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Why Dog Trainers Don't Like Doggy Daycare

Ask any professional dog trainer how many dogs they have had to work with because doggy daycare made them reactive or anxious or over-stimulated and they will be there all day listing them. We've listed and explained our top reasons for disliking doggy daycare below.

1. Doggy daycare creates over-stimulated dogs that struggle to settle

It is completely unnatural for a dog to be in a high state of arousal and excitement for 8 full hours. Dogs need to rest between periods of stimulation and most daycares do not offer the level of structure dogs need to achieve this. Problems will begin when you bring home your dog after 8 hours of stimulation and they are over-tired; they can't concentrate on anything you ask them to do, they act out when you try to engage with them and the sudden contrast between being allowed or even encouraged to play all day to now being expected to settle and be calm is difficult for them.

If you're using doggy daycare on a regular basis, your dog is going to adjust to the 8-hour stimulation and begin to expect it and need it. It's basic physical training, the more that you do something, the more that you adjust to that thing. If you walk a dog for an hour to tire them out then in a week they will be stronger and they'll need two hours to tire them out, etc. The same principle applies to doggy daycare and on days when they're not at daycare, they're going to need that 8-hour stimulation time. If your dog attends daycare all week and is chaotic on weekends it's not because they miss daycare, it's because you've created an athlete of a dog that needs hours of stimulation and can't settle themselves.

2. Doggy daycare will destroy your recall

If something is rewarding to a dog, they will do it more. At doggy daycare, they are encouraged to play with the other dogs all day long, which is fun for them and rewarding. Now what happens when you're walking your dog and there's a dog at the far end of the field, or even across a road? They're going to run over to play with it. It's what they do all day long and they're allowed to do it, so why would now be any different? They know that playing with a dog is rewarding and when you recalled them they know their option was dog play or a recall treat from you, and they want the dog play!

Now what if the dog they're bolting over to is reactive? A bite risk? What if they have kennel cough or fleas or are recovering from an injury? What if the dog they're running over to is outside the field and next to a road? You cannot keep your dog safe if you can't recall them.

At this point we strongly recommend reading our blog post: It's Time To Stop With the On-Lead Dog Meet-Ups

3. Doggy daycare can cause reactivity: Barrier Frustration

The last point brings us nicely onto this. Doggy daycare destroyed your recall so you keep your dog on a lead. You walk past another dog and your dog tries to run up to them, after all, they're allowed to do it normally, but they hit the end of the lead and can't get to them. They get immediately frustrated at the barrier they have hit and start lunging and barking because they want to go and play with the dog. Now you have a reactive dog!

You know that your dog is friendly even though they're barking so you take your dog up to the other dog, still on lead, and your dog stops barking because they got what they wanted. You just taught your dog that next time they want something, they can get it if they start barking and lunging, so they're going to do it next time you see a dog and every time after that, and sometimes you won't be able to take them over to the dog you've seen. Sometimes the dog you see will be muzzled or across a busy road or the owner will turn down your request to meet. Now you have a dog that is reacting and you have no way of stopping it- and that isn't the fault of the other person. It's no one's responsibility but yours to train your dog.

4. Doggy daycare can cause reactivity: Spacial Stress

Of course, not all dogs will experience the above. A large amount of dogs enjoy playing with other dogs but only on their terms. They don't like it when dogs push into their personal space and this was fine before daycare because it didn't happen often but now they're spending 8 hours a day having dogs shove into their personal space and nobody is keeping them safe or advocating for them. Sometimes these dogs become too reactive for daycare and are asked to leave, sometimes they just shut down during daycare and wait for the day to be over. They tolerate the dogs jumping and climbing on them and then they go out for a walk with you, see another dog coming over and think "Absolutely not". They bark at the approaching dog, keeping their personal space safe, and as the owner you're confused because they spend all day with dogs? How could they be reactive now?

And now for some smaller, but equally valid reasons:

  • The injury risk is absolutely insane. Mixing so many dogs, encouraging high energy play and only having a couple of staff to monitor is a recipe for disaster

  • They irresponsibly encourage neutering and spaying under the recommended 2 years, because they can't monitor intact dogs

  • Your dog does not need "socialising" with other dogs, and literally any trainer worth anything will tell you why

If you are in need of daytime pet care I'd strongly recommend a dog walker or pet sitter. Some dog walkers will be able to take your dog out on walks for multiple hours a day and pet sitters can do a few drop-in visits per day, if needed. Find someone reputable near to you and ask them what kind of options they have that can meet your needs.

If you need it, we have a How To Find A Good Dog Walker blog post.

Happy Training!


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