Pet products and services amount to a 70 billion dollar industry and growing. Grooming and boarding are a cut just under 10 billion dollars. With so many opportunities for businesses to support our fur-babies, many of us can often end up wondering which ones are in it for their love of dogs and cats, and which ones are in it for the money. With all this growth occurring around cat and canine companion care, countless doggy daycare locations are popping up. How can we find the best ones? What should we look for? Here are questions we can all use to research the best possible experience for Fido while we’re we’re away at work or on vacation.
Is the entire facility clean?
Cleanliness is about more than appearances. As pet guardians, it’s normal to leave our homes with hair stuck to our clothes. As doggy daycare, they work with dogs all day, so a little hair is forgivable. However, we can watch for an unprofessional level of hair and slobber on daycare employees over the course of several visits because it can indicate inattentiveness. And we should tour the entire facility without an appointment. Is the doggy play area clean and free from potty messes? Are the puppy playthings looking reasonably new? Or are they tattered and falling apart? Normal wear and tear are okay, but anything more than that could indicate a resistance to invest in doggy well-being, which includes safe, clean toys.
Is the facility safe and secure?
There are too many headlines that tell sad tales of dogs getting loose and running into traffic, or getting lost while at doggy daycare. There are too many occasions when a dog gets sick or hurt because of neglect or poor judgment. Check that fences are secure and walls are in good repair. Double gates should be the standard exit and entrance to any doggy area that leads to the outside. It keeps loose dogs from getting through while an attendant might be tending to a single pup. Watch for dogs who are showing signs of illness. Dogs suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, or coughing should not be allowed at the facility until they have completely recovered. Nobody’s family should be put at risk because a daycare doesn't want to turn away business for the greater good. If there are security cameras in the facility, will we be allowed to tune in and check on our pup’s? Are the cameras in good repair? Or are they always broken, especially in and around the doggy holdings and play areas?
How do the staff treat their customers and their doggy guests?
One of the earliest indicators of quality care is the way pet guardians are treated. From the front desk to the caregivers, how do they treat us? Are they attentive and all smiles? Or are they civil and seem stressed or distracted? If they aren’t relaxed and attentive to us, they won’t pay attention to our pups. They should be concerned with our canine companion’s likes, dislikes, personality, and health. And they should remember our pup’s by name, greeting them as well as us. Lastly, ask about turnover and watch for a constant flow of new employees. A great facility will invest in their staff by training them, paying them competitive wages, and treating them well. Someone who is burnt out or feeling neglected as an employee, simply won’t be emotionally or energetically capable of providing the kind of care our pups deserve, no matter how much they love dogs.
What kind of training and experience does the staff have?
Both training and experience are critical. Training means there are minimum standards by which all employees are expected to treat our pups. We don’t just want staff who are concerned with the day-to-day tasks required of them. Experience means our fur-babies are left in good hands with people who know how to break up fights, who understand dog behavior, and who will have the patience needed for loud or rambunctious canines. Everyone needs to start somewhere, so every facility should be willing to clearly show that those with minimal experience are never left alone with a dog, and there should always be a supervisor or experienced team member on duty for lesser experienced staff to shadow. Check and verify that at least one on-duty supervisor has an actual certification and is providing in-house training for staff. Plus, nobody wants an unwieldy doggy mosh pit. There should be a four dog maximum to each staff member. Three dogs are even better, and five dogs are just too risky.
What about vaccinations and other requirements?
They should enforce vaccination requirements before bringing any dog into the facility. This should include vaccinations or best practices around local pests and biological threats, not just the national minimum standards. If canine influenza is a threat in our region, they should be very familiar with symptoms and should be clear that they will refuse dogs who seem ill. If tick-borne illnesses are common and in-season, then all guardians should be advised to treat their pups with tick repellent to keep ticks from being brought into the facility. All staff should come across as educated about these topics, not just the tour guide, receptionist, or senior staff members.
We all want the best care for our canine companions. Any quality daycare will be just as concerned about our dog’s health and happiness as they are about customer satisfaction. By carefully watching for these five benchmarks, we can get a great sense of the people, the facility, and what’s best for our sweet fur-baby.