What is the Purpose of Daycare?

I am fortunate enough to have the chance to meet many first time daycare clients, enthusiastically bringing their dogs in for their first day of daycare play with the excitement that their dog will play and they will get a much needed break when their dog returns home tired and happy.  Most people know they’re making the right move with daycare, but they’re not always sure exactly why.  The idea of their dog home alone all day or stuck in a kennel for long periods is certainly not appealing, but with so many options for dog care now “why daycare?” is a legitimate one.

And of course, like most things when it comes to your dog, this is a personal issue and depends a lot on your individual dog and lifestyle.  However I would like to explain why I believe in dog daycare and how I think it benefits the dogs that come here from the perspective of someone who is a veteran to the dog daycare and boarding world as a dog trainer and manager of almost 15 years.

Jetson

Building and maintaining social skills

This is the most obvious one as dog daycare usually evokes an image of a group of dogs exuberantly playing.  And while that certainly happens here, play is only one part of a larger picture when it comes to social skills.  Some of the other social skills that transfer nicely from daycare to home life are…

  • A dog’s ability to read and respond to another dog’s communication, in and out of play.
  • How to approach and greet other dogs smoothly, through casual, indirect, and fluid movements.
  • Learning to accommodate for size and power differences. This is especially important for dogs that have younger human beings at home and involves a dog learning how to adjust their strength, power, and intensity to the individual they are interacting with.
  • A gentle mouth. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of dog-dog interaction but is arguably the most important. A dog’s ability to use their mouth gently even when upset determines whether a dog is safe in and out of the home and in dog-dog interactions.  And this is a skill that must be practiced to maintain.
  • Overall comfort level around other dogs. Time spent in a group setting prevents strong or inappropriate reactions to other dogs from developing.
Fulfilling the needs that home care can’t

For your dog, time spent at home can be a good thing, but it can be lacking in fulfilling some core requirements for your dog, namely…

  • Physical stimulation – an obvious one. In daycare your dog moves around, runs, and plays.
  • Mental stimulation – engaging in play, greeting new dogs and people, engagement from staff
  • Environmental management – most daycare facilities are, hopefully, built with the well-being of the dogs in mind. This means stressful, unpleasant, overstimulating, or risky experiences are carefully structured or prevented entirely.  Unlike peering out a window at home, which can be a frustrating experience and build unwanted behaviors like barking or reactivity, those type of experiences are controlled in daycare so that they build better emotional control and better behavior for your dog at home.
Creating a comfortable environment

Not all dogs that benefit from dog daycare are dogs that play all day.  For some dogs daycare or boarding in a group environment provides a low-stress home away from home, free from the isolation that many dogs feel alone at home or in a kennel environment.  This is why dog daycare boarding is such a frequent choice for older dogs who no longer do well in a traditional kennel environment.

So there you have it: why daycare might be a good fit for your dog and why I support daycare for a wider range of dogs than might meet the eye initially.