Doggie Day Care and Puppy Kindergarten

If you work all day away from your home, you may want to consider a doggie day care program for your puppy rather than leaving him home alone. There are good day care centers and there are poorly managed ones. Pick yours wisely, visiting ahead of time and asking the right questions before you register your puppy for the program.

Doggie day care

First, ask to watch the resident dogs. Do they enjoy playing with one another? Are they supervised? Do you notice one dog picking on or frightening the other dogs (bullying, canine style)? All dogs should enjoy attending day care — the last thing you want is for your dog to learn bad habits from other dogs.

Ask the staff the following questions:

  • How are the dogs/puppies grouped? Small dogs should not be intermingled with large ones. High-energy dogs should not be paired with older, quieter, or physically compromised dogs. Ask what type of dogs the facility would pair your puppy with.

  • What do they do in case of a dog fight?

  • Who is the veterinarian on staff? If the vet is off-location, where is she located?

  • Do they kennel overnight?

  • What plans are in place if you’re delayed?

  • Do they offer auxiliary services, such as grooming, training, medical care, or medicating?

Bear in mind that your puppy may be exhausted after his visit to day care. If training, walks, and bonding are high on your priority list, plan these events for another day. Your puppy may be blissfully brain-dead when he gets home.

Puppies pick up both good and bad habits from other animals. If you notice your puppy roughhousing or being uncharacteristically defiant, ask to meet the dogs he plays with. If his playmates are rubbing off bad energy, you may consider asking whether your puppy can be placed in another group. Or, consider taking a break from day care until your puppy is more mature because an older puppy or dog is less likely to acquire bad habits.

Puppy kindergarten

A great kindergarten program is worth its weight in dog biscuits. Social time mixed with structure and training blend for an experience that’s fun for everyone involved. Look for a program that welcomes families (if you have one you want to bring along), that limits enrollment to four to eight puppies, and whose teacher you’re comfortable talking to. If the teacher seems nice with your puppy but is rough or distancing with you, look for someone else.

Puppies are impulsive and excitable. Find a class whose teacher takes excitability in stride and doesn’t single out any one puppy as problematic. Your puppy is who he is, and the goal of puppy school is to discover your puppy’s personality and how to modify your approach of communicating with him.

Free play is the time during a kindergarten class when the puppies get to race about and get to know the other puppies and people in their classroom. Free play is a very big part of puppy kindergarten classes. Even though some get overwhelmed at first, they integrate by the third free play and are consequently more comfortable in different social settings. To ensure that your puppy can get this socialization, ask prospective kindergartens if free play is a part of their curriculum.

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