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How to prep for dog daycare

Make sure your dog is ready to hit the social scene

Dog daycare is a great option for pet parents who are regularly away from home or who just can’t be the best playmate to their pups during the day. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains the benefits of dog daycare, and how to know if it’s right for your pup. 

What are the benefits of dog daycare?

On your busier days (at, or away from, home), doggy daycare can ensure that your pup is entertained and in good care. Some of the main benefits for your pup are: 

  • Mental stimulation
  • Socialization
  • Physical exercise
  • Creating a positive routine

What are the disadvantages of dog daycare?

Dogs attending daycare should be up-to-date on vaccinations when going to doggy daycare, but there’s always a risk that your pup may catch a cold or get injured during playtime.  

What to look for in a dog daycare

If you want to feel confident that your pet is getting the best care, make sure the dog daycare you’re interested in has these must-haves:

  • The staff or management should be open to your concerns and questions.
  • The daycare center should require up-to-date vaccinations and flea and tick preventives.
  • They should have emergency plans in place (for natural disasters or if a dog gets sick while at daycare).
  • Ask if they have thorough cleaning practices.
  • Make sure they take detailed notes about your dog while they’re at daycare and are transparent about how they’d deal with potential problems.
  • The facility should have secure fencing and enclosures.
  • Look for minimal odors, good temperature control and good ventilation.

What questions should I ask before signing my dog up for daycare? 

Adding a new activity to your dog’s schedule can be overwhelming. To make sure you’re learning all about your dog’s new hangout spot, here’s a list of things you should ask the daycare about before committing: 

  • Do they do a temperament test? How does it work? 
  • Ask for a tour
  • Costs and packages
  • Ratio of staff to dogs
  • Training qualifications of the staff (Do they understand animal behavior and can they recognize signs of danger?)
  • How are dogs separated (by size or by activity level)? 
  • Do dogs have indoor and outdoor access? 
  • Will they provide daily reports? Is there a webcam?
  • How long will dogs be in the kennel, if at all? 
  • Is there a vet associated with the doggy daycare in case of emergency?
  • How do they handle potential problems (barking, aggressive behavior, injury or illnesses)?
  • What are the cleaning protocols? 
  • Do they require pet health evaluations?
  • What is included in the cost of dog daycare? 
  • What is a typical day like? 
  • Do they offer meals? If so, what are the options and can pet parents choose? 

What can pet parents do the week before to prepare for dog daycare?

To ensure that your dog, and other dogs at the daycare, are safe, there are some steps you can take the week before to prepare your pup. 

Socialize your dog

It’s important that your dog is good around other dogs and humans (you should start socializing dogs at a young age). If you haven’t yet, start bringing your dog to unfamiliar places so they can learn how to adapt to new social settings. Doggy daycares often require a temperament test, where they introduce your dog to other dogs to see how they interact before agreeing to watch them. 

Introduce your dog to the daycare

Ask the staff at the doggy daycare if you can bring your pup ahead of time to familiarize them with the facility. It may be helpful for them to see the space before being dropped off for a full day. 

Make sure your dog is healthy 

If your dog is showing any signs of illness and injury, it’s not a good idea to take them to daycare. Stay home if they have these symptoms: 

  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Skin wounds, cuts, scrapes or rashes
Ask your vet about dog medications and vaccinations

Talk to your vet about the vaccinations your pup needs for doggy daycare. Make sure your dog is on regular heartworm medication and flea and tick preventives, too. 

What can pet parents do on the day of to prepare for dog daycare? 

Give your dog extra attention 

The big day is here! Before you take them in, continue your usual routine. Take them on a longer walk that morning to get some quality bonding time and work off any extra energy they may have. 

Talk to the staff about your dog’s diet

If your dog has any food allergies or is on a special diet, be sure to let the doggy daycare know. Most places won’t pass out food, but it’s still a good idea to clarify. 

Pack your dog a bag

Just like a child goes to school, you should pack a bag for your dog, too. Have your dog’s medical history handy in case there are any questions. Here’s a quick list of things to include in their daycare bag: 

  • Leash
  • Collar
  • Up-to-date tags and any necessary municipal dog licenses
  • Vaccination cards
  • Special treats (if they do allow food)

With this guide, you can find a hangout that you and your dog can feel good about. Dog daycare isn’t only a new adventure for your pup — it’s a change for you, too. Make sure to keep them on a routine, give them lots of water and reward them with love and affection when they get home. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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