Dog day care: How to find the best fit for your pup

August 3, 2015

When visiting a dog day-care center, look for cleanliness, enough space for dogs to run and play, and ample toys and nap spots. Also, be sure to ask about the staff-to-dog ratio.

Day care for your dog? For some pet owners and their pooches, itís the best solution.

Dog trainer and behavior consultant Jonathan Klein says day care can be very beneficial, especially for dogs with separation anxieties or home-alone issues.

"Day care can provide stimulation and activities for a dog when it would otherwise be alone and stressed or bored," Klein said.

Doing your research is key because day care is not heavily regulated, said Stephen Zowistowski, science adviser emeritus for the ASPCA.

Here are several guidelines to consider.

Assess your dog: Klein, also principal of I Said Sit!, in Los Angeles, recommends hiring a trainer or dog behavior consultant. A session can range from $60 to $250, depending on the market.

"They would have a better notion of what might be really good for a given dog," Klein said.

Two places to start a search: the websites of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Tour the facilities: New York-based pet behaviorist Carolyn Georgariou suggests making an unscheduled visit. Be skeptical of facilities only offering scheduled tours during off-hours. And per the ASPCA, look for toys, nap spots and good customer service. Staff should be courteous to humans as well as their dogs.

Expect behavioral evaluations: Many facilities evaluate dogs before enrolling them. Centers often ask questions regarding interaction with other dogs, such as going to a dog park and if you have additional dogs at home, Zowistowski said.

Ask how dogs are grouped: "Dogs should be grouped not only by size but also by compatible play style or temperament," Klein said. He recommends checking out each roomís size.

Stay current with vaccinations: The ASCPA advises asking your veterinarian which vaccinations are right for your dog. "Dog owners should always consult with their vet for medical advice; however, sometimes the facility may require something that their vet doesnít," said veterinarian David Gonsky. Gonsky said the day-care centers should "definitely ask for proof of vaccination. If they donít ask, thatís a red flag."

Evaluate costs: "One cannot get good day care cheap," Georgariou said. "The cheaper the rate, the more crowded the day care will be." Consumer website reports daily rates across the U.S. ranging from $12 to $38; monthly rates, $240 to $550.

Ask about worst-case scenarios and certifications: The ASPCA recommends asking if employees are trained in animal first aid and CPR as well as what the protocol is in the event of emergency illness or injury. Zowistowski advises looking for certificates indicating employees have been professionally trained as animal caretakers and confirming that the facility is appropriately licensed. Paperwork should indicate the facility has been inspected by the health department and has obtained a legal permit to operate its business.

Pursue other options: Day care may not be appropriate if your pet is a frail, senior dog or anxious, fearful or rambunctious. "Sometimes we think that every dog needs the same thing," Zowistowski said. "There are quite a few dogs who enjoy just chilling out all day."

His advice? Consider other available options, asking yourself, "What is good for the dog as opposed to what is good for me? What would the dog really like as opposed to what would I really like?" Consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter.




McClatchy-Tribune Information Services