During lockdown our dog training classes were cancelled temporarily because of the pandemic. This meant that Blake was without classes and socialisation potentially for a good few months. We decided that because we didn’t want him to have zero socialisation and because classes were cancelled that we should perhaps try him in a doggy daycare to see how he got on.
Our Experience putting Blake is Doggy Daycare
As far as we knew, things are going well for Blake at doggy day care. We filled in his online account initially with his injections and profile (declaring that he was a rescue Patterdale terrier). We saw him playing nicely with dogs on the videos. He was coming home what seemed to be very content and tired! Here’s Blake on a good day at doggy daycare!
However, one Friday afternoon when we checked in on him through the videos on Instagram stories we saw him wearing a muzzle! This was a bit of a shock as when Blake was assessed on day one on day one we were not told that he needed a muzzle. In the video, he was scraping the muzzle of his nose and looked rather uncomfortable.
This was concerning for us because each time we had collected him we were told that he had been good today. In fact, it was quite upsetting to see especially unexpectedly. Yet if he had he been good why was he wearing a muzzle?!
When we discussed this with the doggy daycare centre they apologised for not informing us. Apparently on Friday he had been grumpy snapping at other dogs and could not easily be placed. We also perhaps should have been told when Blake nipped an Alsatian three weeks ago and had to be muzzled for 20 minutes then – again we were never told about this.
Although the doggy daycare explained why they did this, they did not get our consent to muzzle our dog and did not tell us what had been going on with him (which it said that he would in the terms and conditions). They apologised and agree to feedback to the owners more and gain consent for muzzling in future, but unfortunately, I felt that we had lost trust in them because of what happened and so we took him out for the time being.
Looking at his Behaviour with his Trainer
Following this, we decided to have a 121 with his trainer for feedback. She didn’t feel that Blake was aggressive and although we all understand the need for muzzling dogs to prevent fights, Blake’s trainer agreed that we should have been informed. He is from a rescue background and had not been trained to take a muzzle by the people at home who he trusted.
But when we looked more carefully at the videos Blake didn’t always seem OK or confident. We saw a lot of barking from Blake while the other dogs were playing. Initially we thought it was a play bark, but his trainer thinks it could be a stress warning to say ‘I’m here, leave me alone!’ He was also feeding off the energy of other dogs and getting over excited.
It caused us to question whether Doggy daycare was right for our dog or not. He wasn’t in daycare because we would be leaving him at home for hours on end – we didn’t need a dog sitter. In fact he was there for his own socialisation and for his benefit. He was learning to communicate better with other dogs. But there were LOTS of dogs! Maybe we were forcing him into a situation that he was not OK with too soon.
This muzzle incident(s) combined with his trainers analysis led to our decision to take him out of Doggy Daycare. If it’s stressful for him or if the daycare are not updating us on his progress, we decided that it’s not the best thing for Blake for now. Instead, we are going to take him back into his classes (which have now started up again during lockdown) and socialise him with our trainers dogs in a controlled environment. Perhaps doggy daycare will be back on the cards in the future.
Benefits of Doggy Daycare
There are many benefits to putting your dog in doggy daycare…
- If you work long hours it means that your dog does not have to be left alone all day
- Socialisation with other dogs
- Getting your dog used to other people and used to being away from you
- Get to know how your dog is in a different environment
- Options for holiday dog sitting (most doggy daycare have overnight options)
Is Doggy Daycare Best for My Dog?
SO there’s the all important question – is doggy daycare best for my dog?
As we’ve discussed – sometimes owners put their dogs in doggy daycare because they work long hours and they don’t want to leave their dog alone. Sometimes they go in for socialisation and exercise. But remember that doggy daycare is not the only option – there are alternatives to both of these. You may want to reconsider doggy daycare if…
- Conditions are poor e.g. too many dogs. not enough water, inexperienced staff
- The doggy daycare do not check vaccination certificates and assess behaviour of new dogs
- Your dog appears stressed in the videos or when coming home
- Your dogs behaviour changes negatively in any way
- Your doggy daycare are doing things to your dog without your consent or knowledge (e.g. muzzles, prong collars, food you have not approved especially for dogs with allergies)
- The doggy daycare does not keep you informed of your dogs progress
- Your dog is getting into fights at daycare
- They use training methods you have not approved or go against your dogs usual regime
- You don’t want your dog to be muzzled and the daycare ask you to consent to it
- Your trainer advises that it is not what is best for your dog
Remember that your dog coming home knackered may seem like a good thing but it may not be! Is he/she knackered because it has been exercised or because it has been on high alert because of stress all day?
Think about what the doggy daycare offers in terms of checking up on your dog. Do they have an Instagram account or Facebook page that you can check to keep an eye on your pooch? Or even a dogcam so that you can see your dog playing live from home.
Also do consider the muzzling situation – we would have been ok with Blake being muzzled if e had been able to train him to take the muzzle at home and consented to it and been informed. No-one wants dogs to fight, but it was the way that it happened we were not comfortable with.
For many doggy daycares, you have to consent to muzzling for your dog to be allowed and so do check this. Then you can either send your dog with his own well fitting muzzle that he is trained to use OR decide not to send him at all.