Trainer Perspective: Doggie Daycare
It's pretty obvious I think doggie daycare can be a great service for dogs and their humans alike — I wouldn't offer it otherwise! However, for as awesome as it is, it's often misunderstood in a variety of ways, and I'd like to provide some clarity. If you're thinking about 1) sending your own dog to daycare or 2) recommending daycare to a friend, start here first.
Daycare is not...
...a replacement for training. If you're dealing with behavioral challenges with your dog, daycare is not automatically going to solve them. While it may help with undesirable behaviors related to boredom, it's not going to magically make your dog stop pulling on the leash, jumping on your guests, guarding his toys, or any other number of issues. While we do offer day training while a dog is here for daycare, it's a completely separate service.
...a make-up for lack of early socialization. We have a lot of people come in with two- and three-year-old dogs saying, "I want to get him/her socialized." Socialization, as we typically use the term, happens before a dog is three months old, and if your dog missed out on socialization during that critical time period, nothing can replace it. That's not to say all hope is lost! Social ability can often be improved in older dogs, but daycare is (with few exceptions) not the place for it.
...therapy for humans. You will not find a good doggie daycare attendant in the middle of a "puppy pile." They are not hugging, kissing, holding, or petting dogs very often. Daycare attendants function more like referees, watching to make sure interactions are appropriate and safe and only interacting when play has (or has the clear potential to) cross a line.
...group exercise class. While many dogs come home from daycare tired, and many daycare parents enjoy that, that's not the point of daycare, and we're not chasing your dogs around to exhaust them. If a dog needs a break, they get a break for as long as they want. If a dog is clearly overtired and not making the choice to rest, we give them some time in a crate or a separate space to recover.
...a specific environment that isn't right for every dog. Not every social dog loves daycare. Not every dog who grew up coming to daycare continues to love daycare into adulthood. Some dogs prefer to play one-on-one, or with a small group, and get overwhelmed by the number of dogs or the level of energy at daycare. Some dogs prefer short social interactions and quickly get cranky surrounded by other dogs for eight hours. It's not wrong for a dog to not like daycare, just like it's not wrong for people to prefer book club to cocktail hour (or vice versa).
...for your dog, not for you. Daycare is for dogs to socialize and play as much as is good for them. It's not an exclusive club. It's not a cute, trendy thing for your dog to do, like yoga with cats or wine and paint night with piglets. Now, if you're looking at daycare mainly as an opportunity for your dog to get tired out so you don't have to do it when you get home from work, it's not the end of the world. We just need you to understand that's not what's driving our reasoning. Your dog's well-being is behind every decision we make in daycare, and that's why we don't chuck your reluctant dog in the pool for the sake of a cute photo, or why we tell you Fido might need less daycare or daycare on a different day or training on a specific issue before he can do daycare. Of course, dogs who get to play and exercise tend to be calmer and happier, and that makes their parents happy, and we love that. We also know that your life is a series of moving parts and your dog is only one of them, so we do our best to be accommodating and helpful whenever we can. However, if our suggestions or instructions are ever at odds with your work schedule, your weekend plans, or your hopes for what daycare can provide your dog, just know where we're coming from.