Traditional Dog Daycare:
Nowadays, there are many dog daycares to choose from! Doggie Daycare is a nice way to provide exercise so you can enjoy a tired dog when you get home from work! While the traditional dog daycare can be a good option for some dogs, we have found more benefits in other types of doggie daycares.
All-Day-Play: This type of daycare allows the dogs to play for hours on end without interrupting play or giving the dogs breaks. Some dogs may get crabby when they are tired which can cause them to display some aggressive behavior. Breaks are healthy for dogs and help prevent a dog from getting too overstimulated. This option is not healthy long term for many dogs due to the lack of breaks and over-stimulation. Other programs that have rest periods are more beneficial and have the added benefit of teaching dogs how to relax in a different environment.
Indoor vs Outdoor Spaces: Depending on where you live and the weather you typically experience, you may want to consider the size of play spaces available indoors vs. outdoors. Here in Minnesota it is a nice option to have ample space indoors on the frigid cold days. Bigger is not always better in regards to the size of the play areas. For instance, some daycares have a yard that is an acre (or more) for the dogs to play in. If the dogs were to get into a fight and they are in such a large area, the risk of serious injury or death is a lot higher as it may take a lot more time to get over to the dogs.
Staff: Many traditional dog daycares have staff, who are not trainers, supervising play. This means they may not have a thorough understanding of dog body language and behavior. If the staff are not well-educated in dog behavior and training, they often don't know how to address nuisance behaviors like over-exuberant play. This is not beneficial for exuberant players as they never learn to not be a rude player or how to adjust their play style to match their friend. When a dog is allowed to be rude, it can also lead to the other dog becoming defensive or aggressive. We often get many dogs who were kicked out of other dog daycares due to rude behavior. Many times, we have no issues with those dogs as they just needed to learn how to play appropriately with others which often times was a quick fix. Most traditional dog daycare staff do not know how to address these nuisance behaviors, so often times the "solution" is to put the rude dogs in time-out (which just prevents them from practicing the behavior until they are back in the play group again) or getting kicked out of the daycare. If possible, I would look for daycares that are offered from dog training businesses as you will generally see staff who are more rehearsed on dog behavior, body language and training.
Staff Retention: This information may be more difficult to find, the longer the bulk of the staff have been with the company, the better. Generally these staff are more experienced and better educated. Many of our local dog daycares have a high turnover rate due to a variety of factors such as low pay, overworked, or unsafe working conditions such as low staff to dog ratios. A high turnover rate generally means less experienced staff in charge of the supervision of play time- generally the riskiest time for a scuffle or fight to happen.
Staff to Dog Ratios: This is definitely a question I would ask when inquiring about various local dog daycares. There is a difference between general staff per dog ratios and staff per dog in a given playgroup. Some locations will count all staff (reception, and all staff shifts) in these numbers vs a specific staff:dog ratio out in a given playgroup. Many locations have 20+ dogs per person within play groups. I have seen dog daycares that have even had 40-60 dogs with one staff. We keep our numbers around 1:8 on the big dog playgroup and 1:10 on the little dog playgroup.
Enrichment: Lately, there has been a shift in traditional dog daycares to begin offering "enrichment" programs. Not all enrichment programs are the same. I would suggest looking at what they consider "enrichment" and determine if that is of benefit to you or your dog.
Most of these enrichment activities are things like an interactive puzzle toy, stuffed Kong, or a snuffle mat- which are all things the dog does by themselves if they are food motivated. Other enrichment activities may be things like bubbles being blown during play time which some dogs love to chase.
Some "enrichment" programs are to encourage your dog to destroy cardboard boxes, water bottles, dig/roll in the mud, etc. Personally, I wouldn't want my dog practicing these type of "enrichment" activities as those are behaviors I would not enjoy if my dog did those at my house or in my yard.
While other programs are one-on-one activities with staff like fitness programs, obstacle socialization, crafts, etc. While enrichment programs may provide more enrichment than a traditional dog daycare, we find a dog daycare that includes training will provide the most benefits to you and your dog.
Staff: What sets Courteous K9 apart from many other dog daycares is that every person who works here is a dog trainer. You will generally see this from other training businesses that offer Daycare or Day Training services. Trainers are generally better equipped to improve behaviors throughout the day.
Training during Playtime (if needed): When trainers are supervising playgroups, we can't help ourselves but to actively work on training dogs to be as appropriate as they can while playing with other dogs. During play time dogs must learn to respond to their name, they must learn to leave dogs alone who don't want to play with them, and adjust their play style to other dogs. If a dog is displaying some nuisance behaviors that could leave to a scuffle, we will work with your dog to get them over those issues. We also spend time working on reducing over-arousal issues at doorways and within playgroups. This provides a safer and more enjoyable play experience for all the dogs. Our goal is to make your dog better trained in all aspects of life.
Training Sessions: There is nothing better than coming home to a dog who is not only tired, but also better behaved! Think of it more like your dog is going to school and learning while you are busy working. Some training businesses offer programs that do not have any group play, while others- like ours- includes training AND several play times! In my opinion, this is the best of both worlds for many dogs. But we also have no playgroup dogs who are not suitable for group play who can still come and learn too. We work on all basic obedience, but will also work on any issues that you may be having at home that we feel can be addressed at the facility.
Ultimately, when you are looking for a doggie daycare, there are various programs available. Research the different programs in your area and you may find one that will provide more benefits to you than another. All while keeping safety in mind. Not every program is built the same.