Ask about their training, look for clean facilities, and seek out a dog-to-staff ratio that ensures your pup will get individual attention.

Your dog isn't just a pet—he's family. That's why you want the very best for your four-legged friend when it comes to choosing a doggy day care. Here, experts share their best tips for choosing a pet care facility that you can trust, plus the signs you'll want to look for that will signify it's time to look elsewhere; at the end of the day, the goal is that your pet ends up in the best possible day care with responsible caretakers.

woman playing with dogs boarding center rope toy
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Tour the facility.

You shouldn't pick a doggy day care from the comfort of your couch, according to Don Cherry, certified dog trainer and owner of Crafty Canine Club. Instead, it's essential that you tour the center in person to see its indoor and outdoor areas, safety features, and the ratio of dogs to staff. He recommends examining the walls, floors, and bowls throughout the facility to ensure your pet will be in a hygienic environment. "It is really easy for diseases to spread when dogs are in such close proximity," he warns. "If the place looks dirty and unkempt, consider looking elsewhere."

You'll also want to observe safety features, explains Erin Askeland, animal health and behavior consultant for Camp Bow Wow. Enclosures should feature fencing and gates, while boarding areas should be kept safe with alarms, temperature monitoring, and cords tucked out of the way of playful dogs. The facility should also have an emergency protocol in place, she says. Lastly, you'll want to see a dog-to-staff ratio that ensures your pet gets the attention he needs. "Day cares often want as many dogs as possible," Cherry explains, "so they will fill their yards with dogs, but not schedule enough employees." Without adequate staffing, daycares might experience "dog fights, bad behavior, and stress for both the staff and the dogs," Cherry says.

Seek out day cares with trained staff.

According to Cherry, some dog day cares don't hire employees with training or dog handling experience. So, when you consider a facility, be sure to ask what training, if any, its employees are required to have and who will be handling the dogs. "Handling dogs is not an easy task, so it's important to make sure the employees—who are in charge of managing conflict, socializing dogs, and spending time with them—are experienced and well-equipped," explains Cherry.

Find out the facility's schedule.

If exercise, stimulation, and affection for and toward your pet are important, then ask the facility to provide a normal schedule before you commit, Cherry says. What's more, Askeland says it's important to find out what your dog's first day will look like. "How do they introduce dogs to one another? Are there other elements at the facility that your pup needs to test out, for example, where he might stay overnight? How will you know how your pup did on his first day? What do they consider to be a good candidate for their facility?" she asks. "A day care facility should be able to walk you through the process, point out specifics on how your dog did adjusting to time spent there, and alert you to any issues. They should be honest about your dog; remember that your dog may not always behave the same around you as they do in a brand-new environment."


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