Dog Daycare Evaluation Process

In part one of our dog daycare series, we discussed the different types of daycare options for your pooch. Today, we’ll review specific questions to ask before you hand over the leash.

Vaccination Requirements

Aside from rabies, what other vaccines does the facility require? DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus) and Bordatella are common ones, and some facilities may require a canine Influenza vaccine. If you run a limited vaccine protocol, ask if blood titers are acceptable.

Spay & Neuter Requirements

Intact dogs require more management, and can be more prone to same-sex aggression. Some establishments may bar intact dogs completely, while others may only allow them separate one-on-one time with staff members, separate from the rest of the pack. Check to see what your chosen dog daycare’s specific protocols are for intact dogs.

Trial Process

When introducing a new dog to a pack, there may be some scuffles. Good dog daycares know this, and will ask owners for a canine behavioral history. When they do, be honest about your dog’s issues. This will go a long way toward mitigating future scuffles and/or injuries. Some dogs may have issues with resource guarding their food, space, or toys, nipping or mouthing, separation anxiety, excessive herding or chasing, shying away from unfamiliar humans, and more. If your dog exhibits any of these behaviors, definitely notify the staff so that they can help you set your dog up for success.

Group Size & Type

When evaluating the current play groups, look at the number of staff per dog – similar to evaluating a student-to-teacher ratio at a specific school. Dogs should be separated not only by size, but also by play type. For example, some rough-and-tumble smaller breeds such as terriers, Corgis, or Australian Cattle Dogs may actually do better with larger dogs than smaller ones. Ultimately, go with the dog daycare that has the setup you’re most comfortable with – you know your dog best, after all.

Safety First

Any dog daycare should have adequate barriers to keep dogs where they need to be. To start, dogs should be supervised at all times when they are out playing, and a two-door or “airlock” policy is strongly recommended. This prevents “door dashing,” and escape attempts!

Despite all safety precautions, injuries can and do happen. A pup may sprain a joint, rip a paw pad, or may get chomped on a little too hard. Dogs play with their mouths and teeth, so it’s not uncommon for minor scrapes to occur. As a dog owner, you need to evaluate if you’re okay with this – it’s not a matter of if your pup will be injured in a daycare situation, but when.

If you’ve determined you’re okay with this, ask the daycare what their injury treatment protocol is. How quickly do they notify you? Do they have a veterinarian close by for care? Are some staff members certified in canine first aid? Do they work with your veterinarian? Are there authorization forms which allow them to make medical decisions if they can’t get in touch with you? These are all questions to ask.

Daily Routine

Dogs are creatures of routine & habit. If they know what to expect, and when to expect it, they’re more likely to stay calm and relax. Ask the daycare staff what their schedule is; ie do they have scheduled play time, nap time, and training time? Routines can help prevent overstimulation and anxiety, especially in dogs that would “go go go” all day long given half the chance!

Keeping It Clean

When considering sanitation protocols, the dog daycare should be regularly cleaned once per week using veterinary-grade disinfectant, and spot cleaned with pet-safe cleaning products. Upon entering the facility, you should not smell any urine or feces. If you do, it’s a sign that the daycare is not sanitary, and therefore, not safe for your pup.

Dogs can and will have accidents, especially in a stimulating environment such as a daycare. That said, impermeable surfaces and proper cleaning products will mitigate the risk of infection.

This may seem like a lot of information, but it is highly important to ensure that your pooch is safe, and is receiving the best care possible when they are under another individual’s care & supervision. Transparency is key, and you need to make sure that you’re 100% comfortable with the daycare facility’s environment, policies, and procedures. This will help you relax, and will ensure that your pup is happy and healthy as they play with their new pals!