I haven’t had a dog of my own since Hallee was very small. With a special needs child, a new baby and then living in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, it just wasn’t in the picture for us. Not to mention I was dirt poor back then and knew that I wouldn’t be able to give a dog the care they deserve.
Fast forward about 10 years and here we are..the proud parents of Cooper. We brought him home at 7 weeks in March of last year and spent spring, summer and fall being able to give what was turning out to be a very large, very active puppy lots of outdoor social time and exercise. Oh my lord, the energy this dog has. I could run him hard, hit the dog park and then go for a long walk after dinner and he’d still be ready to run.
Before we got Cooper (who just turned one in January) I had a kind of jaded attitude about doggie daycare. Why get a dog if you’re going to pay someone else to take care of him all day? It’s just a dog, right? He can stay at home and do dog things. Like be a dog. Alone. Hahahahahahahahahaha..boy was I foolish. Even a crate trained dog (like Cooper) can cause untold destruction if they’re bored. If you take nothing else at all away from this post..remember this… A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG.
And then came our first Maine winter with a dog. A bored dog. A bored, huge, getting into mischief dog because as much as I love him, I’m not walking 100 pounds of excited dog on icy, unplowed sidewalks 3 times a day..I like my limbs unbroken, thankyouverymuch. And then one day, I ran into the owner of a kennel here in Bangor (Carden Kennels) and after seeing their facility, I started thinking about how nice it would be for him to have other dogs to play with, to be able to run to his hearts content and BURN SOME ENERGY because OMG THE ENERGY.
And do you know what? He loves it. We love it. He freaks out when he knows it’s time to go to daycare and if we happen to drive by the facility and it’s not a day for him to go? Full-on canine temper tantrum. Howling, barking, spinning in the back seat temper tantrum. He comes home from daycare happy, loved and WORN OUT. We see a big difference in his behavior on the days he doesn’t go..needier, more likely to get into trouble or being super wound up.
He only goes a few mornings a week (at his daycare it’s only $10 for up to 5 hours during the week, although full days are offered, too) and it’s probably the best money we could spend on him. He gets social time, play time, works on manners and is spoiled rotten, no matter what the weather is doing. (And we get report cards telling us what he did and who he played with..super cute!)
I had always assumed that my being at home 24/7 with a dog would be enough, but that’s just not true. They crave and need the companionship of other dogs, the ability to run and play in a pack and it’s so good for him (and us) to know he can go somewhere safe, have a great time and then Mom or Dad will always come back to get him when he’s done. Mark and I went out of town this winter and boarded Coop overnight at his daycare and he couldn’t have cared less. It was a dog sleepover party with some of his favorite people and dogs. Mom and Dad who?
So if you’re considering daycare for your pup, even if it’s just for social and playtime like Cooper, here’s what you should consider…
Safety. Are the play areas (indoors and out) sanitary and securely fenced and closed in? Are vaccines required for all pets who come? (You want a big yes here)
Staff. Are staff well trained and on hand to supervise your pet during the day? If a pet needs a little more human time during the day, will they give it to him/her? (If they can’t provide a little one on one to a pup that needs it, keep looking at other facilities..that one ain’t for you)
Word of mouth. Check reviews for the facility you’re looking at. Talk to people, friends with dogs. Your vet and their staff can be especially helpful. Who do they use or recommend?
Your pet’s personality and size. Very shy dogs don’t do well being in with a large group of dogs. Will your dog be placed safely with other dogs of a similar size and temperament to avoid stress or injury? (Again, you want a yes here. Daycare needs to be fun and relaxing, not stressful and scary)
Daycare may not be for you & your pet, but I can’t imagine having a dog (especially just one) without giving him the fun and companionship he has there.