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Local Woof: Should My Dog Go to Daycare?

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Many dog owners want their dogs to go to the dog park or attend daycare. Both are great places for dogs to be social, run and play and expend some of that excess energy. Dog owners are often rewarded within a tired and content dog.

But as the owner of two dog daycares, I can tell you that daycare is not good for all dogs. In addition, just because your dog enjoys daily trips to the dog park, does not mean they will do well in daycare. They are very different environments.

To begin with, visits to the dog park are usually limited to something between 30 minutes and two hours. Daycare is usually upwards of six hours. Dog parks are generally larger with fewer dogs per square foot.  The upside of daycare is that dogs are screened for aggression and are monitored by trained staff.

Daycare is a great environment for young social dogs. I often describe daycare like a frat party or a singles bar. Most people enjoy those venues when they are young, but become less and less tolerant of the “shenanigans” at those events as they become older. A similar thing happens at daycare, and we call that “aging out.”  It simply means that your dog is no longer enjoying the rough and tumble of the daily daycare scene.

Not all dogs love the company of lots of other dogs. Just like people, some dogs are introverts and some are extroverts. Some are rough and tumble types that like body slamming, running and wrestling. Some prefer a controlled game of fetch. Not all dogs like all other dogs, nor should they be expected to. Just like not all people become friends with everyone they meet.

So how do you know if your dog is enjoying daycare? First of all, don’t assume that because your dog is tired, they have had a lovely day of play. Stress is also exhausting. Start by listening to your dog. Are they pulling you up the steps to get in the door? That’s a good sign. Is your dog happy to see the staff? Also a good sign.

If you aren’t sure, ask a manager or supervisor at your daycare. Dogs who are stressed or unhappy are often much harder to care for, and hopefully your daycare manager will tell you honestly how your dog is doing.

Finally, don’t be angry if your daycare hints that your dog may no longer be appropriate for daycare. It is perfectly normal for dogs to age out, or decide they no longer feel like playing all day. Trust me, we want your business. But not at the expense of your dog’s happiness.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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