Every dog is unique, and so is every daycare. Before you bring your dog to any facility, gather as much information as you can about their business model and priorities, the facility itself, how their program is structured, and their staff.
Some dog daycares split groups according to the dog's size or play style, and some use management and training tools that others don’t. Taking a tour of the facility gives you a chance to look at the daycare and ask important questions to the staff.
Consider asking the following types of questions on the tour, and watch for any red and green flags.
Questions to ask about the dog daycare facility
- What’s the layout of the facility?
- What are the cleaning procedures for the facility?
- Can you see the kennel area or view the daycare room through windows or viewing portals?
Red flags: They refuse to provide a tour. The facility looks dirty, there are excrement/potty stains on the floor, or they don't have a regimented cleaning schedule.
Green flags: They provide details on the day-to-day operations of the facility, the cleaning schedule, and the facility appears clean. Kennels are appropriately sized for the dog.
Questions to ask about the daycare staffing
- What’s the dog-to-staff ratio during the day?
- Are staff trained in animal body language, behavior, and group management?
- What tools do staff use to manage the arousal level of the group?
Red flags: Their standard is a low number of staff to high number of dogs in a group based on size, and they don't have training in animal behavior, body language, or ways to keep the group settled and calm. Avoid facilities that use aversive tools such as smack sticks, bark/shock/citronella collars, choke collars, or spray bottles.
Green flags: The ratio is more than one staff member per group all day. Staff members receive training on recognizing dog signals and body language, and they know how to appropriately de-escalate the group using their voice, gentle hands, and removing or separating dogs for safety. The daycare and staff have a separation strategy for stressed, over-aroused, or dogs who are in need of a break.
Questions to ask about dog eligibility
- How do you determine which dogs are a good fit for group play?
- Do you have a test run procedure to determine if a dog is a good fit?
Red flags: They lack a system that determines if a dog is a good fit, even if they are obviously not enjoying themselves, or the dog is a risk/at risk in a group setting. They don't do test runs, and fail to follow-up regarding how the day went.
Green flags: They assess dogs on a consistent basis, even if they have been regulars, to be sure every dog is still appropriate. They do test runs, communicate concerns with clients, and have a consistent communication standard.
Questions to ask about incidents and injury procedures
- What’s your incident procedure?
- What’s your injury assessment procedure after an incident?
- How do you determine if a dog returns after an incident?
- What’s your procedure in breaking up a scuffle? What tools are used?
- What’s your communication policy when an incident occurs?
Red flags: They don’t have a planned procedure after an incident, regardless of injury. They don't have an injury assessment and fail to evaluate the dogs. They continue allowing a dog that has repeatedly reacted intensely and started scuffles, to return to the facility.
They use items like water, choke chains, and excessive force to end an incident; listen for buzz words like “force,” “dominate,” “submit,” “corrections, “or “punish.” They avoid communicating an incident or injury to the owners, unless it is an obvious injury.
Green flags: They have a clear procedure and open communication with clients about any incidents that take place at the facility. They don't break up scuffles violently or physically cause harm to the dogs, and they have a procedure about when to discontinue a dog's time at the daycare.
Additional questions to consider when looking for a dog daycare
While you search for the perfect daycare facility for your dog, it’s also important to consider:
- Are there added costs due to extra feedings?
- Are there enrichment offerings?
- What are the procedures for medication application?
- What is your policy for play-dates/groups?
- What does the daily routine include during a dog's stay?
- Are there accommodations for special cases like reactivity, noise sensitive, etc.?
Finding the right daycare fit for your dog
Not all dogs are suited for a daycare setting and not all daycare environments are created equal.
Ask questions, take tours, and remember, it’s okay to decide that daycare (in a particular place or in general) may not be a good fit for your dog.