Top 10 Things to Look For When Choosing a Daycare/Boarding Experience for Your Dog

Here are our top 10 things you should look for when you select a daycare/boarding provider for your best friend.

1. Can I have a tour?
Ask the daycare owner or manager for a tour of the facility. It’s a good idea to see that the environment your dog will be hanging out in is clean and properly sanitized. You’ll also want to learn about the safety precautions the owner has put in place.

Top Dog Day Care Safety Features: 

  • Ventilation – Make sure fresh air is getting to the dogs, whether it’s through open doors or a fresh-air exchange system.
  • Proper fencing – Fencing should be a minimum of 6-foot-high or taller as recommended by IBPSA facility guidelines. There should be a privacy or barricade style to prevent climbing or scaling fences. Fences should continue to the ground with no gaps on top of a nonporous ground to prevent digging. All gates should be secure and double locked and interior gates should function with a double gate system to ensure safe containment.
  • Proper gating – Double gating provides a space for the dog to get acclimated to the play area before it joins the other dogs inside, which can improve safety.
  • Cleanliness – Policies and procedures that minimize the risk of spreading infections and zoonotic diseases should be in place. Keeping your facility clean and disinfected will make it a healthier place for the animals, staff, and customers. You must use both detergent and disinfectant products as detergents alone do not kill germs. Effective sanitation requires thorough cleaning and washing prior to application of a disinfectant.

2. How does the daycare separate the dogs?
Large dog daycare providers typically split dogs up into different playrooms based on a variety of factors. Ideally, dogs should be separated based on the dogs size, temperament, and play style.

3. What is the dog-to-human ratio?
Some states have a set dog-to-human ratio for dog daycare and others don’t, including Maryland. Therefore, Best Friends FurEver (BFFE) follows recommendations established by the International Boarding and Pet Care Services Association (a national organization that’s involved in daycare), they suggest a ratio of 15 dogs per one human as a safe standard. The IBPSA also notes that allowances are often made for more active groups, where a ratio of one staffer per 10 dogs is desired, or less active groups, where 20 dogs per staffer is adequate.

4. Are there activities for my dog?
Ask about the activities the dogs will do throughout the day. Does the daycare offer a day-training program?  What about dogs not in the training program but just the daycare program?  What programs are in place to ensure your dog isn’t just spending the day being exercised physically, but also mentally and emotionally?

BFFE practices leadership exercises and other mentally stimulating activities during all our group play sessions.  All pups work on safety commands such as leave it, wait and off, as well as loose leash walking (when appropriate).  Throughout each day handlers work on basic manners (sit, stay, etc.), boundary recognition, name recognition, impulse control, and leadership exercises during play sessions.  Of course, our staff LOVES dogs, so emotional support, love, and affection is always on display.  MUTT MASTERMIND™ games can be added to any program for those dogs who love games, scent work, and other enrichment activities.

5. How do you handle toys?
Some dogs can be very toy-aggressive. To ensure all of BFFE play sessions remain as safe as possible, we do not utilize toys or treats during group activities.  Instead, some of our care programs include individual play time in which toys, treats, and scent games can be played without the concern of competition from other daycare friends.  Programs that do not include individual sessions can be added to their dogs existing program for a nominal additional charge.

6. What are the caregivers qualifications?
Dogs must always be supervised when together to ensure safety.  Therefore, staff must obtain a good working knowledge of dog behavior and body language.  Handlers must recognize anxiety and signs of stress, as well as be able to differentiate intense play from real aggression.  Disagreements can occur even among well-socialized dogs. (Did we always play nicely with our friends?)  Lastly, staff must recognize common signs if a dog is sick or hurt.

BFFE provides in-depth training on canine body language, behavior, and first aid.  We have a Pet Tech Certified CPR and First Aid Instructor on staff who ensures all our staff stays up-to-date on First Aid and CPR techniques.  We also have certified Veterinary Assistants on staff working in our playgroups as well as with our older pups.  All staff undergoes training on dog body language, weekly educational meetings, and monthly discussions on handling skills.  Additionally, BFFE annually attends regional and national conferences and workshops specifically for those in the Animal Care Industry.

7. What is the daily routine?
Your dog daycare should be able to give you an exact schedule for the pets in their care. There should be organized play, activities, cleaning, feeding, etc.

8. How are dogs corrected for inappropriate behaviors?
How do they praise?  For what?  How exactly do they discipline and for what behaviors? Appropriate control measures include interrupting the dogs by calling them away from a potential conflict, giving short (2-3 minute) time-out periods, or redirecting the dogs to more appropriate behaviors.

9. Temperamental social screenings?

Temperament Evaluations: Every reputable dog daycare should have a behaviorally sound temperament evaluation system. Screenings are performed for the safety of both the dogs and the people. It helps to determine if the daycare is right for you and the dog. Not all dogs are suitable for daycare play. Evaluations are also used to match your dog’s personality with appropriate playmates, so your dog is placed in the correct playgroup.

BFFE screens all newcomers to assess proper social skills as well as play styles, true to breed traits and playgroup assignments.  Dogs are also assessed in their interactions with new people to ensure safety for all staff as well.

10. How are emergencies handled?
Inquire about the facility’s procedure for managing when an emergency occurs.  There are many types of emergencies from illness or injury to weather-related emergencies and outages that may occur as a result.

BFFE utilizes multiple avenues to ensure communication is maintained during their pets stay.  Small health issues such as a broken toenail, play scratches, or single bouts of diarrhea are communicated to owners by email and/or text at the end of each play session.  First aid-type injuries require a call to the owner.  Staff are trained extensively in first aid and CPR in the event of larger emergencies.  We have working relationships with local veterinarians as well as the owner’s veterinarian if medical attention is necessary.  Maryland is prone to large variations in weather.  In the event of power outages, BFFE has generators at all our locations to ensure the pups are never without.  Both locations are climate-controlled year round.

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