The following is a post written for the SKDT Blog by guest writer and owner of Laughing Dogs Daycare and Training Services, Jamie Schwoerer. You can read my interview with her in this SKDT Blog post! Enjoy!
1) Many owners come in thinking they want their dog to be playing constantly, all day long.
That's not the healthiest thing for most dogs - they need breaks and rest/down time just like we do. Sometimes clients will check in on our cameras and worry that their dog isn't playing non-stop. The best daycare dogs actually are the dogs who will play for a bit, take a break and mill around, get some water, even lay down for a while, and then play some more. I would love to have every dog do this in daycare, so when parents get frustrated that this is how their dog is in daycare, it tells me they don't fully understand what a healthy arousal level is.
Some dogs need more breaks than others, and it's usually the dogs who don't take their own breaks from play. Sometimes the only way to get these types of dogs to take breaks is for us to separate them, either by kenneling them or removing them from the group for a period of time. Sometimes, it's as little as a couple minutes, sometime it's for 15-20 minutes, depending on the dog. Sometimes, the dog not only needs a break, but also needs to do something with their brain, so we have them play with food toys or take a little sniffing walk. None is this is a bad thing, so when daycares do things like this, it should be for the well-being of the dog.
2) Do not expect your daycare to do everything you want them to do simply because you want them to do it.
They are the professionals, so you need to either trust them to their job, or remove your dog from their care. Clients who come in and tell us that we must do something specific for their dog that just isn't what is best for their dog aren't going to get what they want. The human client isn't always right - we base our care and our decisions on what the dogs are communicating to us. We try to accommodate as best we can, when we can, but some requests just don't make sense from a safety or well-being perspective.
3) Open the door up for your pet care providers (groomer, daycare staff, veterinary staff, etc) to have a conversation with you about your pet's health and weight.
We are seeing a trend in the pet care industry of more and more overweight pets, and it's a difficult subject to broach with many clients because people take it so personally. You can help by opening the door and asking specific questions, and by being open to hearing the answers in the best interest of your pet. Most dog daycare owners/staff care deeply about all of the dogs in their care and they care about their humans clients too. They tend to love their clients as though they were their own dogs - and treat them as such. They want you to know if they have a concern about your pet's weight or health, but often find it difficult to broach the subject if you don't ask them about it directly for fear of offending you.
4) Dog daycare should not be the only means of socialization and exercise that your dog gets, and it should not be your solution to problem behaviors.
Yes, your dog will probably be tired after a day of daycare. But, don't use daycare as a means to avoid training or giving your dog other forms of enrichment. Daycare does not replace training and relationship-building between you and your dog, and it isn't the best means of getting mental or physical exercise for most dogs. Take them for a walk; get them out for a hike; give them some nose work exercises to do; let them eat using a food toy; take them to the bank or the hardware store with you; introduce them to new people; take them on a long-leash walk. Daycare is great, but when used as a part of an overall plan for your dog's enrichment, not when used as the sole form of exercise and play.
5) Dogs can get hurt at dog daycare and they can also get sick from being around other dogs.
It's not really the fault of the daycare. Just like with kids, groups of dogs being around one another regularly can pass illness between one another, regardless of how clean the facility is kept. Daycare owners definitely do NOT want illnesses going through their facilities and most will do everything in their power to prevent it. But, it's still going to happen, and it's not the end of the world. Get your dog checked and treated early if you notice symptoms, keep them out of group environments until they're well, and know that most illnesses/viruses help boost immunity, just like in humans. Kids get sick all the time, but as adults we can usually fend off illness a little bit better with a mature immune system. Dogs are very similar.
6) Lastly, and most importantly, if your dog has been kicked out of a dog daycare in the past, or if they have had issues with other dogs in other situations, be honest with your dog daycare about these things.
No one wants to have to tell another owner that your dog bit their dog, or wants to call you and tell you that your dog bit a person. And we especially don't want to find out that it's happened before and the information was not disclosed. Being kicked out of a dog daycare is not a terrible thing. It just means that your dog probably has other needs/desires, and daycare isn't the right fit for them. It doesn't make them a bad dog; it doesn't mean they can't be social in other settings or one-on-one with other dogs; and it doesn't mean they are aggressive or anti-social. It just might mean they don't have the patience for being in a group setting.