Is Doggie Daycare a Good Idea?

Doggie daycare can give owners a much-needed break from the exercise needs of a high-energy dog, as well as keep a dog with separation anxiety under control in the absence of his family. However, many pet owners have reservations about placing their dog in the hands of a daycare facility. Let’s take an honest look at reasons to use or not to use a doggie daycare center.

The Pros: Reasons to Use Doggie Daycare

  • Exercise and Stimulation While You’re Away— This is the most fundamental and obvious benefit of doggie daycare. Between lying at home waiting for you and playing with a pack of compatible dogs, almost all dogs would choose to go to daycare. In addition, a dog worn out from daycare doesn’t necessarily need a long exercise session when you return from work, making daycare an attractive option for owners with exhausting jobs that leave them too tired for exercising a dog at the end of the day.
  • Socialization with Compatible Dogs— An unsocialized dog should never attend daycare, but a dog who has few other opportunities for play and socialization with dogs could reap huge benefits from daycare. A well-run daycare matches dogs in playgroups according to size, energy level, and how they interact with other dogs. Pups that play roughly will be paired with others who love a good wrestle, while a shy older dog might be grouped with smaller dogs less likely to frighten her by roughhousing. This type of playgroup has benefits for any dog, helping timid animals to become more outgoing, while allowing dogs that play roughly to satisfy that need in a safe, supervised environment.
  • Socialization with Humans— If your dog isn’t often in the company of humans outside his immediate family, he can benefit from doggie daycare in that the frequent socialization with less familiar humans will reinforce good manners with strangers and people outside the family. Again, never take an unsocialized or stranger-aggressive dog to daycare, but a dog simply needing the opportunity to behave well for a stranger and be rewarded for it can benefit from daycare.
  • Management of Behavior Problems— More dogs are euthanized for having behavior problems every year in the United States than die of all infectious diseases combined. If your dog has a problem like separation anxiety, barking continually when alone, or chasing other pets if left unsupervised, doggie daycare may be an option that allows her to stay a member of your family rather than becoming another sad statistic. However, daycare, though a good management tool, isn’t a solution to a behavior problem.


The Cons: Reasons Not to Use Doggie Daycare

  •  Dogfight Danger— Any time a pack of dogs plays together, there is a risk of fighting. Behavioral screening of dogs applying to use daycare services, training of employees, and constant supervision can lower the risks, but it is still the case that daycare means leaving your dog in the company of other dogs and under the supervision of someone other than yourself. Some fights and squabbles are a natural and necessary part of a dog’s social development, but playing with a group of dogs you don’t know well and whose owners you don’t know well might result in a serious fight leading to injury.
  • Covers Up Behavior Problems— A dog with separation anxiety who doesn’t become anxious when left at daycare isn’t cured. He’s just in an environment that doesn’t trigger his separation anxiety. If daycare becomes a substitute for modifying a serious behavior problem, it’s time to throw away the crutch and call in an Animal Behaviorist. No management tool is as effective as a behavior modification program that actually eliminates problems instead of hiding them.
  • The Revolving Door— Daycare employees at the entry level, supervising playgroups and cleaning the facility, often make minimum wage or not much more.  While most are dog lovers who took the position because of their love of dogs, and who enjoy their jobs, the cost of living means high turnover at any business that pays a low wage. However, daycares with better compensated employees cost you more. Most daycares have a very high rate of employee turnover, meaning you can’t always be sure that your dog is being left in the hands of someone both you and Fido know and trust.
  • Disease Transmission— While nearly all daycares require that dogs be vaccinated, vaccination isn’t a guarantee of health. There are infectious diseases for which no reliable vaccine exists, and there are dogs that become ill and transfer disease without ever showing symptoms, even after vaccination. In addition, parasites can be transmitted through feces at daycare or dog parks.
  • Cost Might be Better Spent Elsewhere— If your dog can be safely left home alone, and if you are able to meet his exercise needs during the hours you’re home with him, even if you can afford daily daycare, that money might be better spent in other areas of your dog’s life. Daycare costs are normally between $15 and $30 per day. For five days each week of daycare, you’d spend at least $300 per month! That money could be used to enroll in a weekend Agility class and compete at the beginner level,  to hire an animal behaviorist for a dog with problem behaviors, or even to save the lives of other dogs by donating to or purchasing supplies for your local shelter.



For some dogs and some owners, doggie daycare is a great idea. For others, the risks outweigh the potential benefits. It’s not desirable to leave an adult dog crated for several hours each day, nor is it responsible to leave any dog unsupervised at home if this could exacerbate a behavior problem or endanger the dog. However, choosing a daycare wisely is an absolute must. Take no less care in selecting a daycare facility for your dog than you would in choosing one for a human child.

Does that sound excessive? Consider that if your dog bites a human or another dog while in daycare, you could be held responsible for owning a dangerous dog, even if you feel the bite was more likely the result of inadequate supervision or provokation by an employee or visitor.

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