New Pet Owner

Choosing a Doggie Daycare

Bringing A Baby Into A Dog’s World

For many dog lovers, choosing a doggie daycare or boarding facility can be as stressful as selecting a preschool for their kids. A dog is a part of the family and you have to make sure that Sparky is going to be lovingly cared for while you're away or at work. Here are some tips to help you choose a good facility.

  • Visit the daycare without your dog and ask some questions. What are their operating hours? Is there a penalty for picking up a dog late? Is there a discounted rate for a second dog? Is there a monthly or yearly membership available? Do they require up-to-date vaccinations? If not, take your dog somewhere else. Make sure that you're comfortable with all of the policies and can conform to them.
  • Does the facility offer grooming or other spa services? Is there a swimming area? Is there an outside dog run? An agility course? Do they offer training? These things aren't necessary, but it's nice to choose a place that has some extra amenities.
  • Does the facility work with a nearby veterinarian? If so, ask if you can contact the veterinarian's office to ask about the daycare's accident history. Realize that accidents and illnesses do happen, but there shouldn't be an unusual number of them. All daycares and boarding facilities should use a nearby veterinarian.
  • Is the staff equipped to give your dog meals or medication?
  • Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? Do you get the impression that if there is a problem they would know how to handle it?
  • Find out how the dogs are supervised. Ideally, the daycare will have a ratio rule, usually no more than 15 dogs per supervisor.
  • Ask for a tour of the facility. Are there any doggie odors, aside from what you might expect? Is the place clean? Ask to see where your dog will play and sleep. You should have access to all parts of the facility. If there's a section that they won't let you see, go elsewhere.
  • Ask to speak with a few regular customers to get their impressions of the facility. Most daycares will have customers amenable to getting phone calls—and people love to chat about their dogs!
  • Are there separate areas for large and small dogs? Ask what the staff does in case of fighting or rough play. At what point do they intervene?
  • Is the facility secure? Is there any way for dogs to escape or be stolen?
  • What is their emergency or evacuation plan? On September 11, 2001, a doggie daycare near the World Trade Center had to be evacuated—without the dogs. Fortunately, staff members insisted that they get past barricades and all the pets were eventually removed safely from the area.
  • Does the place look fun? Imagine that you're sending your child to summer camp—wouldn't you want the camp to be a blast?
  • Many daycares have an intake process that involves a questionnaire and an evaluation of the dog. This isn't to try to exclude your dog. Daycare in an open facility with other dogs isn't for every canine, and the daycare has to make sure that Sparky will play nicely with others.

Nikki Moustaki, MA, MFA, is a dog trainer, bird care and behavior consultant, and a freelance writer in New York City. She is the author of more than 26 books on pet care and training and is the host of www.dogfessions.com.

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