Joy from Frock Files is taking over the blog today while I’m on a brief maternity break!
Before getting our puppy, Kona, last summer, I had owned rabbits and cats but I’d never spent much time with dogs. The closest thing I had for comparison was the year I’d spent as a nanny. And so we do things for Kona that other people find a little crazy: give her a bedtime snack, put a pillow in the car just for her, turn on the George Winston station that neither of us likes because it calms her down. And we take her to daycare whenever I go to work.
But after eight weeks of daycare, I began to have some serious misgivings about sending her, which all boiled down to negligence on the part of the daycare owners. At the worst point, they had promised to keep Kona separated from the other dogs in the days after she was spayed, then posted pictures of her frolicking in the puppy pen, cone of shame and all, on Facebook. We began to keep tally of the number of times they forgot to feed her, pick her up, or shout at us, “Bring him back soon!” as we walked out the door.
The final straw came a few weeks ago, when I came to pick Kona up after a particularly long day. The owner complained, “Ugh, I have to give one of these puppies a bath because he pooped on himself. Sometimes I wish I could sew up their orifices. Then we wouldn’t have these problems!”
It may have been a joke, but it was all I needed to walk out the door for good.
That daycare was right across the street from where we live, so I was dreading the drive to the next closest one, about ten miles away. While it wasn’t on the route I took to work, it could be somewhat on my way if I went through the back roads. And once I was there, I knew immediately that this was a better place. Comparing the first daycare to the new one was like comparing Motel 6 to the Four Seasons. An acre of land (with two cozy houses), designated nap times, and a 10 to 1 dog to staff ratio were just the tip of the iceberg.
Though I can practically hear people’s eyes rolling when I mention that we take Kona to a doggie daycare, it’s the number one thing that keeps her behavior in check. She gets all her puppy energy out while playing at the daycare and she comes home too worn out to be naughty. Instead, she obeys commands and is happy to curl up with us – and she’s still on good behavior the next day too!
We’ve learned a lot about what should be part of every doggie daycare. If you, too, are a first-time dog owner or you’re sending your dog to daycare for the first time, here are some things your daycare should do:
Ask for medical records.
At the first daycare, they never asked for medical records and only had us sign a legal waiver, disavowing them of any injuries the dog might incur on their premises. The new daycare had us send Kona’s medical records and immunization history before we ever showed up, which they immediately put into her computer file. When her shots expire, a note pops up in their computer system as a reminder to obtain the new evidence of immunization.
Have a trial day.
While the original daycare just said, “Bring her right on over!” when I called, the new one told me that they have all dogs in for a full day to make sure that they know how to play nicely and get along with the other dogs. This can sound exclusive, but in reality it’s just a way of making sure all the dogs (including yours) are safe.
Keep a schedule.
The original daycare was utter chaos whenever I walked in, since the dogs let loose all day, with bathroom breaks at the whims of the owners. This new daycare keeps set hours for pick ups and drop offs, with a two hour chunk of time dedicated to napping. This sounds ludicrous, but I’ve called during that period and it’s silent in there. And at the end of the day, the dogs are still in a mellow state, happily playing but totally unalarmed by people walking in and out of the door.
Have a maximum capacity.
We now take Kona to daycare on Mondays and Wednesdays, so we have a regular reservation with the daycare. While we can call the morning of an off date to request a spot, we sometimes find that they’re turning people away to keep the ratio of dogs to trainers low. While this can be frustrating, I do like that they’re not just saying yes to make an extra buck.
Of everything! On day one the staff members knew Kona’s name and mine. They know she’s female. They know what time she comes and on what days. They even keep track of whether or not she’s had enough water, peed and pooped. At the end of the day, the staff members greet me with news like, “We’ve been trying to get this new puppy out of his shell, but Kona handled it for us! She got him to play for half an hour.” Yep, that’s better than a happy hour cocktail.
Cheers to safe, happy dogs everywhere!