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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I posted this on a forum that I am active on, and thought I'd share it here.

I've seen a lot of posts pop up lately about doggy daycare. I have worked at several daycares and boarding facilities over the last few years, and figured I'd share what I know.

What Questions to Ask, and What You Should Hear Back
1. How many people are on staff at any given time?
Good Answer: you want to hear a dog: employee ratio, NOT a number. Standard is usually 15:1 but anything up to 20:1 is acceptable. Understand that certain parts of the afternoon require less staff.

2. What cleaning products do you use to clean?
Good Answer: products entirely safe for the dogs. Common safe ones are Green Works Products, HDQ (my fav) and Consume. HDQ is just as effective as harmful products listed below, but entirely safe for dogs.
Bad Answer: Bleach. You can never be sure it's rinsed away, and is toxic. Also, Pine Sol products are terrible to use around the dogs.

3. What methods do you use to correct behavior?
Good Answer: "We use verbal corrections, as well as body language (such as using their bodies to stand between a fixated dog from whatever they want him to stay away from) and if that doesn't work, we use water bottles."

4. What do I have to do before making a reservation?
Good Answer: All dogs must go through a temperment test (often called an "interview") before being able to stay for daycare or boarding. This is to ensure the dogs are not only social but also enjoy the environment. This should be done in a controlled environment, at your dogs pace.
Bad Answer: Oh, just bring him on in! (If your dog did not have to have a temperment screening, neither did any of the others!)

5. How are the play groups separated?
Good Answer: By activity level and play style, with size within reason.
Bad answer: By size.

*Smaller dogs and bigger dogs do absolutely fine with eachother, provided the little one has proper confidence. It is perfectly acceptable to mix sizes. It is not, however, to put a totally crazy 4 month old Boxer puppy in a yard with a 14 year old Shuh Tzu suffering from arthritis, just because they're both "small"

6. What kind of training do your employees get?
Good answer: all employees go through Pet First Aid classes, as well as our training program. They're also supervised by a senior staff member for the first few days on the job to make sure they fully understand dog behavior.

7. What precautions do you take to the spread of illness?
Good answer: All dogs are required to be up to date on vaccines, titer tests accepted in place of them, and all common areas are cleaned daily. All kennels get a good deep clean after each dog gets checked out.
Bad answer: Oh, we don't let sick dogs in.

Common Red Flags
1. Understaffed. If there's a large amount of dogs, and only a few people, and situation that could escalate might take two or three people to get under control again. Moreover, if there is only one person, and a small group of dogs, when a customer arrives, or the phone rings, The dogs are left unattended.

2. High Turn-Over Rate of Employees. This is the most often overlooked, and the biggest red flag ever! If employees are quitting like crazy, SOMETHING is going on behind the scenes that they aren't okay with morally. A bad daycare owner is huge trouble, and most people that work in a daycare do so for the love of dogs (I assure you- it's NOT for the pay). When a facility owner is in it for money, dogs become a product, and often times are mistreated.

3. It smells bad. I know, you'd expect SOME doggy smell, but if the smell is awful, they're not keeping up on the cleaning.

4. They're unwilling to give a full tour of the facility. They should show you anywhere your dog might be. Some can not legally show you the outdoor yards if there is no other way but through a play yard full of dogs- it's a liability.

5. Manditory nap time in the afternoon. It is normal for dogs boarding to have a quick rest, as multiple days of play in a row is a lot- but NOT for daycare. If they say noon to two, it's safe to assume 11:30 to 2:30 is far more accurate. For dogs whose owners request it, naps are acceptable. If you pay for five hours of daycare, but two of those hours your dog is kenneled, you're being ripped off.

Things That Might Seem Questionable- But Aren't
1. Do they really squirt them in the face with that water bottle?! Well, yeah sometimes. sometimes, a little squirt on the shoulder just isn't enough of a distraction to end a behavior. It is painless, and most dogs actually turn it into a game and try to eat the spray. It serves as a distraction, NOT a punnishment.

2. What is that hose for, anyway? The topic no daycare employee wants to bring up with customers. Fights DO happen, and any daycare that claims to haev NEVER had a fight is lying through their teeth. A pressure hose is by FAR the most effective way to break up a fight quick without using physical force. I have worked at ONE daycare that didn't have hoses on hand. An Akita attacked a senior yellow lab, and it got ugly FAST. left without a hose, I had nothing but physical force to break up this fight, and being a relatively small person, trying to break off a very determined, mature 100lb+ akita was not easy. I DID in fact have to knock the air out of this Akita. Please do not judge me for having to hit this dog, it was my job at that point to do EVERYTHING I could to get that Akita off of the lab, and get control. The lab hardly made it out alive, it was the worst day on the job I ever had. There is not a doubt in my mind, had a pressure hose been avaliable, it NEVER would have gotten to that. It was the only time I have ever "had" to hit another person's dog, but I couldn't just let it go on. If you do not see a pressure hose, ask A LOT of questions about how they manage fights, because they WILL happen eventually. I don't want to scare anyone away from daycare.... but this is reality.

3. They're always barking- they ca't be enjoying themselves! Keep in mind that when a customer enters the lobby, or comes into the back for a tour- the noise level skyrockets. The dogs will all jump on the fence in excitement, they'll all bark, and this is when they are most likely to snap at eachother. That's NOT how it is when you're not there. This is hard to believe, because this is what you'll see every time you come, but YOU are the cause of it.

My Dog Got Kicked Out, Now What?
1. If a daycare employee informs you your dog is not welcome back, ask a million and a half questions, ESPECIALLY if they have never previously voiced any concerns. You have every right to know every little detail of any incident, and they owe it to you to take the time to explain. If your dog is developing behavior issues, you need to know everything about it.

2. If he's been going for a long time, and you've never been informed of previous problems, chances are it is a supervision issue,. Take him to another daycare, and move on. If they can not give you a detailed account of whatever happened, they weren't doing their job.

3. If an employee informs you of a problem starting, don't take it personal, but do take it to heart. Do not at any time think your dog is above whatever they are claiming he did! The BEST dogs at home can sometimes be the WORST in daycare. if they let you know that he normally does great, but today was a little snappy, take a break for a couple days and watch him at home.

We Want to Do Daycare, but my Dog is so nervous!
Some dogs are super nervous on day one, but I have never seen one not improve and grow to love- or at leave be comfortable at- daycare.
1. On the first day of daycare, if they let you know he was really nervous, start with quick frequent visits. No more than an hour.

2. In more extreme cases of anxiety, just drop in frequently, hang out in the lobby, let him hear the other dogs, stay for ten or fifteen minutes and then leave. This lets him have an entirely positive experience at the facility.

3. If they let you know your dog does well, but only for the first couple hours, ask about "half day" options. A full day of play is simply too much for some dogs.

Things to Consider
1. Just because your dog is perfect at home, does NOT mean he's an angel at daycare. My Shepherd is sooo good at home,and I must admit, he's the biggest troublemaker at daycare, and has more time outs than anyone.

2. Ask for regular updates. Sometimes, employees don't always know how to approach addressing an issue they're having with your dog. Asking for honest updates is the best way to really find out how your dog is doing.

3. If after regular visits, your dog is not excited at all upon arrival- chances are he's just not enjoying it. Ask about how he acts there, they'll be honest with you. A miserable dog makes their day less fun.

4. Don't freak out if your dog doesn't willingly go in the yard the first couple times. The employee already feels uncomfortable with you watching her partly drag your baby to the yard.

5. Don't freak out when your dog enters the yard, and every other dog there swarms him, and just has to check him out. Again, the employee feels like an idiot as you watch this.
**A more controlled introduction to the play group should be part of the "interview" process or temperment screening.

A good daycare is an absolutely wonderful thing, but a poorly managed one can be awful for you and your dog. Be aware of the risks involved, but don't let them scare you away.

3,266 Posts
Thanks for the input. I had an opportunity to work a summer job last year at such facility that was highly regarded, but I did not like it. The place itself for pretty small, inside they had seperate kennels and a main floor area which was really crammed. There were around 35-40 dogs and they would stumble into each other every second. The floor was laminated and very slippery, so a lot of the dogs would slip in their own urine(, it was cleaned up immidiately, but due to the lack of space it was everywhere). I think it posed a potential problem for an older dog with hip problems.
Another thing was that the facility was inside a gym like structure, so when the dogs barked( and boy, did they!), it echoed throughout the whole thing and made it sound 5 times louder then if it were outside. After 10 mins, I thought I would lose my mind.
Outside overall not bad, but again, very small, barely any room to move if all dogs are outside.

But my biggest pet peeve was when the other girl rolled out a tub with cleaning solution, I didnt see what it was, but it smelled exactly like ammonia. I was horrified to see that dogs would run up and stick their head in the bucket.
Then came a feeding time, she had one of those plastic table things on wheels.. she put the dishes on it and went by each kennel and poured the dry food in, but while she was getting around, opening the door, etc, some of the larger dogs would sneak behind her and eat all the food!!
Which is awful is that dog has severe allergies.

So yeah, I was not impressed with that particular facility.

I'll definitely print out this info and check everything when I look at other ones!

5,009 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There are DEFINATELY some sketchy facilities out there, and none of them are absolutely perfect. This is why it is SO important to take a full tour of any facility. If they are taking dog after dog when clearly there is not enough space- I wouldn't leave my dog there.
I'm not impressed by a daycare based off of how many dogs are there. In my experience, the bigger they are, and more dogs they have, the more it becomes about the money and not about the dogs- ESPECIALLY if it is not run by the original owner.
The daycare I'm at now is relatively small, and we do not accept more thn 40 dogs, daycare and boarding combined, EVER. on rare occasion we will go one or two over that if someone has an emergency and really NEEDS immediate boarding and has been here before, but honestly, this daycare has the best care of the dogs than any I've worked at, and it's BY FAR the smallest. Something to consider. :rolleyes:

My Lab attended a daycare where it was mandatory that all dogs be crated for naptime from 12 - 2. I didn't like the idea, and asked why. The owner said "Many of these dogs are here from 6:30 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. and we feel they need a break." She further added: "I have tried it many ways and the 2 hours of naptime does make their day easier on them. They race to get in the crates at nap-time and come out ready to play."

My Lab does not go there anymore. He doesn't need to. For him, now at his age, all he needs is a half-day of playtime.

I have also observed my Lab not being excited when arriving at daycare. In fact he would attempt to run in the opposite direction or cling to me when we arrived. At that point I knew he didn't like it there.

5,009 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My Lab attended a daycare where it was mandatory that all dogs be crated for naptime from 12 - 2. I didn't like the idea, and asked why. The owner said "Many of these dogs are here from 6:30 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. and we feel they need a break." She further added: "I have tried it many ways and the 2 hours of naptime does make their day easier on them. They race to get in the crates at nap-time and come out ready to play."
Ofr some dogs, very few, but some, a nap does make their day go smoother, but for 99.9% of the dogs, most definately not needed. Like I said, a daycare that puts BOARDING dogs down for an hour or so, is not uncommon, but to require it of all daycare dogs is such a cop out.
It should be an "as needed" thing, not required for all.
We have one dog, Shade, a Pit Mix that has been hit by a car years ago, and has a leg that gets sore, therefore making her cranky. For her, naps are needed, and we let her owners know that and they're fine with it.

Yes, SOME dogs are there all day, and SOME dogs might need a nap, but what about the ones that got there 20 minutes before nap time, or nap times take up two of their three hours there? It shouldn't be required.

1,885 Posts
I just wanted to bump this thread because as the holidays get closer, many people are looking at boarding facilities for when they go out of town.

Even though we've never boarded Ania, I found this post to be super informative for "just in case".

Thanks again for posting this Linsey.
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