For dog-lovers who work away from home during the day, Doggy-Day-care seems to provide the perfect answer to avoiding leaving one’s dogs home alone for long hours. Those with young puppies are especially likely to make use of such a service and certainly, the idea of leaving a puppy with a caregiver and where there are usually lots of other dogs or puppies to play with seems like something that could only be good for a young pup, particularly in comparison to being left home alone all day.
However, Doggy Day-care is not always all it is cracked up to be and MANY dogs and puppies develop serious behaviour problems from their experiences in less than ideal day-care environments. Some of the main problems are as follows:
There is little or no supervision of the interactions between the various dogs in the day-care. This leads to some dogs having the opportunity to practise inappropriate behaviour such as bullying, while others are on the receiving end of this and become more anxious, stressed and defensive in social situations.
The dogs are allowed to interact constantly and are not given sufficient down-time to rest and relax on their own. This leads to over-arousal which in turn leads to reactive and inappropriate behaviour. Much like an over-tired child that becomes emotionally reactive and “silly”, puppies and dogs that don’t have sufficient time to rest during the day also become more likely to “fly off the handle” or become grumpy. I cannot count the number of owners who have recounted incidents where they were bitten by their usually easy-going dogs or pups shortly after picking them up from day-care!
The person running the facility may not be qualified to do so. In other words, any well-meaning person can open a Doggy-Day-care. Although they will be overseeing the early development and socialisation of the pups in their care, they may have absolutely no knowledge of dog behaviour and development other than watching the nonsense put forward on the “Dog-Whisperer”!
Having said that, there are doggy day-care facilities that do provide healthy environments for pups and adult dogs. Such facilities ensure that dogs that play together are compatible and that all interactions are supervised. Young dogs are protected from unpleasant experiences and older dogs are not given the opportunity to bully. The individual needs of each dog are taken into consideration and all dogs are given plenty of rest and down-time between social interactions. Numbers are kept at a manageable level so that every dog is cared for properly and none are overlooked.
So before you book your dog or pup into Day-care, pay them a visit (preferably when they are not expecting you!) and ask the following questions:
What qualifications does the caregiver have?
How many pups or dogs are at the day-care?
How much time do the dogs spend playing or interacting and is this supervised?
What provision is made for the dogs to have “down-time”?
What does the caregiver do if a dog in their care shows anti-social behaviour? (Do they ensure that the other dogs are protected from this or do they just leave them to “sort it out”!)
If the caregiver engages in any training with the dogs (even if it is just house-training) what methods do they use? (Only non-coercive, reward-based methods are acceptable)