The best way to tell if your dog likes daycare is to watch how they react when you pull up to the daycare location. Dogs don’t hide their emotions. If they get excited when you pull up, your dog loves daycare. If they get scared or anxious, that’s a sign they still aren’t comfortable with it.
You’ve decided to take your dog to daycare. You spent time finding the perfect place for your dog to spend their days away from home. It’s in an excellent central location for your daily routine, has the best rates, friendliest staff, and the cleanest facility.
What’s not to love? It’s convenient and gives you peace of mind, and your dog gets supervised fun with a bunch of new friends. But does your dog feel the same way?
Daycare can be a great option for dogs. It can help them deal with separation anxiety and prevent destructive behavior when left at home alone, saving you from hours of cleanup after an already long day.
Socializing with other dogs and getting plenty of exercise is good for both their mental and physical health. But for some dogs, it’s not a good fit. It can be especially overwhelming in cases of severe anxiety or insecurity.
New dogs with varying personalities, an unfamiliar environment, and a renewed feeling of abandonment can all lead to an unpleasant experience.
So how can you tell if your dog likes his daily dose of social interaction or if he would rather be anywhere else?
It’s easy to determine your dog’s opinion by observing their behavior. Here are a few simple things to look for, both positive and negative signs that will clue you into how they’re feeling.
How Does Your Dog Act When Heading to Daycare?
Once you’ve developed a routine after a week or two, your dog will know when it’s time to head out the door and go to daycare. It’s hard for them to hide how they feel about the matter.
He loves daycare and he can’t wait to see his friends. It’s all tail wags and excitement. He waits by the door to make sure you don’t leave without him, and like the sight of his leash or the word “walk,” he recognizes this new word as something good.
When you get to daycare, he’s ready to get out of the car and can barely contain himself. He happily greets the staff and maybe even jumps around in anticipation, ready to play.
Negative: Scared or Anxious
He knows where he’s going, and he’s dreading it. There is no excitement. He is visibly anxious. Your dog may even try to hide and refuse to leave the house. He holds his tail between his legs and you feel like you’re dragging him into the building.
What Is Your Dog Like at Daycare?
Now, your response might be, “I have no idea, I wasn’t there.” You may not be able to ask your dog what they did all day or how they behaved, but you can ask the staff.
Many daycare facilities will even provide daily report cards for each dog, detailing what the staff observed.
Things like, “your dog was very friendly and played well with the other dogs” or “he was shy and took a while to warm up to us.”
If the staff can’t tell you how your dog’s day was, then they might not be paying enough attention.
Make sure that you’ve selected a daycare with a good ratio of employees to dogs. Typically, this is no more than 15 dogs per staff, but do what feels right for you.
Although you might think that the staff has an incentive to tell you that your dog is loving life at their facility, if your dog is genuinely uncomfortable and not adjusting, it’s actually in their best interest to tell you the truth. Uncomfortable and fearful dogs can become reactive and cause harm to the other dogs at the daycare.
If you don’t believe what they’re telling you or just want to see it for yourself, ask to do a visit during the day to see how your dog is doing.
Positive: Comfortable and Content
Your dog interacts well with the other dogs. He is friendly to both the dogs and staff and is playful (if that’s his personality). He is confident and comfortable.
Remember that a report card stating your dog didn’t play with the other dogs isn’t necessarily a bad sign.
Some dogs, especially older ones, don’t have the energy or interest to keep up with the young, rambunctious puppies. However, they might still enjoy the companionship or watching the other dogs play. Other dogs love people and would rather spend their time playing fetch with the staff members.
Negative: Aggressive or Attempts to Escape
He is timid and doesn’t make new friends. He is so overwhelmed by this new place that he hides in a corner and is clearly shaking from fear.
When people or dogs try to approach him, he snaps or growls at them. He paces the fence line or tries to escape.
Some dogs will try to dig their way out of an outdoor area or jump the fence. This doesn’t always mean they are unhappy at daycare. Some dogs are just really athletic or have such intense separation anxiety that they need to go after you.
But again, if there are any signs that your dog, or others, have been successful in escaping from the daycare, this points to a lack of supervision and may not be a safe place for your pet.
Highly intelligent dogs can also get bored of the routine of going to daycare every day and start to cause trouble.
Your pet’s report card might say that he has given himself a job of patrolling the perimeter or guarding the door. Or he might harass the other dogs out of boredom.
Daycare could be a poor fit if it isn’t giving your dog enough stimulation and could lead to issues with the other dogs.
What Do You See When You Bring Your Dog Home?
Positive: Happy Exhaustion
You don’t even make it home before you hear snoring coming from the back seat of your car. You get home, and he heads straight for his favorite sleeping spot. He might miss dinner because he is so tired from a full day of fun.
A tired dog is a good dog and usually a happy one. Especially in the first few weeks of going to daycare, your dog will likely be wiped out from all the playtime and excitement.
Negative: Visible Injuries
Your dog is in pain. He looks like he got into a fight with another dog.
If your dog comes home visibly injured or in pain, it is a clear sign that this daycare is not a good fit.
Occasional minor cuts from rough play are not uncommon, especially when getting to know new dogs. As are sore muscles if your dog isn’t used to a high level of daily exercise. But if your dog is consistently coming home with more serious injuries or looking like he got into a fight, it’s time to look for a different daycare or consider other options like a dog walker.
There is probably not enough supervision from the staff, and there might be certain dogs at this daycare that don’t get along with yours.
Different dogs have different personalities, and just like people, they don’t always mesh well. If your dog is insecure or an intact male, it can also become a target for the other dogs.
These are likely to be problems regardless of the group they’re interacting with, causing your dog to get picked on even if you take them to a new daycare.
So, What Does Your Dog Really Think?
If, after observing your dog’s behavior, you don’t think he leans heavily toward either side of the spectrum, don’t worry. The negative signs that he doesn’t like daycare are usually much more apparent, and easier to identify.
So if none of these sound exactly like your dog, and you think he falls somewhere in the middle, you can rest assured that he’s probably happily agreeable to your new routine.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.