Should you send your pup to doggy daycare? Trainer weighs in (and what they had to say really surprised us)

Puppy chewing on a toy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you send your pup to doggy daycare? If so, you're far from alone. With many of us back in the office post-pandemic, having someone to look after our canine companion while we're out of the house can offer us a lot of peace of mind.

However, even if they get to play with a range of the best dog toys, expert trainer Carolyn Martell doesn't think daycare is great for most dogs. She cites packed environments, overarousal, stress and anxiety as key reasons why doggy daycare isn't ideal.

While she notes in a recent Instagram post that there are some good daycares out there, she feels these are few and far between and goes on to share five things that are worth bearing in mind if you plan on sending your pup to daycare.

Read on to find out what they are...

1. It's not for every dog: While you might think that doggy daycare would be a fun experience for your pup, Martell says that's not always the case. "Many dogs don't enjoy spending hours upon hours cooped up in a noisy, smelly building full of ramped up, unfamiliar dogs," she explains. "Introverted, anxious or selective dogs will not enjoy daycare."

2. Staff knowledge: "Everyone thinks they're an expert on dogs. Most are not. Most daycare staff are not adequately knowledgable about appropriate play, dog body language, warning signs, etc," says Martell.

3. Your dog won't learn how to relax and unwind: Sending your dog somewhere where you think they're going to happily play all day may sound like a good idea in theory, but in practice it can lead to all sorts of long-term problems. "Having your dog spend hours and hours and hours each day in a state of hyperarousal around other dogs is actually not good for them."

4. It may cause aggression and reactivity: "Dog daycare can create problems, like reactivity or aggression, when dogs are allowed to practice out of control, pushy behavior all day," explains Martell. If your pup already struggles in these areas and you've spent a lot of time learning how to calm a reactive dog, sending them to daycare is likely to undo all of your hard work.

5. You're not there to observe how your dog is being treated: "Unfortunately, since you aren't there observing, you don't know how your dog is being treated at daycare," cautions Martell. What do staff do to correct unwanted behavior? How are staff redirecting or moving your dog from one area to another? How much time are they spending in crates? Are those crates clean and appropriately sized? Do they have access to clean water?" Martell says these are all questions you'll want to know the answers to before enrolling your pup in daycare.

While many of us understandably think that placing our dogs somewhere where they can run around all day would boost their overall happiness and wellbeing, doggy daycare can often cause the opposite to happen. Playing for eight or more hours a day isn't good for our dogs and it isn't something they would do in any other setting.

Martell says that better options include dog parks, where you can supervise and interact with your dog alongside doing some training, play dates with known dogs and taking your pup on a hike or bike ride where they can burn off some energy.

However, we also understand that doggy daycare is unavoidable for a lot of working pet parents, so if you do need to place your dog somewhere like this, be sure to do your research and watch the staff in action before signing your canine up.

West Paw Toppl Dog Toy $23.96 from Chewy

West Paw Toppl Dog Toy
$23.96 from Chewy

A treat dispensing puzzle that can be filled with kibble, peanut butter, cheese chunks or smashed banana, this toy is ideal for giving your dog's brain a good workout.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.