Whether you have a new bundle of joy or think that your dog needs to meet new faces and get some exercise instead of sleeping all day, dog daycare centres exist to look after pooches when nobody else is at home.
You have decided that a doggy daycare placement will be the best option, where they are cared for during the day and socialising is the main focus. But unfortunately, it isn’t always just a case of opting for the one closest to you.
There are a lot of things to consider, from how your dog behaves, to whether the daycare can actually accommodate your work hours and the times you need.
If you have adopted a dog during the Covid-19 lockdown, or you have been working from home, you may want to find your first doggy daycare centre
Here is our definitive guide on what to look for from a dog daycare centre.
Animal welfare regulations
First things first – there are actually strict laws surrounding the provision of dog daycare in the UK. It is classed as guidance, but there are both minimum and higher standards.
It can vary slightly from country to country, but in general within England:
- They must be licensed. Since 2018, every daycare in England must have a license regardless of the council area
- The license should be displayed clearly in a public place on-site, and include the names of the license holder
- No other animals bar the ones they are licensed for must be looked after
- There needs to be a maximum number of dogs allowed on-site at any one time. This takes into account the space available and the number of staff
- Each dog must have six square metres of space available, and the ratio of humans to dogs is often around 1:10
- Inspectors may also take into account the qualifications and experience of the staff, the use of part-time staff or volunteers and the breed/behaviour/age/health status of the dogs in care
- Staff must be shown to be trained in Dog Handling, Dog Behaviour, Cleanliness and Hygiene, Feeding and Food Preparation, Disease Control, and Recognition and First Aid treatment of sick animals. Training must be a minimum of an OFQUAL regulated level 2
- Your dog must be assessed and screened before its first full day. Any signs of nervousness or anxiousness are not a good sign. Daycares mustn’t just allow your dog to turn up without this
- They must have access to a toilet area and an independent peaceful area at all times. Dogs who do not go to the toilet indoors have to be given at least three opportunities to go outside
- Floors have to be easy to clean and non-slip. There must be two barriers between the dogs and any building exits
How to pick the right doggy daycare for your dog
As well as checking that everything is above board when it comes to the law, you should also ensure that the chosen daycare centre will be suitable for your dog.
Visit the venue
You wouldn’t take your child to a nursery or school without first scoping it out for yourself.
It is a chance to meet the staff and ask questions, as well as look at where your dog will spend their day, who they will be with and the activities at the centre. Your instincts will usually be able to tell you if you think it is right.
Are the dogs friendly and socialising with each other? Does everything seem clean? Do the staff look like they enjoy their job? Is there enough space for everyone together? This screening process is very important
Acceptance rules & behaviour
Some centres operate on a size basis, only taking small or large dogs. Others may not accept certain breeds. They should not accept unneutered males over 12 months old with the other dogs, and they should require some vaccinations.
Think about your dog. Do they not like bigger or smaller dogs, or is there a breed they don’t seem to get on with? If they don’t like small barking dogs but the daycare has many of these in attendance, you may want to reconsider.
If your dog is prone to aggression or behaviour issues, they may not be accepted. Be honest with the daycare – you don’t want anything to happen to your dog or another. It could be good to have an insurance policy with third-party cover in place for your dog, just in case.
Anxious or anti-social dogs, especially rescue dogs, can actually learn to get along with other dogs better in daycare. Not only are professionals on hand to deal with this in the best way, but the other dogs will also have been newbies once upon a time!
Just check with the centre first and ensure this is something they are willing to take on
Walking and exercise
You must give written permission for your dog to be walked when at daycare. Not everyone is happy with somebody else being in charge of their dog. They should be kept on a lead at all times, and no more than four dogs walked at the same time.
But do think about what your dog is used to. If you can still take them when you get home from work, then just one other walk may be enough. If not, you may want to pick a centre which takes them several times per day, or which has a large area to run around and tire themselves out on
The daycare will also need written permission to give your dog any medication, special food and decide which veterinarian to use. If your dog has specific needs, ensure the people looking after them know about the condition and when/how to give the medication. They should keep a record of everything they do
Alternatives to doggy daycares and boarding
Not sure about finding a good daycare in your area? Do you know that your dog won’t suit an environment that is busy or full of other dogs?
Higher Standard Daycare
There are now luxury boarding day kennels that fall under the Higher Standard bracket. This means that the person to dog ratio has to be at least 1:8, with every worker at OFQUAL Level 3. They should also be documenting the dog’s interactions throughout the day.
Some even go a step further, offering one-to-one walks and playtimes, as well as huge private fields and even agility areas, safe pools, incredibly comfortable beds and food that would make humans jealous. They can even have a birthday party on their big day!
Others also offer extra services, such as grooming, training, and behaviour consultations. This can be great if you want to kill two birds with one stone and not only have someone look after your dog but also to help train them.
One example is Barkdales Daycare in Cheshire. When we talked to them, there were tales of storytime, school trips and heated beds. Good enough for humans…
Or, opt for a dogsitter who offers home boarding. This will often involve your dog going into someone’s house, either by themselves or only with one or two other dogs. It means they will get maximum attention and will be in an environment that is more ‘homely’ – perfect for dogs who don’t like kennels or strange environments.
Some pet sitters can also come to your house. So if you’re happy with someone else being in your home all day, and your dog isn’t territorial, this could be even better! You will often pay a premium price for this service though.
If you are just concerned about the amount of exercise they are getting, a professional dog walker may be a good choice. They will come and pick your dog up at allocated times, and either take them out in a van with other dogs or walk them as a sole animal.
Some utilise pet technology now, with cameras on dog harnesses so you can see how they got on and where they went. Those who are particularly busy or who want to offer a service that reassures nervous owners may also use GPS trackers to check where dogs are at all times if they escape off their lead.
There may even be a neighbour or family member who will take them or even someone who will do it for free if they want the exercise too!
Take them to work
The office does not allow dogs? Is this a definite, or more of an unspoken rule? Have you ever asked your boss?!
Obviously, this isn’t a rule for everyone (dogs can’t go running around hospitals or retail environments) but may well be an option for some desk-based jobs. Dogs in offices can boost social interactions, morale and overall productivity. I’m sure they can’t argue with that…
Tips before taking your dog to a boarder or daycare
Update their microchip
Even though precautions are taken by qualified professionals who work at the daycare, they could still run away on a walk. This is especially if they are nervous as you aren’t with them. Always update contact information if it changes and it is good to put ID tags on their collar and harness too
Keep the centre updated, too
Changes to your mobile number, work address or email could cause issues if not updated when needed. Many will also ask for a backup contact, and you will need to hand over information about their vet too
Check their harness/leads
You may be used to only slipping your dog’s harness on when in busy areas. But they must be worn at all times when on a walk with a carer or someone from daycare when in a public space. Ensure they fit correctly
Get them used to other dogs and humans
If you have an older dog or one who is nervous, launching them into an environment with strangers and other playful dogs may not be a good idea. So, try taking them to the park first and socialising with the dogs of family and friends
Common doggy daycare FAQs
Can I not just leave my dog at home on its own?
There is nothing to stop you! Many dogs will simply sleep all day if left alone. But, you have to put their best interests at heart.
If they hate being left alone and suffer from anxiety, having someone around will help massively. This is especially relevant if they bark, howl or anything else which may disrupt any neighbours, or if they destroy furniture. You don’t want them eating anything they shouldn’t or getting injured.
Taking them to a daycare or home boarder can also help with socialisation. This is important with puppies, and with older dogs too. It is good for them to see new faces, and be around safe dogs so they can learn how to act around strangers. It won’t only help their confidence, but their behaviour when on walks and in public too.
How much does dog daycare cost?
It can vary. Standard daycare centres can often be around £10-£30 per day, with a good average being £25.
Those which offer extras may cost more. This can be:
- Drop off and pick up door-to-door service
- Extended opening hours outside the regular 9-5
- Training and grooming services
- Food provided
- Flexible booking (as and when needed as opposed to regular bookings)
Any Higher Standard kennels will likely cost more. But this could be something you don’t mind paying if they only have to look after your dog once per week. Daycares in in-demand areas such as London or other cities may charge more too.
It can still be cheaper than home boarding, however, which may charge these prices per hour. Everybody’s situation is different, however, so your chosen care centre will outline all costs before you confirm anything.