By  Tori Ganino, CDBC, CPDT-KA, ABCDT

January 29, 2019

Doggy daycares have been popping up all over the country at a surprising rate.  With the many different daycares that are in your area, how do you choose which is the best one?  Would it surprise you to learn that there are no regulations in New York State for the doggy daycare industry?  Yes, you read that right.  Anyone can open up a doggy daycare and claim to be experts in dog play and body language.  What you might find equally surprising is what tools and techniques are allowed when controlling the dogs (more on this in Part 2).  Below are questions that you should ask before bringing your dog to play.

1)    What is the intake process?

Every dog should be pre-screened before walking into the facility.  Questionnaires and phone consults are common ways to do this.  An in-depth discussion should take place regarding the dog’s play style, aggressive incidents, and general social history.  Any dog with a bite history, regardless of the severity, should be turned away.

Once the pre-screening has deemed the dog a good candidate for daycare, an in-facility evaluation should take place.  The evaluation is where your dog would be brought in and slowly introduced to the group while making sure that he does not get overwhelmed or become fearful.  If this occurs, the facility should have guidelines to follow to ensure everyone’s physical and emotional safety.  Make sure to ask about these procedures.

2)    What are the emergency procedures?

Procedures should be in place for natural disasters, fights, robberies, and medical emergencies.  What will happen if the building is on fire?  What will happen if a dog needs medical care?  Do the staff members know how to break up a dog fight properly?  All of this should be in writing and readily accessible to the staff.

3)    What is the staff’s education?

Staff members need to know more than just how to break up a dog fight.  They must also be extremely knowledgeable about how to prevent one in the first place.  Fight prevention requires staff to have an in-depth understanding of body language, communication signals, play styles, signs of escalating play that needs to be interrupted, fear, stress, and anxiety.  All of which must be the most up to date, science-based, information. How has the staff been educated on these topics, and how many hours of hands-on experience are required before given the job of managing a playgroup? Are there continuing education requirements?

Facilities may say that they have someone certified in dog CPR and First Aid.  Is that person in with the playgroups, or are they merely working the reception area leaving less qualified staff to attend to the dogs?  Is there a CPR/First Aid certified staff member on property at all times?

4)    What is the dog to staff to ratio?

As previously mentioned, New York State does not regulate the doggy daycare industry.  Lack of regulation means that one handler can be responsible for supervising anywhere from 1-100 or more dogs. The industry does have a guideline that should be followed: an experienced handler should only be responsible for 10-15 dogs; meaning that at least two people should supervise 30 dogs.

5)    How many dogs are in a given area?

Any number of dogs can play in any size space.  The industry also has a guideline for this: each dog should have 50-100 sq. Ft. of space, depending on his size, with larger dogs needing more room than smaller dogs. This guideline means that 30 dogs should be provided with 1,500 sq. Ft. to 3,000 sq. ft. of play area.  The area should be on the larger end of the estimate if there are many large dogs in the group.

6)    Are the dogs always supervised?

It is important that the dogs are never left unsupervised when together.  A staff member should always be present, attentive, and proactive.  Dogs that need short breaks can be placed in crates or pens.  There should be a procedure for how long they are left in them, the amount of time before being visually checked on, and what to do if a dog consistently cannot appropriately handle being in the playgroup.

Running a daycare is a time and skill intensive endeavor. More information to know and questions to ask will be coming up in “Choosing a Doggy Daycare, Part 2”.

Tori Ganino CDBC, CPDT-KA is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the IAABC, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed through the CCPDT, and a member of International Canine Behaviourists (ICB) and the International Companion Animal Network (ICAN). She owns Calling All Dogs located in Batavia, NY where she teaches group classes and private lessons for obedience and behavior modification.

You can find out more about Tori from her website www.CallingAllDogsNY.com

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