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Choose a doggy daycare with a well-trained and trustworthy staff

Mark R. Finkler, D.V.M. President of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and small animal practitioner Roanoke Animal Hospital
Choose a doggy daycare with a well-trained and trustworthy staff

Leaving your dog or puppy at a daycare while you are away from home is never easy. The time you are apart from your beloved canine can be emotionally taxing, even if it is just for a brief period. Doggy daycare is often the best (or only) option to ensure that someone is caring for your pet. Fortunately, you can alleviate these fears by following a few guidelines to improve the likelihood that the caretaker will provide your loved one with the same treatment and respect that you provide.


Do

Do research the daycare in advance

Check with your veterinarian and fellow dog-owning friends for references. Consult the Better Business Bureau as well for any possible complaints filed. Also, check with local dog groups (American Kennel Clubs, agility groups, trainers) in your area. You would not want to put your child in a daycare that provides poor service and does not provide adequate supervision – the same should apply to your dog’s daycare.

Do visit the facility

Tour the operations, and check on the routines they have in place for feeding, potty breaks and group play. For the latter, watch how well play is supervised, what breeds and sizes get to play with each other. What temperament testing occurs in advance? Immediate warning signs that the facility is wrong for your dog include overcrowding, inadequate personnel and filthy conditions, particularly in the potty area. The daycare should be compliant with Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines and regulations, and should be well managed.

Do ask the tough questions

If an emergency arose at the daycare, such as a dog fight resulting in pet injury, what actions would workers take in response? How often do pets get injured? Are the playgroups visibly monitored on a constant basis? Talk to management about these issues so you can get an impression of how prepared they are for any crisis that might arise. If there is no set plan in place, how comfortable do you feel risking your dog’s health and welfare if such dire circumstances occur?

Do look for the extras

A daycare that truly shines knows what special touches are wanted and needed by its customers. For example, many top facilities today have a webcam installed so that you can see on your screen at any time what is happening there. Find out what features make that daycare stand out from the crowd – it can indicate how invested the facility’s owners are in devoting attention to the pets.

Do be proactive

Provide the daycare employees with a summary of the main characteristics of your pet, including his or her medical history, behavioral problems, and general likes and dislikes. The latter can involve anything from how your pet interacts with new people to its fear of thunderstorms. Make mention of any conditions of note that you feel should be taken into consideration to provide the all around best care for your pet.


Don't

Do not board a dog that has not met certain prerequisites

Dogs should be at least 4 to 5 months old and have all vaccinations before they can attend a reputable daycare. The shots should include ones that protect against kennel cough, Distemper, Parvovirus, and canine hepatitis. Additionally, you need to have adequate flea and tick control in place.

Do not use daycares with untrained staff

Just as your dog must meet certain expectations to go to a daycare, you should hold high standards for the personnel at the facility. Investigate how much medical training and experience employees have in dispensing medication (both oral and injections). This is critical if your dog is a diabetic and is on insulin injections. Learn what hours they work and how many are on duty during different shifts. The answers will determine how much confidence you have with their care.

Do not trust daycares with few questions for you

When you interact with the owners or management, they should be the ones who initiate basic questions such as who is your veterinarian and what sorts of food your dog likes. Hold back on providing all information about yourself and your pet, and see how curious they are about learning more. If they are disinterested in following up with you, chances are they will be just as indifferent in their care of your pet.

Do not ignore disciplinary actions

Ask what steps the business plans to take with dogs who act up. For barking pets, do they employ a shock collar to keep the animal quiet? That should never be acceptable. Talk about what bad habits your dog has and see what the daycare operators say they will do in response in case these traits develop. Any disagreements about their disciplinary activities may lead you to avoid using the facility.

Do not overlook your pet’s emotions

If your pet is fearful or seems unhappy going to a daycare, that may be a sign that your dog does not want to be at this facility. Even if everything else appears fine to you, your pet is the final determining factor for a daycare. Ultimately, you need to do what is best for your dog, regardless if everything else with the daycare seems adequate.


Summary
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Every dog owner believes that he or she is the best provider for their pet. In keeping with that philosophy, you should expect someone who will offer similar standards of high care while you are apart from your dog, to meet the pet’s needs just as much as your own. By applying these tips, you will be able to find a caretaker who understands what your pet needs in your absence while minimizing stress to you and your dog. The result will be the next best thing to having your pet beside you at all times. You owe it to your pet to provide a fun, safe and positive social environment for him while you are away.


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Mark R. Finkler, D.V.M.President of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and small animal practitioner

Mark R. Finkler, D.V.M., serves as the president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), a professional organization of veterinarians dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of human and animal life through veterinary me...

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