By Emily Gantt
Published: 02/07/2022, edited: 02/07/2022
Doggy daycare has many pros and cons. Doggy daycare allows pet parents to have more flexibility in their schedules while ensuring pets get the socialization and attention they need. However, the busy daycare setting can be overwhelming and stressful for less outgoing dogs. So how do you know which category your dog falls in?
Unfortunately, dogs can't verbalize their feelings, and it's up to pet parents to decipher their pet's body language and behavior to determine how they're feeling. We'll discuss some telltale signs that your dog likes daycare (as well as signs that they don't) so you can make the right pet care decisions for your beloved fur-baby.
Pet parents often wonder what their dog does all day at daycare — after all, that's their baby! Your dog's daycare activities will depend on your dog and how the program is structured. Every doggy daycare has its own schedule, but programs almost always have designated times for play, meals, and quiet time.
Depending on the facility layout and program structure, playtime may be indoors or outside. Usually, staff will divide the dogs into smaller play groups rather than everyone playing together. Staff will consider the dog's size, age, and personality and assign them to a play group with dogs of similar playstyles and body types.
Daycares may provide toys or play equipment to encourage dogs to play — some even set up kiddie pools in the summer for woofers to cool off in. Some doggy daycares also offer a la carte services like obedience training, private walks, and one-on-one playtime.
Sometime during the day, staff will separate the dogs for mealtime and allow them some quiet time to digest their food and decompress from the play group. The daycare may place dogs in kennels or individual runs during this period. After quiet time, most daycares will bring the dogs back out for play groups until their parents arrive to pick them up.
Daycare can be especially beneficial for young puppies who need regular socialization to thrive. Likewise, daycare is great for keeping older dogs in shape and can offer them the mental stimulation they need to prevent cognitive decline.
The truth is, some dogs like daycare and others don't — and in most cases, there's no way to know which category your dog falls in unless you try it out. However, some behavioral traits can suggest doggy daycare won't be a good fit for your dog.
Here are some signs a dog probably won’t adjust well to daycare:
They become reactive or show aggression when they encounter other dogs.
They've had little socialization with other people and animals.
They're fearful around unfamiliar people and pets.
They're prone to sensory overload.
They guard resources or show signs of food aggression.
Most of the time, dogs make it pretty clear when they enjoy their daycare program. Fido may start wagging their tail or running to the door at the mere mention of going to daycare.
If your fur-baby gets excited and frantically looks out the car windows when you pull up to the facility, it's a good indication that they want to be there. On the other hand, dogs who act nervous or are reluctant to leave when you mention daycare probably don't enjoy going.
A dog's body language after you pick them up from daycare can tell you a lot too. A happy dog will have a relaxed face and body and may appear to be smiling as they pant. But don't worry if your dog doesn't have the same pep in their step as when you dropped them off. Daycare wears dogs out, and your dog won't have a lot of energy after an eventful day of playing and running.
Talking to daycare staff will also give you insight into how your dog is adjusting to daycare. Ask staff about your dog's typical behaviors throughout the day. Do they actively seek out other dogs to play with, or do they keep to themselves? Do they ever seem irritated with other dogs or like they want to be left alone?
If your dog spends most of their time playing with other daycare-goers, they probably really enjoy daycare. But dogs who don't interact with others or respond appropriately to play invites may be feeling overwhelmed by the environment.
Many doggy daycares have live webcam feeds that pet parents can access. Daycare webcams can be very helpful for identifying concerning body language or behaviors. Watch to see if your dog is actively engaging in play or if they are hiding away. It’s a good idea to check the feed multiple times throughout the day to see if your dog's behavior changes. Some dogs like to have a quiet nap and then go right back to playing, but if your dog is consistently hiding, they might be feeling uncomfortable.
If your dog isn’t acclimating to daycare, or you think it just isn’t worth the investment, consider trying a Drop-In service on the Wag! app: an affordable alternative to doggy daycare. During a Drop-In, a Pet Caregiver with Wag! will come to your home and tend to all your pet’s needs while you’re away. With Wag! Drop-In services, you can breathe easy knowing your pet is getting the care they deserve from an experienced pet professional.
Need flexible pet care that works with any schedule? Request a Drop-In service on the Wag! app today!
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