The Daycare Dilemma
Every pet parent wants what's best for their fur baby. When you welcome a new dog into the family, it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared to provide whatever they may need to thrive. Of course, responsible pet owners will provide the basics like food, water, toys, and veterinary care, but most dogs need more than that to be the best they can be.
Every dog needs to be physically and mentally stimulated. On top of normal exercise, dogs need something to focus on and keep them mentally engaged. For some dogs, staying at home and entertaining themselves with toys or siblings is fine, but most dogs require outside socialization, challenging mental stimulation, physical exercise, and structure to be happy, healthy, and on their best behavior. Puppies and dogs who are left to their own devices can easily turn to destructive behaviors to meet these needs, and it’s vital to channel their energy into positive outlets rather than letting them tear up your couch or terrorize the cat. That’s where doggie daycare comes in.
First and foremost, nearly every doggie daycare requires a temperament test. This is generally on your pup’s first day, and can determine whether doggie daycare or solo play is right for them. During their test, daycare staff look out for signs of stress, aggression, or discomfort, and assess whether the new pup plays well with others and enjoys their time in the daycare yard. This can greatly depend on the group size, other dogs in the yard, and how experienced the new dog is with other animals.
One thing that’s important to understand is that there are different types of doggie daycare, and not every type is right for every dog. Moreover, not every type of daycare provides what your dog really needs.
Free Play Doggie Daycare
Traditionally, doggie daycare facilities offer a free-play structure, which means that the dogs are grouped together (usually by size) in a large play yard where they can run and play together with minimal human intervention.
This structure, or lack thereof, is great for dogs who just need to get out some extra energy like they would at a dog park, but free-play daycare comes with it’s own risks.
Dogs left to play with no direction are more likely to engage in fights, get bored with daycare after a handful of visits, or get overwhelmed in the large group and snap, resource guard, or show uncharacteristic aggression towards both other dogs and the daycare staff. They can even pick up undesirable behaviors, like jumping, from other dogs in the yard, and take them home, despite your training efforts.
Free-play doggie daycares generally provide less training for their staff, as they only really need to know how to clean the facility, keep the pack moving, and break up any potential conflicts. The large play groups also require less staff to be present, meaing the dog-to-staff ratio can be anywhere from 25-30:1. This can leave your pet vulnerable in emergency situations.
In the long-term, free-play daycare is best for short-term daycare needs and for dogs who attend daycare once in a blue moon while otherwise getting their enrichment needs met at home. Dogs who attend free-play daycare on a regular basis will need additional mental stimulation through things like outside training sessions or at-home puzzles to make sure they are exercising their brain as much as their body.
Enrichment-based Doggie Daycare
The best possible option for dogs who attend daycare on a regular basis, dogs in training/looking to maintain trained behaviors, or dogs who need extra mental stimulation, is an enrichment-based daycare structure.
Enrichment-based daycare ensures that every one of your dog's needs are met, separates pups into groups of 12-15 or less and incorporateing toys, basic obedience principles, and one-on-one time where each dog works on puzzles, agility, obstacle courses, and gets the individual attention they deserve. Dogs who attend enrichment-based daycare on a long-term basis have been shown to have improved behavior and higher critical thinking skills. Pups are fully engaged throughout the day rather than left to their own devices, so conflict in the play yard is much less likely.
Additionally, enrichment-based daycare staff must be trained to understand dog body language and behavior, manage basic training principles, and engage the group while managing the pack. The staff-to-dog ratio is better at an enrichment-based daycare facility as well, so that the small group structure can be maintained and conflicts or emergencies minimized.
Solo Daycare Options
Dogs can fail temperament tests for a variety of reasons. Either they appear to be dog aggressive, or they just seem unhappy and uncomfortable in the group. Sometimes, they just don’t get along with one dog, and moving them to a different group can make or break their daycare experience.
Most free-play daycares don’t offer great options for dogs who don’t do well in a large group, leaving them without any kind of meaningful stimulation. Oftentimes, they are placed alone in a yard near the other play yards, and just end up fence fighting or getting bored.
Solo dogs generally do better with an enrichment-based approach, getting individual attention and the same mental stimulation as their more social peers while maintaining their space from the group. This means that even dogs who fail their temperament tests aren’t completely out of daycare options, and can still reap the benefits of an enrichment-based structure through one-on-one day lodging.
Where does Pampered Pet Resorts come in?
Pampered Pet Inn and Pampered Pet Recreation Center are two of only four doggie daycare facilities in the Southwest Houston area that offer enrichment-based programs, and we pride ourselves on providing a doggie daycare structure that meets every dog’s needs from physical to mental. We even offer one-on-one enrichment day lodging for dogs who prefer their space, so that every dog gets what they need, even if they don’t love group playtime.
Our staff is highly trained, most having years of experience working with animals. Some members of our staff are even pet CPR certified. Plus, we offer fun bonuses like themed daycare parties!
After 40 years, we think it’s safe to say that Pampered Pet Resorts knows how to meet the needs of any daycare pup, and we’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure that every dog in our care leaves happier, healthier, and pawsitively pampered. That's why we have prioritized an enrichment-based daycare structure that is a paw above the rest!