Dog Daycare

I am not a huge fan of dog daycare.    Or…I was not.  Having 2 male dogs who love each other suddenly get into it for no reason I could see… in the blink of an eye  …confirms that a fight can happen at any time, for any reason.   However, my feelings have changed over the years because I have work (as a groomer) at a couple of places that do a pretty good job of managing their packs.  Yes—packs of dogs.    & the reason  they manage well is because they take their businesses, dog behavior, and  pet care…seriously.

One place I worked at for about two years was Paradise4Paws in Schiller Park, Illinois.  Saq Nadeem, a business consultant and dog lover, was frustrated by the kennels that were providing  ‘care’  for his pets.  He  developed a unique business model for a kennel that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The biggest  ‘negative’ aspect to  his  O’Hare facility is that it is a totally indoor kennel, and that doesn’t work for a lot of dogs.  However, the positives are many…including that the facility is staffed 24 hours a day, and managed by veterinary technicians who understand stress and the dynamics of dog behavior.  I can not stress how important that is—because so many  facilities hire dog lovers who haven’t bothered to learn about dogs.

The dogs stay in spacious ‘suites’, and it is the only kennel I ever worked in where  you could walk around and find most dogs sleeping when they aren’t in a play paddock.  That’s important because it means they aren’t stressed.

This environment doesn’t work for all dogs.  If your dog is not social, he’s not going to get more ‘exercise’ than he would in a traditional kennel. And, if you have a drape coated dog in ‘specials coat’, the  dog is going to get wet…just like any other kennel (so you would have to ask for extra brushing if the dog would be  boarded over3 days).  It is not  going to be a good environment for most intact male dogs, & there have been some problems with unspayed bitches.  But if you have  2 or more dogs, it is a great environment (& their cat area is outstanding).  The sporting dogs love this place because there is a pool.  Most of the staff endeavors to learn about  dog behavior.    Also,  they take cleaning very seriously as well.  They’ve opened up another facility near Midway Airport in Chicago, and it is worth checking out. Note:  none of the staff is ‘doggy’ in terms of being interested in  conformation or dog performance events. but I’ve  come to think of this as not so important in  taking care of pets.  I know a lot of people involved in  dog events who own kennels, and they don’t run them as well as this kennel is run.

If you live  far south of the city, Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge is also a full service kennel offering daycare.  Because it is  managed by  pet care professionals with  backgrounds in grooming, veterinary care, & dog training, it is also well run, and has several different areas for  daycare playtimes.

In the city, very close to the loop, is Petcare Plus, on Lake Street, a couple of blocks west of Racine.  They used to be in another facility, and when the business at this location became available, Jennifer & Chris Stavrianos bought it, and have been making improvements to the  infrastructure ever since.

I  have worked there part time, and  they have 6 different play areas for dogs.  Like any  well run facility, there is always someone with the dogs when they are in a group, and they are out of their suites most of the day.  Bad weather can be a problem, but they do their best to make sure all the dogs get exercise and are stress free.

Dog daycare is not for every dog. Yes, it will  alleviate separation anxiety to an extent, but  there is no magic. There is nothing that replaces dog training/behavior shaping.  If your dog doesn’t like being with other dogs, or is hyper sexual or  has to dominate, or is toy possessive, it won’t work. However, if your dog  has a lot of energy to burn and enjoys being with other dogs, it is worth checking out. Check out as many places as you can. See how the employees interact with the dogs. Do they have separate areas for smaller, calmer, and/or older dogs, and separate groups for the rambunctious?  What if your dog  fits in neither group?  Can you contract solo play?  Is there a separate nap area for each dog, or are they all together for the entire day?  No dog plays for  8 hours nonstop. Average is  20 minutes/ 1 half hour.  They need a place to  chill & regroup.  Are there enough employees for each group.  Really, it’s hard to keep an eye on 20 dogs.  The state of Illinois  mandates no more than 6 ‘unrelated’ dogs be   run together (but the law is not enforced).

People ask me about daycare at the  big chain pet stores.  Having had  unpleasant experiences with how they are managed, I’d say it depends on the individual store & how it is managed…but that is true of any kennel.  Don’t believe that  because they are in business,  the business is a good one, or good for your dog. You have to be a responsible  dog owner/consumer.


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