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How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Get Used to Doggy Daycare?


Written by Leslie Ingraham

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/08/2022, edited: 02/08/2022


Doggy daycare is a great option for lots of pet pawrents who want to keep their dogs busy while they’re at work. With many kinds of daycare facilities, it's important to find one that works for your schedule and your pup's needs. But how will they like it? 

Dogs who are uneasy at first about a daycare setting may need time to adjust to the noise and activity that they may not be used to. How long it takes to adapt is based on your dog's resilience, past experiences, and the new activity’s value to your pup. 

Let’s look at what your dog might need to adjust properly, and what you can do to help them get used to daycare.

Is doggy daycare right for your dog?

Doggy daycare has a lot going for it for doggos who might otherwise get bored, lonely, or anxious if they’re left home alone every day. It provides an outlet for pent-up energy, an opportunity to socialize with other pups, and time to exercise. 

Daycare is fun for most pups, who are able to romp and play with the other dogs a major portion of every day. Ideally, they should take to the experience quickly and look forward to their time there. For puppies that haven’t had a chance to socialize, daycare is the pawrfect solution to help them to learn to be a dog.

However, just as not everyone is cut out for skiing, not every dog will enjoy daycare, or they may have a hard time fitting in and adjusting. Along with carefully assessing different daycares, it’s important to know your dog and evaluate whether they’re going to eventually get used to it and how long that might take. 

Hound dog looking sad through doggy daycare gate

Is daycare stressful to dogs?

Most dogs are tired out and want to nap when they get home after daycare. But is some of their fatigue because of stress? Besides the more obvious signs, like refusing to go into the building, or hiding behind you while you check them in or out, subtle body language may signal that your pup is unhappy. 

Some common indications of stress can be:

  • Sitting with one paw lifted
  • Frequent body shaking 
  • Licking
  • Hypervigilance
  • More than the usual environment-testing with their nose 

If you notice these signs, check with the daycare to get a read on how your pup is behaving during their time at daycare. Staff may be able to set up playrooms to help support anxious or stressed dogs. And remember that if a pup is anxious on the first day, it doesn't mean daycare is completely off the table. A lot of dogs may not feel comfortable right away, but can, over time, get used to a daycare environment.

Some experts recommend bringing your dog for half days at first, and then two to three times a week for a month before giving up. Or there may be another daycare nearby whose environment is a better fit for your fur baby.

A pup that likes to go to daycare will show you how they feel. When you say, “Do you want to go to Camp Dawg?,” they’ll do a happy dance. They might react with wags and wiggles when you arrive in the morning. They’ll go willingly into the building and greet other dogs and staff enthusiastically. And at pick-up time, they’ll be happy to see you and won’t look anxious and droopy-tailed. 

Predictors of daycare success

While it’s impossible to exactly predict your pup’s response to daycare, there are some canine characteristics that can tell us if they’ll adapt quickly. These are dogs who:

  • Show no signs of aggression or obsessive resource-protecting
  • Are willing to accept food and treats
  • Will play with toys solo if left alone
  • Seek human affection
  • Show a friendly and curious nature
  • Don’t bark constantly 

Dogs that are an especially good fit for daycare include: 

White pitbull mix chewing on orange chew toy

Tips to help your dog adapt to doggy daycare

Some things that you can do to help your pup adapt to daycare include:

  • When choosing a daycare, be sure to note the size and layout of the playrooms and quiet spaces, as well as the routine and temperament of the staff to find a good match for your dog.
  • Ask the daycare staff if you’re allowed to bring your pup’s favorite food, toys, and treats to make them feel at home.
  • When you drop your dog off, don’t make a big deal about leaving, and be quick to exit to help them get used to the transition faster.  
  • If you’re worried about how Fido is doing at daycare, check the webcam once or twice a day so you can observe their behavior firsthand. This will give you some insight into their progress and what they may need help with at home to succeed at daycare.
  • Train your pooch at home to help them get along with other dogs and caregivers, and be sure they get plenty of socialization beforehand.
  • Don’t make daycare your dog’s only source of fun. Spend plenty of time snuggling and playing with them so that they feel more confident and aren’t overly anxious about their daycare time.

How long does it take to get used to doggy daycare?

There’s no way to pinpoint exactly how long it will take your pup to get used to daycare. Some may adapt in a few days, while others may take weeks to months. The best a pet parent can do is to pay attention to signs of distress, be patient, and provide lots of loving care at the end of the day. Every dog is different and there’s not one benchmark for adapting to daycare. 

However, if your dog just doesn’t seem to be adapting to the daycare environment, there are other care options available, such as drop-in visits. During these short visits, a caregiver comes to your home to spend time with your furry friend, take them out for a bathroom break, refill their water bowl, and snuggle a bit, and can be scheduled when your pooch needs them most. Best of all, your dog gets to stay in their own comfy environment while having something to look forward to.

Need an alternative to doggy daycare? Make your dog’s day by booking a Drop-In with Wag!

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