When The Owners are Away, The Puppies will Play

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I’m always reluctant to tell people exactly what I do for work. I shouldn’t, given that it’s the most fun job on the planet, but I often just say “I work with dogs.”

If I do mention “Doggie Daycare” I often get laughs and snarky remarks, and I find myself trying to defend what I do…

I know this stems from the shift in the way we view our pets. The transition from just some animal to family member is a big one, and there’s a lot left to be learned about how to treat our companions. For the record, I often call my dogs kids. I’m not intending to make a value judgement or compare caring for them to raising children. It’s simply may way of highlighting how much I respect the decision to be completely responsible for their entire lives. It’s kind of a big deal. Therefore, I’ve always tried to do everything I can to make their lives as good as possible for what they are.  They are dogs. I want them to have the most amazing life living with me.

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I don’t claim to know everything about dogs (or giant packs of them), but I’ve been playing the same gig for nearly 7 years and the list of different places I’ve worked is surprisingly long. I’m not going to take you through the chronological list, but I’ve worked at boarding facilities, animal hospitals, pet stores, grooming salons, and most recently a training facility.

Most of these places offered daycare, and locally there are at least six different dog daycares. They are becoming more and more prevalent, but I’m still getting the same reaction.

” PEOPLE ACTUALLY PAY MONEY FOR THAT?!”

Yes, yes they do – and they get A LOT for it.

Daycare can be a first step in treating a myriad of behavioral issues.

Separation anxiety? Check. Dogs are social creatures, so in many cases of anxiety upon your leaving for work, the stimulation at daycare can provide a nice distraction. Over time your pup’s confidence can increase and reduce the anxiety.

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Potty training? Fantastic for it. They are given ample opportunities to get outside, and are often on a schedule . Staff are also around to try and prevent accidents from happening.

Destructive behaviors? Absolutely. Getting out and about and reducing stress through exercise helps prevent destruction from boredom. They’re too tired and happy to get into trouble!

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Nervousness around people or other dogs? It’s near perfect. It often requires an adjustment period for these dogs to relax and start to have fun – but once they come out of their shells, the excitement they show walking into the lobby can warm one’s heart.

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Plus, there’s just nothing better than curling up with a passed out pooch at the end of the day.

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As if it weren’t enough just to exist, there are also different types of daycare – so there is sure to be one that is a perfect fit for just your dog!

Some are more upscale and “luxury” and tend to focus on just providing your dog with mental stimulation through a change in scenery and making sure they have plenty of chances to get out, stretch, and use the bathroom.  This is often really nice for older, more independent dogs or for dogs that prefer space from others. They can chose to socialize but also have a nice calm area to rest and relax.

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Then there are daycares that provide all day group-play for those dogs that relish the opportunity to romp around with their buddies.  These are so much fun and are great for active dogs that require mental and physical stimulation.  This gives dogs the opportunity to socialize, and can often lead to better behavior outside of the home. These daycares also provide ample opportunity for some serious exercise, which means it’s one less obstacle for you, as a pet owner, to tackle in keeping a happy, healthy pup!

Many people see me out and about with my pack and tell me how wonderfully behaved they are and that they wish they could take their dogs places. I always dig a little deeper and I usually hear the same reasons. It’s often because they’re too rambunctious or easily excited. I always suggest a particular kind of daycare depending on what their dog seems to need. Usually, I try to recommend a combination of the two types of facilities above.

Now, I’m not advocate of Doggie Daycare simply because I work at one – It’s because I have seen its benefits first hand. As I began to accumulate my pack of 3, I was lucky enough to get to take them to work with me everyday. Seeing their smiling faces every day made the chaos of caring for so many dogs worthwhile – At least that’s what I used to think.

When I decided to focus solely on school, I started to notice my dog’s behavior changing. They got to run in my yard and I would still take them on trails, but something seemed to be missing. They began to get rowdy at home and I’d notice little squabbles here and there. They also began to become destructive, when I had never really had that issue before.

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I started taking them to the dog park nearly every evening for almost a year, and that consistent socialization and exercise did wonders in curbing those behaviors. I kept running into issues though. Pepper was terrified of the children running rampant and Nessie would get overwhelmed by the super high energy dogs.  What was once an enjoyable experience for all four of us, started to become stressful. However, I needed to maintain their activity level.

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I finally caved and paid to take my dogs to daycare. What I found is that the level of control over the environment (especially the consistency – same people and same playmates) really helped with those issues. Daycares only allow staff to interact with the dogs and they can create playgroups not only based upon size, but also by age and temperament. They require all animals to be up to date on vaccinations and they usually have strict sanitization practices, so they are safer environments when it comes to disease transmission.  They also require spaying and neutering for puppies over 6 months. This may not seem like a big deal, but it actually makes a huge difference. Some dogs cannot handle unaltered dogs. Call it hormones or something, but just as most people  want to avoid women during “that time of the month” a female dog in heat can make a mess of everything. The same goes for an unneutered male that decides to mark everything and challenge all of the other dogs. 

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I’m not saying that my dogs wouldn’t be happy without going, but it is certainly easier for me to care for them now that they do.

I get home and I don’t have to worry about what might happen if took a night off from exercising them (HUGE TIME SAVER). They’re calm and engaged with me (or often off snoozing somewhere) and it’s easier to work with them on obedience training, or the fun stuff likes tricks and agility.

So, really, it isn’t just for the dogs but for my sanity as well! My household is calm and peaceful like I want it and my dogs are happy. Well worth any amount of money in my book.

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Tips for finding the right Daycare:

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1. Know your dog – you might like the idea of the luxury suites and tv’s in every room, but is your dog really going to use the plush bed? or are the going to want to go all out running alongside their buddies all day long? Would your dog benefit from a place that also offers training, and has staff that can provide  it?  Try to choose a facility that offers an environment that can realistically provide and positive and enjoyable environment for your dog.

2. Make sure the facility screens new dogs  – I would never take my dogs anywhere and leave them unattended without knowing every dog they come into contact with has gone through an evaluation process. This helps prevent possible altercations and drastically reduces the chances of something happening to your pet.  Keep in mind that any time two dogs get together to play, minor things like scratches and abrasions can happen. Dogs will be dogs. However, you want to be confidant that dogs with aggression issues are recognized and your dog is kept safe. You also want to ask what a facilities’ protocol is concerning emergencies.

3. Take a tour – You always want to be able to see that things are safe and kept on the “up and up” so to speak. This doesn’t mean a facility is bad if you can walk back any time of the day (this is often for your safety as there are puppies at play!) but you should always be able to see the facility at some point, even if just means swinging by at open or close to check the place out when they aren’t busy and can spare the staff and time.

4. Ask about staff to dog ratio and  if the dogs are ever out of someone’s sight – This is important! The more supervision provided by trained staff means the safer it will be for your pup.

5. Do your homework. Expensive does not equate to better when it comes to daycare. However, if you’re worried about affording the right daycare for your dog, ask about packages. Many offer significant discounts when you pre-pay for a certain number of visits.