For working pet parents, choosing the right kind of weekday dog care is a challenge. Some dogs can stay home all day, but most need at least one potty and exercise break during that time. Dog walkers certainly help. But what if your dog needs more attention, or more frequent breaks, while you’re away? What’s a working pet parent to do?
Doggy daycare is one option. It’s available in a range of styles, from in-home daycare with a single dedicated sitter, to open-play daycare franchises. One type of doggy daycare does not fit all dogs, and not every dog thrives in the daycare environment.
Read on to learn the difference between types of doggy daycares, how to tell if your dog is ready for daycare, and what an alternative to traditional doggy daycare can look like.
What is doggy daycare?
In general, doggy daycare is what it sounds like: a place where your dog is cared for during the day while you’re at work or otherwise occupied. Doggy daycare offers playtime, companionship, and supervision. For many dogs, it’s a great alternative or addition to midday walks.
Whether your dog is in a large daycare facility or in-home daycare, the daycare provider should offer:
- Physical activity that suits each dog, whether it’s playing with other dogs or a romp around the yard
- Meals and medication administered as requested
- Space to relax and take a break when needed
- Supervision and connection with a responsible, knowledgeable human
- Some daycares offer add-ons like bathing, grooming, and training
Which kind of doggy daycare is best for me?
If you’re considering doggy daycare, start by answering these questions about your dog:
- Are they comfortable in big groups, or do they do better with just a few other dogs?
- Would they prefer to be the only dog in the home?
- What’s their activity level? Do they tire easily, or get riled up with too many stimuli?
- Do they have special needs that require one-on-one attention?
Some dogs like to party and are up for the traditional daycare experience. For others, in-home care is the best option. The best way to decide what’s right for your dog is to honestly assess their personality and make the choice that best suits their needs.
Traditional doggy daycare
When you hear the term “doggy daycare,” you may picture a big group of dogs running around a room with rubber mats on the floor. Maybe there’s a kiddie slide or different platforms and play areas for your dog to enjoy. There’s a fenced, outdoor area for outside play and potty breaks. And there’s at least one human supervising play groups, and occasionally throwing a tennis ball.
That’s “traditional” doggy daycare. For some dogs, it’s a fun way to spend the day. They get to hang out with their doggy friends and play, play, play. For others, it can be overwhelming. Before enrolling your dog in traditional doggy daycare, consider the pros and cons.
Pros of traditional doggy daycare:
- Provides socialization with other dogs in a supervised environment
- Your dog can develop their social skills and play style
- Offers exercise and stimulation instead of the potential boredom of staying home alone
- In a good facility, trained staff will be able to read your dog’s signals and adjust their play accordingly
- Some daycares double as training centers where your dog can practice basic commands and manners
Cons of traditional daycare:
- High dog-to-human ratio means your dog may not get the personal attention they need
- Group setting may be overwhelming and stressful
- Risk of under-trained or distracted staff (this varies from place to place, of course)
- Noisy, busy setting with dogs and people going in and out during the day
- Higher risk of illness or fleas (though most daycares have strict vaccination and pest protection requirements)
A high-quality traditional doggy daycare will hit all of the pros, and hopefully none of the cons. For healthy, active, social dogs, these facilities can be a great option. However, for some dogs, the busy group environment just doesn’t work.
An alternative to traditional daycare, in-home doggy daycare offers a more personalized experience. As the name implies, it’s all-day care in a private home. Sometimes, in-home doggy daycare means a small group of dogs with human supervision. For instance, your pup may get to hang out with the daycare provider’s resident dog, plus two other day guests.
Another option is one-on-one, individual daycare: just your dog and their sitter.
One advantage of in-home care is more flexible hours. While traditional doggy daycares have set daytime hours with drop-off and pick-up times, with in-home care, you can typically work with the provider to match your schedule.
In-home daycare’s biggest pro is that it’s far more intimate and personalized. In a comfortable, homey setting, your dog forms a close relationship with their sitter. The daycare provider quickly learns your dog’s personality, preferences, and needs.
And because there are fewer dogs present, your pup gets tons of one-on-one attention. It’s a great option for dogs who don’t thrive in groups but need companionship during the day.
Customizing the in-home daycare experience
Rover’s network of dog daycare providers is a safe, simple way to explore in-home doggy daycare. You can search for daycare with other dogs or without; with someone who will keep your active dog busy, or give your lazy dog plenty of space to chill. That’s the best thing about in-home doggy daycare: it’s fully customizable.
When you search for an in-home daycare provider on Rover, you’ll be asked:
- Your dog’s size and age
- If your dog gets along with other pups
- Whether your dog can be around cats
- Your dog’s activity level
After your search results load, you can filter for even more personalized care. Want your dog to have access to a yard all day? Looking for a daycare provider with dog first aid training? You can find the right match for you and your dog.