Doggy daycares can be a fun place for your dog to hang out while you are away at work for the day. It's also a great place where they can make new friends, learn some good social skills, gain extra training, and have company while you are gone. However, just like anywhere else, there can be bad and unsafe doggy daycares that can cause trouble for both you and your dog.
Just like when we are picking daycares for our kids, we should be looking out for certain safe features or any bad signs for our dogs. You need to make sure the daycare is a safe environment for your dog.
If your dog is going to be spending a lot of time there, it has got to be safe, clean, and friendly. The last thing you want is to entrust someone with your dog for the day and they come home hurt. Doggy daycares are meant to be safe environments for your dogs to learn and play in.
So, take your time and research before making a snap judgment or choice. Here are our top safety features to look for and ask about when picking a doggy daycare.
Safety Features to Ensure a Safe Doggy Daycare
The first thing you need to look at is the actual facility. If the facility is unsafe then there is no point in looking any further, you should just move on. To figure out if the facilities are good or not you should take a tour.
Some companies stopped offering in-person tours during COVID and instead opted to make a virtual tour online. Your best bet would be to try and book an in-person tour at the facility. Virtual tours can always be staged to look better than they are.
If you are unable to book an in-person tour, try and call to see if you can stop by to have a look around. When you are touring the facility, whether it be online or in-person, there are a few main things you need to look for when it comes to safety:
While you are touring, look at the ventilation system. Are the vents clean? How many vents are there? Are they blowing clean, fresh, breathable air? If there is visible dust on the vents or not enough vents or the air is difficult to breathe, then it is probably best that you look somewhere else. Your dog needs good clean air to ensure their health and safety.
Depending on the season, check to see if the heating or cooling systems are working. If it is too hot or cold your dog can also experience safety issues. The last thing you want is for your dog to overheat because they don’t have AC or refuse to use it. Usually, if the doggy daycare is avoiding AC to cut costs, they are more likely to be cutting costs on other important things as well.
Look at the flooring. I know this may sound weird, but the flooring is very important. Are the floors clean? Are there objects all over the floors that could be tripping hazards? Are the floors made from a safe and easy-to-clean material?
Your dog is going to be walking, lying, and playing on that floor all day long, if it isn’t clean then your dog can get sick or an infection. If there are objects on the floor your dog could trip over them or eat them depending on what they are. If the floors look difficult to clean, then that probably means they don’t get cleaned that often. All this matters when it comes to your dog’s health and safety.
Double gates are used in many doggy daycares as a safety precaution to prevent runaways and help with acclimation. Double gates function to prevent escapes or runaways as they provide an extra layer of protection in case the first one fails. For example, if the first gate breaks or falls, then the second is there to prevent the dogs from running away. They also help with the acclimation of new dogs.
When a new dog is being introduced to the daycare or a playgroup, a double gate can help them get used to the other dogs and their smells and vice versa. This helps prevent fights from breaking out. If the doggy daycare you are looking at does not have double gates perhaps look elsewhere or ask why.
Finally, when it comes to looking at the actual facility, check out the fencing. Is the fencing tall enough to prevent jumping over? Is it tight enough small dogs can’t slip out? What is it made out of? The fence is a very big part of a doggy daycare as it not only helps separate the dogs from one another but also keeps them safe inside the facility.
If the fence is not tall enough, some dogs can jump over it or climb it. If the fence is not tight enough, small dogs may be able to slip out of it. If the fence is made from a cheap material a dog may be able to break it or chew through it.
What to Ask About
After you are done taking a tour of the facility and have determined that it looks good and safe for your dog, you should begin asking questions. This is what we recommend you should ask about first:
What are their cleaning protocols? How often do they clean? What cleaning products do they use? If their facility is unclean or isn’t cleaned that often or if they use non-pet-safe cleaning products, then begin looking elsewhere.
Play Group Arrangements
What are their play groups arrangements? Do they have small dogs and large dogs separated? Are young energetic dogs with old slower dogs?
If the dogs are being placed in unfit play groups or aren’t in play groups at all, that can cause many safety issues that may lead to injuries.
What is their staff-to-dog ratio? How many staff members do they have? How many staff members do they have on a shift? What is their training? The recommended ratio is 15 dogs to 1 staff member. However, that is for a fully and properly trained staff member. When you are on your tour look to see how many staff members are on the floor, what they are doing and how they interact with the dogs. If all you see are teenagers on their phones, then run!
Do they have structured play? Is it a free-for-all? How does playtime work? Is it both indoors and outdoors? Structured play can be good for your dog as it teaches them rules, how to interact with other dogs, and gives them a routine to expect.
A free-for-all constantly can cause a wide variety of issues including fights, injuries, and behavioural issues. If your dog never gets routine or is constantly being attacked by other dogs because there is no regulation, then it probably isn’t a good environment. You also need to make sure they are getting both indoor and outdoor playtime as it is beneficial in different ways.
What is their toy policy? Are you expected to bring toys? Do dogs have their own toys provided? Are the toys all over the place for anyone to take? Having toys for your dog to play with is good as it can teach them many different things and get them used to sharing with others. However, it is only good when it is monitored and executed properly.
If it’s a free-for-all where all the toys are all over the place and dogs can just grab whatever, then that can be very bad. It can cause fights as many dogs can begin to resource guard or fight over what they think is theirs.
If the facility asks you to bring your own toys for your dog, don’t. It will either be taken by another dog or cause your dog to lash out at others. It also shows that the facility does not know how to treat toys or facilitate playtime with toys, and that they are probably ‘cheaping-out’ on care to save money.
What is their treat policy? Do they hand them out throughout the day? Do they ask the owner what they would prefer? Do they ask about the dog’s diet? Treats can be very helpful and good for dogs. If a treat is given too frequently or without permission, it can lead to bad behaviour.
Many dogs are on special diets that require restricted eating, a doggy daycare should be asking you about that. If they don’t and give treats without your knowledge it can lead to health problems for your dog. You should also ask how the treats are given. It’s standard practice at home to have your dog perform a trick like sitting or shaking hands before they get a treat – this should also apply to the doggy daycare environment.
How do they handle fights? How often do fights break out? What do they do after a fight is dealt with? How they handle fights is going to be a big red or green flag in terms of safety.
If they are untrained and don’t know how to deal with fights or let fights continue without being stopped, then run away. Go somewhere else. However, if they break up the fight effectively, properly, safely, and immediately then they are a safe bet. You should also figure out if they contact the owners of the dogs after a fight.
We hope this was helpful in finding a safe doggy daycare for your pup. If you are interested in more doggy content check out our blog page. If you are interested in a safe and great doggy daycare, give us a call or email today to set up a tour.