Is daycare right for your dog?

Dog, Persephone, outside on a leash

Every dog is different, and every dog’s enrichment needs are also different. Not every dog will benefit from daycare—and that’s okay. It’s important to listen to and advocate for your dog if they’re not comfortable in a situation.

Here are a few signs that daycare isn’t right for your dog, as well as a few other ways to provide enrichment, exercise, and socialization for your dog

Signs that your dog isn't enjoying daycare 

While daycare can be an enriching experience for many dogs (as long as you find the right daycare facility for them), that’s not always the case.

dog giving whale eyes, dog uncomfortable

A few common signs that daycare isn’t right for your dog include:

  • If your dog is shut down (for example: hiding under cots or away from the group, head/body carriage is low, they aren’t looking at staff members, rolling over when staff or dogs approach, and won't engage with either).
  • If you notice distance increasing behaviors such as side swiping, snapping, chasing off other dogs, barking, and lunging.
  • If they are overly exhausted when at home. This could also indicate they're going to daycare too often but would enjoy it on a less frequent schedule.
  • If they don’t want to enter the daycare facility, or they increase frenetic movement and show signs of anxiety or distress when you arrive (for example: wide eyed, stress panting, extra pacing, tail tucked, tail high, stiff body, barking, drooling, and overall not wanting to go inside). 

What do you do if daycare isn't right for your dog? 

If your dog doesn’t end up enjoying or being successful in a daycare setting, there are additional activities to consider that will still give them the mental and social enrichment they need. These include:

  • Boarding facilities that offer “day boards” – a daytime stay with individual play, but does not include an overnight stay.
  • Dog sports such as scent work, rally, agility, Frisbee, or a tricks class. We offer a variety of specialty classes at Animal Humane Society for you and your pup to try.  
  • One on one play-dates with doggy friends a few times a week. Dog tolerance tends to change as they age; the 'mosh pit' play-style that we see in daycare or playgroups are often less enjoyable for mature dogs. It's common for adolescent/adult dogs to prefer playing one on one with a familiar friend.
  • Enriching activities with their people such as long sniffing walks, hikes, Frisbee, flirt pole chase games, brain game activities, obedience classes, or car rides to new places to enjoy the outdoors/parks, etc. 
  • Hiring a dog walker or sitter that can come and let your dog out, walk them, play with them, and hang out with them while you're away. 

Be an advocate for your dog

All dogs have unique needs, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for every dog. As a caretaker, it’s all about listening to your dog and finding the right solutions for them.

If that solution isn’t daycare, there are still many great alternatives for you and your dog to try. 

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