Choosing a Daycare facility

20 May 2020, AIMEE ORME

Deciding which daycare to send your beloved family member to, can be a tough decision. After all there is so much choice, how can you possibly decide? Allow us to make your decision a little easier! There are a few things to look out for when choosing a daycare facility.

The first thing to consider is vaccinations. When you first enquire about daycare for your beloved furry family member (no, not Great Uncle Bob!), do the staff tell you which your dog requires to gain entry to the facility and how old should those vaccinations be? Vaccinations are required to keep your dog safe and they’re not effective immediately, some take up to two weeks to be fully effective. These rules are there to keep your dog safe and healthy. Be suspicious of a daycare that doesn’t ask for proof of these vaccines before your dog attends.

Whilst we’re talking about hygiene and safety, the next thing to consider is cleanliness. How does the place smell when you walk in? An over whelming smell of urine or faeces and we suggest walking straight back out again. Ask what cleaning products they use and what their cleaning routines are. Products should be dog friendly and specifically designed and approved for kennel and daycare use, in other words no chlorine, this is to make sure your precious furbaby is not going to end up with skin irritations, or even breathing issues. It also means the products are designed to kill the typical bugs and germs that dogs are susceptible to. Common cleaning products designed for human homes are not safe or effective to be used in a daycare environment.

If you’ve made it past these two flag marks and are still in the building, then congratulations! Your dog’s new daycare is looking promising. The next step is to ask what your dog’s routine will be during the day. This includes rest time. Will they separate your dog from the others for rest time? Dogs need rest. Up to 16hrs of sleep a day for an adult dog, many more hours for puppies and senior dogs. Being around dogs that they are not familiar with, for 12 or more hours a day is not good for a dog’s mental health. Groups of dogs together also do not get adequate rest. There is always the one dog that wants to play and disturbs all the other good puppers. Lack of sleep and appropriate rest can cause severe behaviour problems and will increase incidents of aggression between the dogs. Separating dogs to rest in a kennel is a sign the daycare recognises the important of sleep and rest. Your dog should be given a comfy blanket and a bed to help promote good quality rest. In some facilities the space and availability of multiple play areas can be a challenge but This is one of the reasons we don’t recommend facilities where dogs spend all day together in a play area, dogs should have their “ME TIME” and get proper rest between play sessions.

The one of the final markers in choosing a daycare is a really important one. Is there an assessment process? If the facility is prepared to just throw your dog straight into the playgroup and let them get on with it, run away as fast as you can. Assessments should be done by trained staff members (more on this later!) and should take time. The staff members should spend time getting to know your dog, and then introduce them to their new friends one at a time, slowly increasing the number of dogs, whilst keeping your dog comfortable. Of course, if your dog is totally new to this experience, then it might take some time to become totally relaxed. Your new daycare should talk you through this process.

Staff should be trained and experienced. They should have a certified Canine first aider on site at all times, this training can mean the difference of life or death in an emergency. Just as a side note, the first aid course should have been a practical hands on experience, not an online qualification.

The handlers should be able to read dog body language and know what appropriate play looks like and they should take the time to know your dog. You should also be able to view the staff managing a play group. This will allow you to see what is really going on. Are the dog’s scared of any of the handlers, are the handlers using punitive measures to control the dogs, like using water sprayers on the dogs, are they pushing dogs around or physically handling them by grabbing their collars and shouting at them.

Managing the dogs off leash play should be as gentle as possible. Using body language and obedience cues such recall games to engage and manage the dogs. This gentle handling and avoidance of using fear and intimidation to manage dogs is termed “force free”.

Who is training the staff to do the assessment process? The ideal is a qualified behaviourist, who is experienced in reading dog body language and training people too. This person should be available to answer questions and if required over see the assessment process.

The final important question you need to ask your potential new daycare facility for your VIP (very important pooch), is how the facility group their play groups. Play groups should be carefully thought out, based on a few important details. The first biggest one (pun intended) is by size. Dogs should only be playing with dogs of a similar size. This is for safety. Some big dogs love to play with small dogs and vice versa, however this is a bad idea for many reasons. If despite all the planning and precautions an incident does happen, a size differences of greater than 50% will mean any injuries are going to be far greater. The 50% rule is an awesome rule to be followed. It means your dog should not as far as possible play with a dog that is 50% larger or smaller than him. Then you need to know how many dogs will be in a playgroup and how many staff will be there supervising. Play group sizes vary on the size of the dogs involved. There should be a low dog to handler ratio. Its not unheard of in Dubai to have 40 dogs in a playgroup with only one staff member supervising. This is wrong, risky, dangerous and unhealthy both physically and mentally.

If your new daycare ticks all the boxes then hurrah! Hang on to them, thank them often and maybe drop off some chocolates on special occasions.

Much love
The Petsville Team