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Problems with doggy daycare

The issue with doggy daycare

Throughout the United kingdom, doggy daycares are certainly gaining in popularity. They are a great choice for working owners who’s hours are long or irregular, and for dogs that need a lot of both physical and mental stimulation.

But saying that, not all dogs will gain anything from going to doggy daycare.

Being a dog behaviourist, I have experienced a lot of dogs that have taken on some quite undesirable habits and attitudes that have originated from the experiences they made attending daycare.

It’s not an easy decision to make whether doggy daycare is going to be the right choice for your dog, here are the two main issues with this way of enrichment for your dog.

1. Dogs who aren’t really that bothered about their owner

As a lot of people know dogs are social creatures. They love being involved and seek attention. Dogs can definitely get a lot of this in a daycare: Activities with other dogs all day long, and as much interaction as they desire.

At the end of the day when the dogs go back home they are tired from playing all day, they don’t need to go out for a walk, they don’t need to be trained or even played with, in fact they quite often just crash as soon as they get in the house and sleep until the next morning, until it is time to go to doggy daycare all over again.

For a busy household this is very convenient, But, it does however present a real issue: The dog only experiences any fun and reinforcement away when not with the owner but experiences this through being with other dogs.

This is when they’ll look for fun further afield, if around 90% of the playing in your dog’s life comes from playing with other dogs, then they will be attracted to other dogs a lot more than they will be to you!

This behaviour can soon escalate as the dog might refuse point blank to play or even train with the owner all because the dog isn’t used to it, the owner then gives up and sends the dog back to doggy daycare, where the dog, again, gets to satisfy their need for social involvement with other dogs.

In the end the dog lives a life that is separate from their owners: they sleep and eat in their home, but satisfies their every need for playing, socialisation and learning somewhere else. If your dog get sent to doggy daycare at an early age for long hours each day, it can soon become hard for the owners to develop that deep bond with their dog.

If you think of your dog’s need for social interaction as a cup. Once the cup is full, your dog has no more desire, and will not make any effort, to request any social interactions. If the need for these interactions are filled just at daycare, it can then make building a strong bond and solid relationship with your dog really hard to practically impossible.

2. Dogs who need to learn some doggy manners

In nearly all situations, doggy daycares is definitely not the place that you’ll want your dog to learn doggy manners.

Preferably, when it comes to socialising a puppy you’ll want them to meet quite a few well balanced adult dogs. These dogs will teach your puppy the ins and outs of what is appropriate behaviour between dogs. For example if your puppy tries to instigate play in an overambitious and fearless manner, a well balanced adult dog will not participate in any play with them, but also not react overly unfriendly towards them, the dog will just blow cold with the puppy. When the puppy asks in a more polite manner by wagging it’s tail and play bowing, and not by barking and body slamming etc. The older balanced dog will be more willing to satisfy the puppies wish to play.

In a doggy daycare setting, you will find young dogs who are high-energy and high-drive. These are certainly the dogs that need a doggy daycare, because these dogs if left at home will be destructive. A small minority of owners would take their older dog who is balanced and calm to doggy daycare, this type of dog can quite easily be left home alone, and definitely doesn’t need that extra exercise and supervision.

These bold young high-energy dogs do not really care if the play is instigated in a nice and respectful manner, and rarely will they turn down an invitation for some fun. This means that a dog who is in doggy daycare learns a lot about wrestling and running around with other dogs, but they don’t have the opportunity to learn more important skills, like how to tell if another dog isn’t interested in playing with them, how to politely back off, and how to respect the other dogs personal space.

You can think of dogs who go to doggy daycare as overambitious teenagers, who when left to their own devices and mixing with others alike, they can act quite wild and be rather rude. It can be okay, as long as they do have some forms of activity with other parts of the population as well, and they learn the suitable behaviours towards separate age groups.

Quite often I see and hear of doggy daycare dogs approach other dogs on a walk in a very bold and over confident manner, they are not used to having their play being turned down, and they expect that all dog’s who they meet to love wild greetings and immediately being jumped on all over.

This over friendly and outgoing dog does not automatically mean that your dog has good socialisation, and this can certainly lead to conflict if the dog that gets approached in this manner is a dog who doesn’t want to play like this.

Doggy daycare and home life, how to balance it

We need to watch that our dogs don’t find all their reinforcement through other dogs and that they also don’t learn all their social manners in doggy daycare, it is possible to make use of doggy daycare in a way that lets our dogs profit from it.

When thinking about doggy daycare for your dog, make sure to:

Balance both fun in daycare and fun with you.

If your dog comes home from doggy daycare and sleeps the rest of the day without wanting any interaction from you at all, they were probably there for too long. Take care that they still encounter you as a source of social involvement and fun, take them out for a short walk after dinner, play a few games together, throw a ball for them in your garden.

Ideally ,you want to do the same before your dog goes to daycare in a morning: Don’t allow your dog to jump out of your car and drag you into the daycare facility to go and play with their friends. Take your dog out of the car, and play a some quick food games in the car park or somewhere nearby to the daycare, it will take about 3 minutes, and will make a huge difference in how important you are to your dog. Never be just the taxi driver who takes them to their friends, you want to be more or at least as equally exciting and appealing to your dog.

Socialise your dog with boring dogs

The dogs in daycare are not the typical type of dog that you will encounter when out for a walk with your dog. They represent an extremely lively section 

of the dog community, and if they are your dog’s only sole option for any social contact, then they will acquire habits that are perceived as disrespectful and obnoxious by other dogs.

Doggy daycare promotes a situation that is completely play centred, and it is vital that all young dogs experience and deal with dogs who won’t encounter in any kind of play. It certainly wont be any fun to walk a dog who just wants to jump all over other dogs wanting to play, as that will more than likely result in regular fights when the dog tries to engage in play and its not welcomed.

You need to make sure your dog doesn’t just meet the out going dogs at doggy daycare, but also your dog needs to meet the dogs who are boring and well balanced as well. Old dogs are the best for this, they are usually calm, and laid back and will teach a young dog or puppy that in some circumstances it’s not okay to play. These dogs are found at home on the sofa relaxing or in the chilling out in the back garden, but you won’t find them at the doggy daycare. Ask your friends and neighbours if your young dog can meet their old laid back dogs, your dog will certainly benefit a lot from it, and it will help to balance out the daycare experiences your dog makes.

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