By Emily Gantt
Published: 12/17/2021, edited: 12/17/2021
The first day of doggy daycare is an exciting time for dogs. They get to make new friends, play all day, and just be a dog. Unfortunately, the first day of doggy daycare isn't as fun for their pet parents. Sending your dog to a new place can be a scary prospect, but we're here to guide you through it! We'll give you tips for preparing your dog for daycare and explain what to expect from your woofer's first day.
If it's your first experience with doggy daycare, you're probably wondering what your dog will be doing all day. While amenities and activities vary by facility, most daycares follow a similar schedule. The morning begins with drop-offs and check-ins, and staff separates dogs into their respective play groups for breakfast.
After everyone finishes their kibble, the real fun begins. Most daycares say that morning playtime is the rowdiest since dogs are excited to be with their friends after a long night at home.
Staff may separate new dogs into less active play groups until they acclimate to the other dogs. Alternatively, some daycares choose to introduce newbies to the group by bringing in dogs one at a time. Easing into group play can decrease the stress on new dogs and make the transition into pack life easier.
Some daycares have play equipment, toys, and tennis balls for dogs to
enjoy, and during the summer, staff may even break out wading pools to
cool off their furry pals. Many facilities also offer a la carte
services for an additional charge. These services may include private
walks, one-on-one playtime, stuffed treat toys, or training classes. If
it's an indoor facility, staff will intermittently interrupt playtime to
allow for bathroom breaks in the dog run.
Around noon, daycare staff may sequester dogs in private enclosures for naptime
and lunch. By lunchtime, most dogs in the active play groups are so
tired from running and wrestling that they need some time to decompress
and rest their paws. Naptime also prevents dogs from getting grumpy or
overstimulated and prepares them for the afternoon play group.
an hour or so of quiet time, dogs return to the main area, and the
afternoon play group begins. Most daycares find that afternoon play
group is more lowkey than morning group since dogs are still recovering
from the morning excitement.
As evening approaches, daycare
staff will begin getting the dogs ready for pick-up, gathering their
things, and dusting off their paws. Once the parents arrive, the dogs
will say their goodbyes and head home to gear up for another fun day.
Daycare is a fast-paced place, and your dog is sure to come home worn out, thirsty, and sore. Your puppy may even have scratches or paw injuries from a fun-filled day of playing and running. Your pet may also be a little dirty or wet at pick-up time, especially if the daycare allows outdoor recreation.
Expect your dog to sleep, eat, and drink a lot when they return home. Depending on your dog's age and personality, your pup may not show any signs of fatigue at all and come to the door still bouncing with excitement.
It's also important to mention that dogs at daycare can pass the occasional stomach bug or cold to their fellow daycare-goers. A good daycare will do its best to sanitize and monitor pets for symptoms of illness, but germ spread is bound to happen from time to time — so don't be surprised if Trixie comes home with the sniffles occasionally.
Preparing your dog for daycare isn't as simple as filling out an application and dropping them off. There are a few things you'll need to do to ensure your dog is physically and mentally ready for daycare.
Socialize your dog
Before submitting your daycare application, your dog should be adequately socialized with humans and dogs. Your dog may do great with your family and pets, but they'll need exposure to strangers and unfamiliar dogs too. Putting an undersocialized dog into doggy daycare never goes well and can cause unnecessary stress on your dog and others. Take your pup to dog parks and invite pets over for playdates to ensure your dog is ready for daycare.
Schedule your dog's temperament test
Almost all doggy daycares require dogs to pass a temperament test to be approved for daycare. Temperament tests assess the way dogs interact with others and are essential for the safety of all daycare-goers. Make sure you schedule your dog's temperament test before your pup's first day to ensure the program is right for your dog.
Make sure your pup is up to date on their shots
Before enrolling in most doggy daycares, your woofer will need their core vaccines
and a kennel cough vaccine. While vaccines won't guarantee your dog
won't get sick in daycare, they can prevent the spread of some of the
more dangerous canine contagions.
Spay or neuter your dog
Most daycares require all attendees to be spayed or neutered
by one year of age — but this isn't just to prevent unwanted puppies.
Sterilization policies also keep pets safe by reducing sexual
Put your dog on flea and tick meds
For the safety of your dog and others, make sure your dog is on an effective flea and tick medication before their first day.
Make time for a potty break before drop-off
the big day arrives, be sure you give your Pug a chance to potty before
they go in. Not only will this reduce the risk of accidents (and make
things easier on staff), but it can make Fido more comfortable during
Don't forget the puppy chow
sure to bring pre-portioned meals for Fido on their first day. Some
daycares provide food for an additional fee, but there's no telling how
your dog's tummy will react to different food.
to arrive early on your dog's first day, preferably before the rest of
the dogs get there. Early arrival will ensure your dog doesn't get
frightened by a swarm of excited dogs who are eager to introduce
Try it out before you enroll Fido full-time
enrolling your dog in half-day daycare for their first month. Starting
with half days can make the adjustment easier on your dog and won't be
as overwhelming as a full day of daycare.
Many breeds do well in daycare, but it isn't a one-size-fits-all pet care solution. Shy, fearful, and undersocialized dogs may have difficulty adjusting to daycare and may do better with home-based care.
Drop-in sitting services are a convenient (and affordable) daycare alternative. Wag! drop-ins are different from doggy daycare since they allow for one-on-one care in the comfort of your home. Drop-in sitters through Wag! will come to your house and take care of your dog's food, water, and bathroom needs while you're away — the belly scratches are just a bonus! Drop-in visits last 20 minutes and can be tailored to your dog's individual needs, but if 20 minutes isn't enough time for your pooch, feel free to book a 30- or 60-minute walk or pet sitting service.
No matter which Wag! service you choose, you can breathe easy knowing your dog is living it up with a trusted and vetted Pet Caregiver. If daycare is getting too expensive or it just isn't right for your fur-baby, give Wag! drop-ins a try!
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