Choosing a day care for your dog can leave you feeling anxious and unsure. In some ways it's even more stressful than choosing a nursery for your baby - after all, with nurseries you've always got Ofsted to fall back on! When selecting a service to look after your dog during the day, you've got to do the homework yourself. So what should you be looking for when it comes to doggy day care options?
Dogs are sociable pack animals. They simply aren't 'designed' to thrive if left alone for extended periods. This means that, for the modern dog owner, it can be difficult to meet your dog's needs while balancing your commitments of work, family, exercise, hobbies and more. Doggy day care meets your dog's need for socialisation, care and exercise. Your dog is taken care of within a specialist facility and treated to appropriate walks and attention throughout the time you're away.
So, what should you look for when you want to choose your doggy day care?
Dog day care should be about making life easier for you. Therefore try to choose a one which is near to home or work for drop-off and pick-up. For example, the WAG Club have branches in Muswell Hill and West Hampstead, ensuring that North London dog owners are well catered for. It's also worth looking at whether your shortlisted doggy day care can facilitate pick-up and drop-off your dog. For example, at the WAG Club you can use our taxi service.
Unfortunately many dog day care centres don't actually do what you think. Some are simply walking services, whereas some are very restricted in terms of hours. Think about the time that you need your dog caring for, and check that the set-up caters for that. For example, at the WAG Club we open at 7.30am ensuring there's plenty of time for London 9-5 workers to get to work.
Ask around family and friends, but also ask the potential day care centres too. You should be able to get a good handful of testimonials and recommendations to ensure you feel confident in your choice. Social media can be a good way to check recommendations, for example, see The Wag Club's praises being sung here.
At this visit you should be able to notice not only the facilities on offer, but also the rapport between the dogs and their carers. You should feel that you're in a happy environment where each individual dog is cared for according to their unique needs. Take time to ask about safety procedures and precautions. Check the facility is secure for even the most ardent gnawer! Ask how often they go for walks, and where do they go? How many dogs are entrusted to one walker? How are puppies cared for? What is the level of cleanliness like?
The best doggy day care facilities should have processes in place to manage the different needs of different dogs. This may mean walking them with similar dogs, or spending some time each day playing with their favourite toy. As well as dedicated facilities for puppies, you should expect to understand how different dogs can meet their needs for rest, play and socialisation. This will help you feel reassured that your dog will be well-cared for, no matter what their personality.
Unlike baby nurseries, dog day care centres don't have imposed ratios between the number of dogs and staff. The RSPCA broadly recommend one human for every five dogs. However, in reality this will depend on the types and temperaments of the dogs being cared for. What's important is that you feel satisfied that your loyal friend will get the attention they need.
It's no good choosing a day care option which is much akin to leaving your pooch at home. Doggy day care shouldn't simply be kennel-like. Being designed for more long-term care, they should have a good mixture of activities on offer, not least a variety of walks rather than repeats of the same routes. Similarly ask about how toys are shared and managed.
Mealtimes at dog day care can be a little akin to feeding time at the zoo. However, this means you need to be certain that your dog will get the right food and the right quantity for them. For this reason, we recommend choosing a day care which allows your dog to have their usual food. It takes effort and supervision to enable this, so do check that it happens.
You'll quickly discover that the more additional service a dog day care offers, the better the overall facility and the easier your life as a dog owner! See if the centre offers grooming or other services in addition to standard day care.
If you've narrowed down your choices then it can be time to request a trial session. Leave your dog with them for a few hours and see how they get on. Ask for a quick rundown on what the staff thought. Once you're home, consider your dog's behaviour. How are they acting?
Good doggy day care spaces can be tricky to come by while ticking all the boxes above. Don't be afraid to put your dog on a waiting list if needs be, just check how long the list is likely to be. The good news is that we have room at our doggy day care in London. Get in touch to find out more about what we can do for your dog.