupt in a matter of seconds. Even though our staff is well trained through The Dog Handlers Academy, a training school for dog handlers, we cannot plan for every event. Always understand that acceptance to daycare is provisional and risks are unavoidable. For these reasons, responsible daycares will have a liability waiver and risk agreement. Be sure to read and understand this agreement, and become familiar with the daycare’s procedure should your dog be injured or cause injury to another dog or person.
If you understand your dog and the risks and rewards of dog daycare, it can be beneficial to both you and your dog.