For most animal lovers, our dogs are like children to us, so entrusting their care to someone else can be just as stressful, whether it’s occasional or ongoing. We can’t function properly if we’re concerned about how our pets are being treated while we’re at work, on vacation or running errands.
Whether choosing from a variety of private operators or well-known businesses, it’s important to research the options and weigh up the pros and cons. We’ve all heard the horror stories so read on to discover a few red flags that might mean you need to find a different dog daycare.
10) They Seem Hesitant to Allow a Tour of the Facilities
Any dog day care owner should be happy to show you around, explain their services and answer any questions, so if you come across a business that seems a bit cagey or suspicious when asked to tour the facilities, you might want to steer clear and find someone who’s happy to accommodate you.
Ensuring that they offer safety precautions like suitable fencing and flooring, properly sanitized areas that are adequately ventilated and quality food is a must. Another way to check them out is to make an impromptu visit after dropping your dog off. If they seem annoyed that you just dropped by, that’s a big clue about their integrity.
9) They are Either Illegal or Unlicensed
Dog day care facilities can range from tiny businesses that care for individual dogs in their own home to huge operations watching in excess of 200 dogs for a whole community. At the lower end, a business license is easy to get and enforcement can be irregular or rare.
Whether you prefer a more personal approach with a small business or a larger day care facility, it’s important to make sure they are legitimate. It’s perfectly fine to ask to see the facility’s permits, licenses and inspection reports and to make sure they are properly zoned.
If you’re made to feel uncomfortable at all while performing this very basic due diligence, that is a huge red flag. While it may not be a step that all customers take, it’s certainly an understandable move and shows that you take your dog’s care seriously – a trait that should be welcomed by any reputable day care.
8) They have a Large Number of Dogs for the Space
A quality dog day care business will have adequate space for dogs to run around and play, so if the facility has a large number of dogs in a small space, especially if they are not grouped appropriately – such as temperaments and sizes – and there are a lot of cages, that’s a big red flag.
Also, if the dogs are separated by flimsy or wire fencing, there’s a chance that aggressive types could get in and either injure or terrorize smaller or sensitive pups, which is a big no-no. Staff to dog ratio is an important factor so keep that in mind when doing your research. 15 dogs to one staff member is a good ratio, depending on the temperament and size of the dogs, along with the experience of the staff member.
7) They Seem to Lack Experience or Training
It’s not enough for a facility owner or operator to state that they love animals. Watch how they interact with the dogs and if they exhibit appropriate behavior in relation to the breed, size and temperament of the dogs. Also, watch how the dogs react to them, which will give you a good indication as to how the animals view them, the level of respect, and so on.
Ask questions about how they handle difficult dogs. If they are picky about the breeds they accept, ask why. A good dog day care operation should be experienced enough to handle any or most breeds, sizes and temperaments – however it’s better for them to acknowledge where they aren’t expects, rather than to fake it and to take on dogs they aren’t equipped to handle correctly. Other things you should ask about include feeding times, their playtime and socialization schedule and how they deal with sudden illnesses or medical conditions.
6) They are Difficult to Contact
It’s one thing to leave a message or email and get a response within 12 hours or less and quite another thing to never get a response or to have to wait until days later. If you can’t get them on the phone or via email within the same day or less when checking them out, consider how frustrating it will be when checking up on your dog’s well-being once you decide to use their services.
If you call and get a surly tone or if they seem unprofessional or worse, give them a wide berth. In an emergency, they should contact you immediately, so you want to make sure their communication is excellent. It might not matter during an average day when everything is normal, but this is the type of thing that can make or break a bad situation, or mean the difference between bad and terrible.
5) They are Insensitive to your Dog’s Needs
Say you have a nervous pup who is afraid of noise, has allergies or requires special attention, like a medical condition… When you advise the potential dog day care operator and they scoff at you, stating that they treat all dogs the same or that they have their own ideas on how a dog should be treated, back away.
The same goes if they give you the “nodding dog” routine: agreeing to everything without asking specific questions to make sure they get it right, just to get your money. An experienced and caring operator will be sensitive enough to make sure they can accommodate your dog’s needs and if they can’t, they should be upfront and honest enough to say so in a professional manner.
Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about what you’ve told them, in a subtle way, to see if they’re paying attention at all. Or, ask them straight up if it seems like they might not really be absorbing all of your directions.
4) They are Hesitant to Conduct a Familiarization Visit
When leaving your precious pup with anyone, it’s important for them both to meet and get to know each other and it gives you the opportunity to see how they interact. Your dog will soon let you know whether or not there’s any issues and you can observe any subtle reactions from both your pup and the operator.
Remember that your dog will behave differently when you’re not around, so leave them for a few minutes if you feel confident to do so.
You’ll get a good idea on how it went when you return, if your dog exhibits strange behavior such as being frightened. If the operator tries to talk you out of the familiarization visit, stating that it’s not required or offers any other reasons, it may be worth considering another option.
3) They Don’t Offer Playtime Activities or Allow Personal Items
Some people might think this is not essential, but if you have a dog that’s used to having a lot of play time or space to run around and the facility doesn’t cater for this, there could be a problem. There have been some horror stories about owners discovering that their dogs were kept in small kennels and returned home stinking of urine or worse.
The more upmarket facilities might offer training or guided activities, but the dogs should at least be given plenty of time to exercise and socialize, if they’re the type to do so. Also, if your pup is skittish and would be better off with a favorite toy or blanket to calm down with, the operator should welcome it and not refuse to allow personal items.
2) They Don’t Seem to be Interested in Your Dog’s Behavior or Background
An evaluation of each and every dog that comes into a dog day care facility is a must, to ensure that they don’t attack or infect the other dogs, among other things. If the operator doesn’t ask appropriate questions about your dog’s behavior, medical history and other pertinent issues related to their background, even simpler things like grooming in casual conversation, you can bet they didn’t do it for the other dogs they’re caring for.
On another note, they need to be insured, in case anything happens. If your dog contracts a disease or medical condition of if they are injured while at the facility, they might be legally required to cover the costs of anything that occurs. Make sure you check local and federal laws for your own piece of mind.
1) They are Unprofessional, Uncaring or Rude
It goes without saying that whoever looks after your pooch needs to be a dog-lover but they will be dealing with the owners too, so a professional and caring attitude is a must. If the owner or a staff member is rude or surly, give them a wide berth. Imagine how they will act when you’re not there. Of course, everyone has bad days every now and then, but a bad day can’t interfere with the care of animals.
Dog day care providers should be concerned with every aspect of taking care of dogs, from how they treat the owners to how they deal with emergencies, altercations between the dogs and any other issue that could arise. If they answer the phone or the door in a way that just rubs you wrong, or if they seem to be in a rush to get your money without taking the time to discuss their business, find someone else with your precious pup.
There are many red flags to avoid when choosing a dog day care, so if the above gives you food for thought, you might be better off leaving your dog with a trusted friend, family member or neighbor. Not all dogs are suited for dog day care so this is something else to take into consideration. Mind you, if you’re looking for a day care, you’ve probably already tried friends and family, so sometimes there just isn’t another option.
Another thing to ask the operator is if they offer boarding, which might be handy down the road when you go on vacation.
It’s better to leave your dog with a trusted provider rather than having to find a separate facility where your dog has to get used to all over again. Your pooch is a beloved member of your family, so if you take these steps before taking the plunge, it will be better for all of you.
The goal of this post isn’t to paint all dog day care providers in a negative light. The truth is that many of them are absolutely excellent, but it’s still important to know how to avoid the bad ones.