5 min read

What to Expect from Your First Day of Doggy Daycare


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

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.

What activities do dogs do at doggy daycare?

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.

puppies running

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.

After 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.

What to expect from your dog's first day of doggy daycare

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.

Your dog shouldn't appear fearful or frightened at pick-up time. If your dog still seems overwhelmed after a few days of doggy daycare, this form of pet care might not be the best fit for your pooch.

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.

Tips for preparing for daycare

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.

person holding dog's paw

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 aggression.

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

When 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 introductions.

Don't forget the puppy chow

Be 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.

Arrive early

Try 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 themselves.

Try it out before you enroll Fido full-time

Consider 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.

dog sitting on couch

Daycare alternatives

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!

Comments (1)



My 7 month old female puppy went for a full day of doggy day care yesterday to see how she likes it before we board her there for vacation. She didn't eat dinner last night and she didn't eat breakfast or lunch today, until I put soft food with it.
comment photo

Leave a comment

Your name




Add photo(s) of your petoptional