Is Dog Daycare the right choice for your dog?

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I can’t even keep up with the number of “Dog Daycares” popping up all over the place nowadays. From state of the art facilities, to someone’s backyard turned dog daycare…they are everywhere. Surely, sending Fido to a dog daycare where he can run and play with other dogs all day sounds like a great idea right? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but not only is “doggy daycare” not ideal for many dogs, but not all daycares are created equal and it may be doing more harm than good.

So, how can a doggy daycare possibly be bad for your dog? There are a few myths about dog daycares that I want to look at…

Myth #1 – Dog Daycare will make my under socialized or non social dog more social

Sending your dog who is not overly keen on playing with other dogs to daycare may help them come out of their shell, but this is not guaranteed. In fact, many dogs who don’t love playing with other dogs in the wrong environment will become overwhelmed and over stimulated resulting in some “aggressive” type behaviours. Dogs who were once neutral or even timid towards dogs have become defensive and short fused, resulting in them snapping or biting. However, this can in fact be prevented by well trained staff who understand dog body language, have a basic understanding of training and how to manage and advocate for the dogs. Unfortunately many dog daycares are staffed by people who just love hanging out with dogs and know nothing about this type of thing. So, if your dog is not super social then you will need to assess if your dog would actually even enjoy going or at the very minimum find a daycare that has a training philosophy to prevent this. Many well intentioned dog owners think “If we send him to daycare, then he will be better socialized” and this is not always the case.

Myth #2 – I have a high energy dog who NEEDS to play ALL day in order to be happy

For those who know me and know my training style, they will know that while I am all for giving dogs exercise, providing them with outlets, and assigning them “jobs”, I am also equally all for teaching dogs to relax and chill out. Many daycares simply allow a large group of dogs to play ALL day. There are no structured breaks, there is no calming overly aroused dogs, and there are very few rules (if those are even enforced, who knows?). Some dogs will come home tired from daycare, this is true. But I often hear about dogs who spend all day at daycare who come home just as wound up as when they arrived. See the problem is that not only do dogs build stamina and endurance to all that high energy play, but also they are overflowing with adrenaline all day right up until you pick them up. A good daycare will have scheduled downtime for all dogs, and will know when and how to calm an overly adrenalized dog.

Myth #3 – Sending my dog to daycare will help with the training issues we are having

There is a saying that “A tired dog is a happy dog”, and many people will use this philosophy in hopes to address any issues they are having with their dog. Unless you are sending your dog to a trainer who provides “Day School” your dog is most likely (almost definitely) not learning to behave any better. Many staff not only don’t know how to stop your dog’s unwanted behaviours, but they are most likely unintentionally encouraging and rewarding the behaviours. The most common complaint I hear from dog owners is that their dog’s jumping or barking is progressively getting worse with daycare, so if you want to resolve training issues, you may need to take a break from daycare.

Now that we have debunked the top 3 myths about dog daycares, I should also mention that I am not totally opposed to them (like I am dog parks)! I also don’t want to paint all daycares with the same brush. There are actually some good daycares out there that I would have no problem recommending (Dogs Reformed being one of them), but “buyer beware” as for every good daycare there are probably five that I would recommend not sending your dog to! Unfortunately, when you send your dog to a poorly run daycare, you will likely be undoing a lot of the hard work you put into training him. So, if you are going to send your dog to doggy daycare, do your research, make sure it is a good fit and that it is actually benefiting you and your dog by sending them!

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