Doggy DayCare: Do you REALLY know how your pet is being cared for?

You may envision owners and operators of doggy daycare and boarding places to be die-hard dog lovers; willing to dedicate their lives to the care and well-being of other people’s fur kids. Unfortunately, the lucrative world of doggy daycares have them popping up everywhere, with owners that may be in it more for the green than because they love dogs.

We drop our kids off as much as 5 days a week to these facilities, assuming they are going to a happy, safe place. We pay the price because we believe it is kinder than leaving them at home in the backyard, a crate, or a closed room.

But is it? Do you really know what goes on behind the scenes are your dog daycare?

The following stories are from real people (left anonymous to protect them) about some of the horrors they have seen or experienced at a dog daycare.

Cleanliness

Yes, I realize it’s a Dog Daycare, but it should be clean for the health not just of the dogs but the employees as well. One person told me they had heard of a doggy daycare that cleaned every SIX WEEKS.

If the place smells like urine and feces, don’t leave your dog. Another concerned dog owner told me about a facility where they would pick up the feces, but the urine was just left on the fake grass, “assuming” it would be absorbed. Well, multiply how often each dog goes to the bathroom by about 60 dogs. I don’t think the grass is that absorbent.

Missed Meds, Feedings, & Bloat

Does your dog have meds? Do they really get them? I have heard of many instances where dogs are just “tossed” their food, meds inside, and then the attendants leave them. The dog doesn’t eat (because of stress or whatever), so the attendant comes back and without thought just tosses the food away. The dog did not receive his meds and for some, this could be life-threatening.

Another problem is bloat. Unknowledgeable or uncaring employees can easily cause a big dog to bloat if they do not know proper feeding practices. One doggy daycare told owners of large breed dogs that they could not feed their dog that many times a day. Why the people still left their dog for boarding is beyond me.

When I was working at a pet store, many years ago, I was told about a St. Bernard that had died at the adjoining boarding facility because of bloat. I can only imagine what the parents must have felt. They had trusted the place to watch their baby and instead, they killed him in a completely preventable way.

Check out the daycare and see if they have areas like these kennels that may be out of camera view. Then ask yourself why.
Check out the daycare and see if they have areas like these kennels that may be out of camera view. Then ask yourself why.

Abuse & Neglect

The worst, of course, is the abuse and neglect. Even at places that tote they use positive reinforcement in their training departments does not mean the daycare attendants feel the same away about your dogs.

EVEN if the company has cameras, there is always a place that is hidden from view. I knew of a daycare where the attendants would carry dogs by their scruff into the kennels (out of the camera view) and kick, hit, and otherwise abuse them. Makes your stomach churn.

An executive director of a non-profit told me about a pit bull that, when taken to the daycare, she was immediately muzzled for the ENTIRE Day just because of her breed. Then they put her in with a dog that repeatedly attacked her and when he attacked, they removed HER. This scenario played out day after day.

That same director told me about another daycare that mixed large and small dogs. A Great Dane on his first day attacked a smaller dog who had to be rushed to a vet hospital. This seems to be a common theme, with many people sharing similar experiences where larger dogs pick on smaller dogs and nothing seems to be done about it, or the reaction is too late, the instance is allow to escalate, and real damage is done.

I received several stories about daycares allowing dogs to do inappropriate behaviors such as sniping, mounting, jumping on people, and guarding toys. Even more disturbing, attendants often ENCOURAGE the behavior. I was told that one client actually had the attendants laugh at her about their dog mounting – the staff thought the bad behavior was amusing.

There was a beautiful Great Dane I knew that went between two daycares. One of the daycares had an attendant that was not paying attention and the Dane’s tail got slammed in a door. It took several months, a couple surgeries, and a lot of money to mend the Dane, who ended up losing more than half her tail. The daycare actually tried to deny it and fought paying the bills.

Avoid a Tragedy

These stories are warnings. While not all daycares are bad, most do not show you everything that goes on. After all, while they may love dogs, they are also in the business of making money. This means, they are going to hide from you anything that may “hurt business” or result in a bad review online somewhere.

The moral: be VERY careful when selecting a daycare or boarding facility.

  • Drop in for “unannounced” visits.
  • Pay attention to what everyone is doing while you are there – do you ever see them cleaning?
  • Ask to see the areas the cameras don’t reach.
  • Get to know the ENTIRE staff – is there anyone on the staff that gives you a bad vibe or looks like your dog may not be his or her number one concern?
  • Don’t just ask for references, you know who they will give you. Instead, read online reviews and try to find people on your own.

About the Author

Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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