Whether your dog visits occasionally or plays 5 days per week… you need to know all you can about the facility, staff and daily operations.
Since the concept of daycare has been so popular in the past few years you have to be smart and know the right questions to ask, so that you know your pet is happy and will be cared for in the same manner that you would expect for him. You should expect to have a fully trained and certified dog trainer on staff at all times… anything less is just unacceptable. We all love dogs….of course we do, we would not be in this business if we did not. To operate a quality daycare you have to have extensive dog training experience, pet CPR and first aid training, multiple qualified and trained staff, great customer service skills and lots of patience!
Talk to local pet professionals.
Your vet, your groomer, pet stores, people at the dog park, friends who have dogs. Talk to them about their experiences.
Call the facility.
Ask general questions about their services and fees. Get a feel for the staff on the phone. Ask to speak with the dog trainer on staff and ask them a specific dog training question. How do they answer you? Are their training methods all positive reinforcement/dog friendly or old school corrective training? Remember if there is not a certified trainer on staff you cannot be assured the dogs are properly screened and appropriate for day care.
Then visit the facility unannounced.
If you cannot just show up at any time this should be a HUGE red flag, there is a reason they do not want you to show up! Visit the facility at least twice: first mid day (unannounced) when the dogs should all be playing and having a great time. Ask for a tour. Then have your second visit be during their peak drop off or pickup times (also unannounced). Stand back and watch the flow. How are the dogs treated? How are they handled? How are the humans treated? Is there a routine or does it seem a bit hap-hazard?
Ask very specific questions and demand detailed answers.
How many certified dog trainers do they have on staff, physically, at the day care, AT ALL TIMES? What is the dog to person ratio? (standard is 1 person for every 15 dogs and never less than 2 people on at all times) The dogs should NEVER be left alone… Not for 1 minute. If only one person is on staff what would they do if there was a doggie emergency and a dog had to be taken to the veterinarian? What if that one staff member had to go to the bathroom?
How do they screen the dogs?
Are big dogs separated form small dogs?
How do they handle dog fights?
How do they keep order with the dogs? Do you see treat pouches (we hope) or water spray bottles (we hope not)
What type of training does the staff undergo?
If they offer dog training classes, what type of methods do they use?
If they use old school training like choke chains and pinch collars… be forewarned, they will be using corrective responses to the dogs at day care too. If they contract their dog training out… then be very worried… this often means they do not have the training experience necessary to conduct classes on their own.
Can you drop in on their classes?
Again… big red flag if you cannot!
Do they offer grooming?
Does the groomer follow positive reinforcement with the dogs too?
What types of doggie medical concerns do they not allow?
Do they discriminate against any specific breeds?
If they mention things like “we do not allow any aggressive breeds” be assured they are extremely uneducated people who do not know the difference between temperament and behavior.
Choosing a day care facility for your dog can be like picking the best school for your human children. Take the time and energy to do it right…. your dog will appreciate it!