THE PROS & CONS OF DOG DAYCARE
As owners of a dog daycare, we often hear that some veterinarians and trainers don’t recommend daycare for all dogs, but we know firsthand that dog daycare can really benefit some dogs. Yes, some. While we see the benefits of our services daily, veterinarians and trainers also have made some good points that apply to some of the dogs we encounter. Let’s talk about the pros and cons or, the “yes… buts” of daycare.
PRO Socialization & alleviating separation anxiety: Dogs are social animals and thrive on interaction with other dogs and people. In a daycare setting, dogs get the opportunity to engage in supervised play and socialize with other dogs. This helps them develop social skills, learn appropriate behavior, and build confidence around unfamiliar dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety when left alone for long periods. Daycare provides a structured environment where dogs can be around other dogs and caring staff, reducing feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Regular attendance at daycare can help alleviate separation anxiety by providing a consistent and positive routine for the dog.
CON Stress and anxiety: Yes, dogs are social animals, but not all dogs are comfortable in a daycare environment. Some dogs may become stressed or anxious when placed in a group of unfamiliar dogs, leading to behavioral issues or even injuries. Additionally, the constant noise, commotion, and lack of personal space can be overwhelming for some dogs.
Our new dog process includes what we call a “temp test” - short for a temperament test. Many dog daycares organize their dog clients into playgroups with matching energy and playing styles. At Good Dog, we have a dog area up front that we call Calmberg - this is a place for shy, elderly, or low-energy dogs to relax in a low-stress environment.
PRO Exercise and stimulation: Dogs have a lot of energy and need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Daycare provides a safe and controlled environment where dogs can engage in physical activities such as running, playing, or participating in games. Regular exercise helps prevent obesity, improves cardiovascular health, and releases pent-up energy, reducing the likelihood of destructive behavior at home.
CON Injuries and accidents: With multiple dogs interacting and playing - especially in a pack-style facility like Good Dog, there is an increased risk of injuries and accidents. Dogs can get into fights, sustain injuries during rough play, or experience accidents. Vets may worry about the potential for injury in this environment.
We liken taking your dog to daycare to taking your child to school or the local playground. Scrapes and the occasional scuffle might happen, but that’s part of being a kid. It’s the same with dogs. We provide a supervised environment that reduces the frequency of these kinds of events, but as they say - dogs will be dogs.
PRO Mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, dogs also require mental stimulation to stay mentally sharp and prevent boredom. Dog daycare is, by nature, filled with activities that keep dogs mentally engaged and stimulated including group play sessions, bubble chasing, ball play, and more. This helps prevent behavioral issues that may arise from boredom, such as excessive barking or chewing.
CON Disease transmission: In a daycare setting, dogs from different households are brought together, which increases the risk of infectious diseases spreading. Common illnesses that can be transmitted include canine cough, canine influenza, parvovirus, and others. Even with strict vaccination requirements, some diseases can still be transmitted. Of course, at Good Dog, we’re held to a strict standard by the King County Health Department and we take that responsibility very seriously.
A child can pick up a cold or flu at school or on the playground fairly easily - even when they’re vaccinated. Proper cleaning and sanitizing our playrooms in addition to constantly sanitizing and refreshing our water bowls and mop buckets is an integral part of keeping our dogs healthy.
PRO Supervision & assistance with training and behavior: Daycare facilities have trained staff members who monitor the dogs to ensure their safety and well-being. They work to identify and address any signs of distress, aggression, or health issues promptly. Having supervision gives owners peace of mind knowing their dogs are in good hands and can handle potential conflicts that may arise during playtime.
While Good Dog doesn’t offer formal training, our staff has a collective wealth of experience with dogs and other animals. This can be particularly helpful for young dogs or dogs with behavior issues. Our staff can help reinforce basic obedience commands, work on socialization skills, and work on behavior problems, providing additional support for the dog's overall development.
CON Lack of individualized attention & behavior concerns: Some dogs may exhibit undesirable behaviors, such as aggression, resource guarding, or separation anxiety, in a daycare setting yet behave completely differently at home. A daycare environment may not be the place to provide individualized attention and training to a dog who has specific needs like these that require closer monitoring or individualized care.
Good Dog has several dog trainers and dog training facilities to which we can refer a dog. When that dog returns to Good Dog, we can help reinforce the things they learned at training.
PRO Routine and structure: Of course, we’re finishing this list with a rebuttal-free Pro because and we’re all aware, most dogs thrive on routine and structure, and daycare can provide that. It gives them a set schedule with designated playtimes, rest periods, and feeding times. A consistent routine helps dogs feel secure and reduces anxiety caused by uncertainty or lack of structure in their daily lives. This routine and structure also tend to burn off a lot of excess energy they have so they can contribute to a peaceful environment in your home.
While not all vets have a negative opinion of dog daycare (as evidenced by the number of referrals we receive from local veterinarian offices), the concerns raised by some are valid for some dogs. Many vets also see benefits in daycare environments. The concern lies in daycares that may not adequately address the risks and fail to provide a safe and enriching experience for all dogs involved.
Ultimately, the suitability of daycare for a particular dog depends on the individual dog's temperament, health, and specific needs. Consulting with a veterinarian can help determine whether dog daycare is appropriate for a specific dog. The bottom line is that it’s not a black-and-white decision, it’s going to be based on your dog. We, of course, evaluate all dogs in a temperament test and a trial day, but we also continue to ensure that dogs remain a good fit for daycare and that Good Dog remains a good fit for your dog. Dog’s personalities can change over time and some just get tired of daycare and don’t want to come anymore - that’s when we may have to part ways. As you’re probably aware, We Hate Goodbyes.