All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Doggie Daycare

Dear Marie:
My 9 month old German Shepherd seems to suffer from separation anxiety when my husband and I go to work. I won’t get into all the destructive behaviors he’s starting; but to get to the point, I just can’t leave him alone anymore without worrying about what “surprise” I’m going to come home to. I’ve heard about doggie day cares. In fact, there are a couple close to my home. What do you think about these businesses. Are they a legitimate option for dog owners like us? Please let us know. I love my dog but I am at the end of my rope when it comes to the trail of destruction he leaves every day that I have to leave the house.

Dear Annie,
More and more dog owners are discovering the advantages of doggie day care centers. I believe these businesses will become almost as prominent as child care centers over the next few years specifically because working pet owners—like the two of you—recognize that their companion animals need attention during the day. (In-home pet sitters are another great alternative.)

Separation anxiety is a common problem for pets and your dog is not alone when he resorts to destructive behavior. Doggie day care centers keep canines happily engaged in fun activities throughout their humans’ absence, keeping thoughts and opportunities to search and destroy far away.

When selecting a doggie day care center, observe the animals that are already in the program. They should be happy and social. Look for dogs that are inappropriately dominant to other animals. This could be a predictor of future problems and perhaps an indicator that you should go elsewhere. I would recommend a facility that requires all pets be spayed or neutered. This will prevent many behavior problems. Also, any
pet that enters the facility should be properly vaccinated against all communicable diseases.

How does the facility handle feeding, watering, treats, toys? Remember, these are things that can potentially bring out possessiveness in dogs which can lead to fights. It is best if your pet eats at home and does not bring special toys with him. (Especially the ones he feels very possessive of.)

Find out what the human to dog ratio is. Though some people can handle a large number of dogs, you might use the ratio of 1 person to a maximum of 6 dogs. If there are a lot of large breed dogs on site, you should reduce this number further. Observe how the humans interact with the animals and more important, how the animals interact with the humans. If the dogs will be taken out for walks, find out what the procedure is. Make sure leashes are used and that ID tags are NEVER removed from any animal for any reason.

The center should be completely fenced. There should also be some method of double gating the main entry. By this I mean that no dog should have immediate access to the door. There should be a secondary gate or a barrier between the entry and the dogs. Ask the care providers what steps will be taken should a dog escape. Also find out what the procedures are for veterinary emergencies, fires, earthquakes, etc.

If everything seems satisfactory to you, bring your dog with you to a second visit. (A reputable facility will allow you to visit any time, even after you are completely enrolled in the program.  Some even have real-time online video feeds that you can view.) Watch how your pet interacts with all the “regulars”. If he seems to have a good time, you've found a good doggie day care. If you see anything that makes you feel uncertain, trust your instincts and look elsewhere.

Once you have settled on a care center, I am sure you will be quite surprised at the positive effects it
will have on both your dog and you!


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