I work. Should I put my new dog in day care? My answer.

I was recently asked for suggestions on what to do with a new dog, in this case a Terrier, during the day while the pet owners are at work.  More specifically, the inquirer was looking for advice on Daycare for their dog.

My answer:

I haven’t taken a dog to daycare, but it is certainly an option! There are poor and good day cares – certainly something to get recommendations on and observe before deciding. You may even investigate “home” situations where a neighbor, friend, or service provider opens their home to care for dogs during the day.

The main concern with daycare is you can potentially end up with bad behavior issues (just like at dog parks), some of which are hard or impossible to remedy. Dogs can learn questionable behaviors from other dogs, and the stress or “incidents” can end up causing issues for you to resolve. This is important, especially with a terrier. They usually like to be “runnin’ the show”, and that could stir up trouble at a daycare if another dog disagrees with that terrier mindset. However, a well-organized daycare with experienced handlers may be able to reduce the chances of something like this happening. Additionally, some dogs are so behaviorally  “stable” that daycare is not problem. In fact, it could serve as a good form of socialization.

140508 Dog DayCar

If you decide on daycare, take it slow at first (shorter trips, with lots of down time between them, and watch your dog carefully while you’re at or traveling to/from the establishment).

If you want a lot of control over how your dog develops, and what is acceptable behavior, I would recommend you find an alternative to daycare.  Other options for you might include (and this is what I did when my kelpie was 7months-1yr):

  • Mental and physical exercise before work. Exhaust that pup before leaving, and they are more apt to sleep.
  • Dog-proofed room instead of a crate, with interactive food toys/puzzles/frozen Kongs/Etc. There are lots of technology options evolving in this space, that include webcams, feeders, monitors/speakers with your voice, and so on.
  • Go home at lunch, or hire a mid-day dog walker. I was lucky to be able to go home for lunch, but had someone on call to walk my dog if I couldn’t make it on a given day.

Younger puppies will have additional needs/concerns, so it is important to look for a daycare with a special setup for puppies (i.e. that are isolated from other dogs and so on). Overall, be extremely careful who you trust with a young puppy – behavioral problems instilled at an early age are hard to “fix”. Sometimes (nearly) impossible.

Another recommendation is to look into training classes and dog sports. These are very mentally stimulating for both you and the dog – my dog is typically exhausted after these classes/activities. Me even more so!

About the Author: Jen DeHaan is an animal advocate, dog blogger, graphic designer, and dog enthusiast living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two dogs. She participates in local dog sport competitions, and has taken several courses and seminars on dog training and behavior including Trish King’s Canine Behavior Academy and John Rogerson's 21 day intensive in India. Jen runs a small business making handmade dog products called Stylish Canine, and is also a freelance graphic designer.  This article was first posted on April 8, 2014 on Dogthusiast.

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