Don't get me wrong. I think dog daycares are great in theory. I truly believe that the owners of dog daycares are usually caring, responsible people that truly love the dogs that they take care of. However, there are reasons why dog daycares can be problematic and that is what I want to address today. I am basing my theories on over six years of experience training thousands of dogs. In countless interviews over the years many of my clients identify behavior changes as a direct correlation to trips to dog daycare.
I have also witnessed first-hand dozens of interactions at a variety of dog daycares in Chicago that absolutely can cause major behavioral problems even if they happen sporadically during visits. But, based on my experiences, the interactions that I saw happen more frequently rather than less.
I always recommend dog walks instead of daycare unless a dog has severe separation anxiety and can not be left alone. Dog daycare is an option until the proper separation anxiety exercises are practiced and the dog can be left alone.
Here are the top reasons why I have found dog daycare to cause behavior problems.
No downtime. Some daycares advertise "cageless boarding" as a benefit. However, dogs need a lot of sleep. If they have constant stimulation of playing and barking dogs, they can become extremely over-stimulated causing stress. An over-stressed dog can be more reactive and less tolerant. This can lead to anxiousness or even fights between dogs. Even daycares that offer downtime in cages throughout the day dogs often have numerous dogs that bark continously throughout the day, further adding to the stress.
Bully dogs. Dogs that are either improperly socialized or have overly aggressive play styles can wreak havoc in dog daycare. Depending on the confidence level of your dog, he might learn bad play styles or become anxious or even aggressive around other dogs.
The attendant's knowledge of dog behavior. When you leave your dog in the care of a daycare, you are assuming that the attendant can identify problems before they start and skillfully prevent situations from getting out of control, right? I have personally witnessed a Yorkshire Terrier puppy shaking out of fear in the corner of a play session while the attendant either did not see him or ignored his obvious distress. He should have immediately taken the dog out of the play area, called the dog's guardian and told him or her that dog daycare is not the best situation for their dog.
I have also witnessed many play sessions where one or more dogs are getting harassed and no one steps in to help. This can lead to dog's learning that the only way they can get help is to escalate their behavior until it is obvious that they are scared by snapping, growling or snarling at other dogs. These dogs can then start exhibiting this behavior at home when they are under duress.
I have clients that have used dog daycare for years with no problems. However, I see many problems that can be directly attributed to going to daycare. You need to use your judgment and monitor your dog's behavior if you choose to use daycare for your dog.