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Last Updated: May 31, 2023 • Visit Blog Homepage


Dogs are social animals and enjoy spending time with other dogs, but being in a new environment with a lot of new sights, smells, and sounds can be stressful for them. Your dog daycare is a place where clients' dogs can interact with other dogs, play, and receive mental stimulation, but if the environment is not well managed, it can become a source of stress for your client's pets and that's not a good thing. This can lead to behavioral problems, including aggression, anxiety, and decreased socialization. As a dog daycare owner, it's important to understand the factors that can cause stress in dogs and take steps to create a stress-free environment.

Familiarization Period

Before admitting a new dog to the daycare, it's important to assess its temperament and conduct a familiarization period. This involves allowing the dog to interact with other dogs in a controlled environment for a short period of time to see how it reacts. This helps to identify any potential aggression or fear issues and ensure that the dog will be a good fit for the daycare. It's a good idea to have something like a first visit tour, where your potential client can bring their pet and they can interact with the other dogs in a supervised way. This way, you can monitor the pet for any potential issues. The last thing you want is to bring a new pet into the mix that messes up your pack dynamic.

Space & Layout

The layout of the daycare center should be well-designed to reduce stress levels for dogs. Each play area should be large enough for dogs to move freely, and the space should be divided into separate areas for different sizes and temperaments of dogs. This helps to prevent conflicts between dogs and ensure that each dog has enough space to feel safe and secure. It's best to have an area for your smaller dogs and an area for your larger dogs. It's true, large and small dogs CAN get along. It's all fun and games to have the toy poodle chasing the great dane, but the last thing you want is a sudden burst of aggression and then you have an injured dog to deal with. Make it easy to move pets between areas as well, so that you can quickly reorganize them if needed.

Group Size

The number of dogs in a group should be limited to ensure that each dog has enough space and attention. Overcrowding can lead to increased stress levels and may result in fights or other behavioral problems. From a financial standpoint, you might think it makes sense to get as many pets into your facility as are allowed. However, even if you're allowed to have X amount of pets in your facility, maybe it's smarter to only have Y so that you don't cause any undue stress for your pets.

Staff Training

The staff at a daycare center plays a critical role in creating a stress-free environment. Staff members should be well-trained in dog behavior, body language, and stress signals. They should also be familiar with the dogs in the center and be able to recognize when a dog is experiencing stress. Make sure that you have a plan in place for when a dog needs to be moved out of a stressful situation. Perhaps have a special room where you can send pets for a cool-down period if they're a little wound up. It'll give them time to calm down and then you can reintroduce them back to the pack.

Calming Tools

Certain tools can be used to help calm dogs and reduce stress levels. These may include things like calming scents, soft music, or gentle petting. The use of these tools should be tailored to each individual dog and used in a controlled and consistent manner. Make sure your employees are up to date on their training and that they know what tools to use to calm down a pet if one gets worked up.

Scheduling

The scheduling of dogs at the daycare center can also affect their stress levels. Dogs should be allowed to rest in a quiet area when they need to and should not be over-stimulated. A well-planned schedule will help to ensure that each dog has enough time to rest and recover between play sessions. Instead of having your clients bring in their pets on their own, you might want to think about offering car-side pickup, so that you or an employee can safely bring each pet into your facility. This will help eliminate situations where multiple pet owners bring in their dogs at the same time and cause a ruckus.

Feeding

The feeding routine at the daycare center should also be well-planned. Dogs should be fed at the same time each day, and their food should be presented in a calm and relaxed manner. Something to consider is returning all pets to their kennels or crates before feeding time. Food aggression is a major issue with many dogs and it's a major cause of fights.

Monitoring & Evaluation

Finally, it's important to monitor and evaluate the environment at the daycare center regularly to identify any potential stressors and make changes as necessary. This can help to ensure that the environment remains stress-free for all dogs and prevents any behavioral problems from developing. The longer you're in business, the more comfortable you'll be at analyzing the pack dynamics at your facility. With time, you'll be a pro (if you aren't already 👍)!

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