There are many things to look for when deciding on a dog daycare for your fur kid. Many of the general precautions to be aware of were outlined in the collaborated blog with our friend, https://ilovemydogmorethanmykids.com/tips-for-choosing-a-dog-daycare-facility/ posted a few of months ago. It is important to know that while not all dog daycares are equal because of a lack of governing regulations, not every dog daycare is suitable for every dog either.
This post is going to focus on the suitability of a dog daycare for your fur kid in terms of the activities they participate in during the day and how these activities are conducted. The amount of activity your fur kid needs each day is dependent on their age, energy level, and life style. Generally, younger and more active breeds (working/sporting) require more stimulation- though individual personality and what they are used to, also play large roles.
Just as for humans, the goals for being active are to be healthy and to release non-productive energy. There are two components to both of these goals- physical and mental. To be physically healthy is to work the body to keep joints and organs limber and active, while burning off excess energy. To be mentally healthy means to challenge the mind to promote learning as well as to relieve boredom and prevent fixations/obsessions. Ideally, the activities of your dog daycare should address both the physical and mental aspects of your fur kid’s health if it is to be a regular part of their lives.
Effective physical exercise should include a variety of activities to promote the use of different muscles as well as to flex cardiovascular ability. Think of workout routines for humans. Typically, these regimes cycle through activities of low and high intensity, while working through the various muscle groups of the body. The same type of workout can be mimicked for dogs by mixing up toy fetching, with structured walking that incorporates sporadic stopping & sitting, with jumping, crawling & climbing through an agility or obstacle course.
The flexing of the mind muscles can be achieved through simple activities such as following direction and/or learning new commands/tricks. More complex mental exercise also have a physical component like concentrating to stay balanced on an object (a beam, a ball, a bench, etc.) or balancing an object on their head/nose, or catching something thrown at them. Games of find (nosework/scentwork) or identifying a specific object (getting a particular toy from a pile) are examples of more demanding mental exercise.
As indicated earlier, daily physical and mental stimulation is important for all fur kids, and certain breeds generally require even more because of the purpose they were bred for. For example, dogs who pull sleds & carts (huskies, bernese, rottweilers), herding dogs (aussies, sheepdogs, corgis), and hunting/game dogs (spaniels, setters, retrievers, hounds) are all active breeds meant to work and travel distances. There are also very intelligent breeds who thrive on mental as well as physical challenges. If you have ever watched a German Shepherd try to figure out how to get what they want, you know what I mean. It is important to understand the purpose and strengths of your fur kid’s breed(s) in order to provide them with what they need. Your fur kid will get the maximum benefit from attending dog daycare if they are matched properly with a facility whose activities suit their activity needs.
Just as important as what activities occur during a dog daycare day is the atmosphere that they occur in. Playing and lots of activity does not mean free for all chaos though. Having structure around activities not only promotes safety, it provides additional mental stimulation for the fur kids, and is an important consideration when looking for a dog daycare.
The right atmosphere is important because another goal of dog daycare activities should be polite and safe socialization. While it would be natural to assume that a gathering of a number of dogs in a room would be the exposure a fur kid needs to learn how to be social, this is far from the truth. Just as with people, not all energies and personalities are meant to be compatible, and that’s fine. Steps, however, must be taken to ensure that everyone’s personal space is respected.
A safe social environment means several things. First, enough physical space to allow those with larger personal space bubbles to not feel encroached upon. If this means separation into smaller groups, separate based on energy level & temperament, rather than size or age. Second, enough experienced supervision to spot uncomfortable body language to stop inappropriate behaviours before they occur. Third, clear expectations for acceptable behaviour in the room that are consistently enforced. Respect and a sense of security are the end results when expectations and consequences are consistently applied. From that, a safe social environment is created.
In conclusion, to get the most out of your fur kid’s dog daycare experience, understand your fur kid’s needs from a breed and personality standpoint first. Then research dog daycares for the curriculum and environment that will best cater to those needs. Remember that not all dog daycares are equal- find the one that will help your fur kid lead their best life.