What to ask before sending your dog to daycare

What to ask before sending your dog to daycare
Haley Young
9 Jan
2024

Thank you so much to Juniper dog parent Laura Ciccone for putting together this guest post!

As first-time dog parents, my partner and I thought our research skills and resources would easily lead us to a high-quality daycare for our pup. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Navigating through training, daycare, and vet options proved much more complicated than anticipated. Our experience over the last six years has taught us vital lessons about what to look for in a dog daycare.

(Before diving into the lesser-known questions, I strongly recommend reading this article by Preventative Vet as an excellent starting point, especially the section on different daycare styles and how to determine what temperament your dog has. The questions in this article will complement the information in that article.)

What to ask before choosing a daycare for your pup

Here are some unique yet essential questions you should be asking, enriched with our experiences and the "why" behind them:

What is the staff-to-dog ratio?

The ratio may seem like just a number, but believe me, it has a profound impact. We learned this the hard way when we sent our pup to a daycare with only two human caretakers for about 45 dogs. The experience was far from ideal, with signs of neglect that ranged from mysterious lesions to a lingering urine smell. Ever since, we've insisted on a maximum 1:10 staff-to-dog ratio.

What kind of training does the staff have?

(and why alpha dog theories should be avoided)

Training philosophies at dog daycares run the gamut from well-informed to downright harmful. On one end, you have debunked and damaging approaches like alpha dog theories and Cesar Milan's methods. We had an unfortunate experience with a daycare that used spray bottles as a disciplinary method. While they likely had good intentions, this approach led to a long-lasting fear of running water in our dog that has been heartbreaking to untrain.

However, having no training can be just as detrimental because it often means the staff can't correctly read dog body language. This is a nuanced skill that helps prevent incidents before they escalate. To learn more about this, check out some in-depth dog behavior breakdowns by Five by Five Canine.

I agree with the Preventative Vet article that recommends looking for daycares certified through the Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC). Even if the daycare isn't PACCC-certified, you can use their high standards as a benchmark for quality.

Bottom line: Dig deep into the daycare's training ethos. Whether it's bad training or no training, either can have lasting repercussions for your furry friend.

What’s the toy policy?

Toys may seem like they’re all fun and games, but they can be a breeding ground for dog fights. Our fur baby once had a rather unpleasant experience because the daycare staffer was not judicious in how they used toys during playtime. Our pup was lying down when a toy was thrown into her space, causing other dogs to trample over her. One stressful day, she'd had enough of this behavior and snapped. And let's talk about resource guarding—it's a real issue. A toy left unattended in a group of dogs can quickly escalate into a showdown over who gets the prized object. So, always inquire about how toys are managed.

How are meals handled?

Food time is sacred, don't you agree? But not all daycares treat it as such. Any daycare that doesn't feed dogs separately is immediately crossed off our list. Resource guarding is real and can be triggered even in the most docile dogs when in a new environment.

How are dogs grouped?

Our darling girl might be petite, but she has the spirit of a lounging giant. She loves nothing more than to relax and people-watch. A good daycare should evaluate temperament and not just lump dogs together based on size. Our pup has thrived in groups with larger but calmer dogs, and it's a delight to see her so content.

After the trial, how’s your dog feeling?

A trial day is an invaluable resource. Use it wisely and observe your dog's behavior afterward. If they come back more stressed than when they left, take it as a warning sign. The goal is for your pup to return home relaxed, not worn out.

Every dog is unique, and so is their ideal care setup

Look, this pet parenthood journey is filled with learning curves, but you're already ahead of the game by researching and preparing. While it's true that no care option is a universal fit for every dog, each lesson you learn brings you closer to providing the best life possible for your furry friend.

Join the club! Submit your email and you’re in!
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How are meals handled?

Food time is sacred, don't you agree? But not all daycares treat it as such. Any daycare that doesn't feed dogs separately is immediately crossed off our list. Resource guarding is real and can be triggered even in the most docile dogs when in a new environment.

How are dogs grouped?

Our darling girl might be petite, but she has the spirit of a lounging giant. She loves nothing more than to relax and people-watch. A good daycare should evaluate temperament and not just lump dogs together based on size. Our pup has thrived in groups with larger but calmer dogs, and it's a delight to see her so content.

After the trial, how’s your dog feeling?

A trial day is an invaluable resource. Use it wisely and observe your dog's behavior afterward. If they come back more stressed than when they left, take it as a warning sign. The goal is for your pup to return home relaxed, not worn out.

Every dog is unique, and so is their ideal care setup

Look, this pet parenthood journey is filled with learning curves, but you're already ahead of the game by researching and preparing. While it's true that no care option is a universal fit for every dog, each lesson you learn brings you closer to providing the best life possible for your furry friend.

Join the club! Submit your email and you’re in!
We’ll send our dog-centric newsletter straight to your inbox each and every week! 100% Free :)
Welcome!
Check your email for more information don’t forget to check out:

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