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Before The First Day, Research Your Doggy Daycare

Before your dog's first day of daycare, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) wants you to consider which daycare would be best for your pets and what research you should do beforehand.

"Daycare is a wonderful experience for many dogs. Pets that enjoy the company of other dogs and people are usually eager to attend," says Dr. Brenda Johansen, WVMA member and the owner of Harmony Pet Care in Waukesha, which offers veterinary medical care, daycare and boarding.

"All types of dogs can enjoy daycare, from lap dogs to herding, retrieving and other working dogs," says Dr. Johansen.

Before choosing a daycare, be sure to research and tour the facility ahead of time. "A well run facility will be happy to show you what they've got," says Dr. Johansen.

All pets should be in a safe, clean and odor free area and have enough room to run around and play. She recommends finding out where dogs are taken during potty breaks and how the area is maintained.

"Look for safety features such as the quality of fences, gates and cages that keep dogs where they belong," she says. "Sharp edges should be covered to prevent injuries and toys should be cleaned and inspected regularly."

Dogs should be supervised at all times. If dogs become uncontrolled, barking and aggression may develop, making the play group unsafe.

"Handlers are the 'alpha' in the pack and have control over the dogs," says Dr. Johansen.

The daycare should have rules and guidelines established to help keep all dogs, handlers and owners safe. These should include required vaccinations, medical response plans and protocols for screening incoming pets. Make sure your pet up to date on flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite control before he or she attends.

"Good daycares know their dogs inside and out, starting with a good assessment of their behavior, temperament and medical background," she says.

Many daycares will offer extras for their dogs. Ask the handlers if there are scheduled nap periods, if bedding is available and how dogs with special needs are cared for, recommends Dr. Johansen. Some daycares also have weekend boarding, grooming and other options available to help make it a more satisfying experience for you and your dog.

The number of days your dog should attend depends on his or her energy level. Too frequent visits may cause tiredness and crankiness in low energy or anxious dogs, while some dogs may attend daily and leave energized. Choosing the right activity level for your dog is critical, and the daycare staff can help you decide when your pet has had enough fun.

Though daycare can be a great experience for many dogs, it doesn't suit all. "Dogs that are poorly socialized to others, are dog aggressive, or are simply overwhelmed by a group of dogs may not do as well," she says.

The best way to see if your dog is enjoying the daycare experience is to judge his or her behavior. "Dogs who enjoy it are eager and happy to greet their handlers," she says.

For more information on daycare facilities, ask your local WVMA member veterinarian. To find a veterinarian near you, visit

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