Choosing a Good Dog Day Care

Dog day care shouldn’t be a free-for-all. Here’s how to choose a well-run place (and decide whether day care’s right for your dog).

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #23

Nail polish; ribbons braided into the fur; day care. One of these may improve your dog’s quality of life. This week, dog day care – when it’s a good idea, and how to pick the right place. 

Is Dog Day Care Worth It?

Many working people find that they have to spend more time away from their dogs than they might like. A daily visit or two by a dog walker can take care of your dog’s bladder and bowels. But for a social animal, 10 or 12 hours a day is a lot of alone time. Especially for an adolescent dog, boredom plus loneliness plus pent-up steam can produce the three-ingredient dish called trouble. If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, then a well-run day care may increase her happiness and simultaneously decrease your guilt. And day care can be part of a behavior modification plan for certain forms of separation anxiety.

Check Out the Dog Day Care Premises

I wish this went without saying, but to judge by a couple of establishments I’ve visited, it really, really doesn’t: the day care should be clean and well ventilated. Some doggy aroma, especially on a wet day, is one thing. Feces and stale urine are another, and if the place smells as if the attendants clean it by pouring undiluted bleach over every surface, go elsewhere. Your dog doesn’t need to be breathing harsh fumes all day.

The day care should have separate rest and play areas, with dogs rotating in and out. The point of day care is to supply your dog with a reasonable amount of play and social time, not to overtire and stress him; a well-exercised dog will spend a lot of time asleep. Fresh clean water should be available in play areas and individual kennels. Finally, dogs at an indoor day care need outdoor potty walks so they don’t either lose housetraining or make themselves miserable holding in their waste all day.

Look at the Dog Day Care Play Setup

Large and small dogs should have separate play areas or separate play times.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).