Doggie Day Care: Is It Right for Your Dog?

A kennel worker plays with several small dogs.
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Has the winter weather put a crimp in your outdoor fun with your dog? Are both of you getting cabin fever? If so, a day of doggie day care may be just the answer.

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Dog day care is similar to day care for children: it offers supervised play, meals, and naptime while you are at work or off running errands. You can drop off your dog for a half or full day.

Is your dog a good fit for day care? First, your dog needs to fit the bill physically:

  • Your dog must be spayed or neutered.
  • Your dog must be vaccinated. Along with core vaccines, most day cares will also require a bordetella immunization.
  • Your dog may still be in the puppy stage but must be fully vaccinated.

Even if your dog is fit physically, how about socially? Like outgoing humans at a party, some dogs will like nothing better than a few hours meeting and mingling with others. Those dogs will play and play then come home after day care exhausted and happy, the perfect antidote to cabin fever.

On the other hand, a socially awkward dog (whether that’s shyness or one who’s inappropriate in his greetings) won’t be making friends nearly as quickly. It may be stressful for some dogs to attend day care. If you’re concerned that your dog might not be a good fit, schedule no more than a half-day session and talk with the day care employees when you pick up your dog about his behavior.

Choosing a Doggie Day Care

If you decide to give a doggie day care a trial run, you’ll want to do an inspection visit before bringing your dog. Budget and location are two factors, but you’ll primarily be looking for a day care facility where you know your dog will be happy and safe.

Ask to visit the facility on your own to tour all parts of the facility. On your tour, look for these features:

  • A good staff to dog ratio. Look for at least one staff member for no more than 15 dogs.
  • A list of requirements. Be sure the facility requires all dogs to be spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations.
  • Behavior evaluations. Have all the dogs at the facility passed a behavior evaluation?
  • A clean facility. Does the day care smell clean along with looking clean?
  • A fun atmosphere. Do the dogs seem like they’re having a good time? Is the barking from fun—or are you hearing stress barking?

Finally, when you return home, do a quick online search for possible complaints, and call your Better Business Bureau to see if the facility is in good standing.

With those concerns out of the way, your dog will now be able to enjoy a day of winter play and a tail-wagging good time on his doggie day care visit.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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    • We always travel with a list of doggie day cares and pet sitters at our destination when we travel, ones we’ve already checked online for good recommendations. We also travel with a list of emergency vet offices at our destination and along our route. Better safe than sorry!

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