How To Choose Your Doggy Daycare

With dozens of doggy daycare facilities in the DMV area, choosing a daycare can seem overwhelming. Much like choosing a daycare for a child, dog owners should perform their due diligence to ensure their pets will be in the care of highly trained individuals. Dogs, not unlike humans, are susceptible to developing bad habits when they spend extended amounts of time in environments that don’t suit their needs. 

So, how do you pick a good doggy daycare? We’ve created a comprehensive checklist for you to consider when evaluating your options. 

#1Does my daycare provider conduct a detailed behavioral assessment upon admission?

Behavioral assessments are key to determining play styles and behavior. Any responsible operation will conduct a detailed assessment of each individual dog coming into their facility. Allowing dogs with behavioral issues into a facility can result in well-behaved dogs learning bad behavior. 

On top of that, quality facilities will take your dog’s play style seriously. Dogs have a range of playstyles—for instance, some dogs are “body slammers” while others are “soft touchers.” 

It is important for dogs with similar play styles to be paired together. Repeatedly putting a “body slammer” with a “soft toucher” would be irresponsible and could lead to stress, anxiety, and undesirable behaviors. Specialists who are trained to recognize non-verbal canine communication can ensure the proper pairing of play styles, preventing trauma and dog fights.

At Patrick’s Pet Care, we perform a free all-day behavior assessment before placing your dog in our day care program.

#2What is the dog to staff ratio, and how much space is there to play?

The maximum recommended dog-to-staff ratio is 20:1. However, some facilities have dog-to-staff ratios as high as 100 dogs per staff member. In order for a human to be thoughtfully attentive to the needs and safety of your dog, it’s important that the facility keeps its dog-to-staff ratio relatively low. Plus, dogs need space! Industry experts recommend that large dogs are allotted 75 square feet of space to play in order to thrive.

Patrick’s Pet Care provides the lowest dog to staff ratio anywhere in DC, 10 to 1, so we can focus on the quality care, enrichment, and the attention to detail that your dog deserves. 

#3What does playtime look like?

Many pet owners think that a dog who returns home absolutely exhausted after a day at doggy daycare is a good thing. It isn’t. 

Although physical activity and mental stimulation are great for your dog, rest is just as important! It’s essential that your dog daycare facility allows plenty of time for your dog to rest, in between group play sessions and individual activities . 

A good balance of daily activities to look for in a doggy daycare includes physical activities with a couple of hours of play, some downtime, a relaxing form of mental stimulation (like a puzzle game), confidence building exercises, some more play, some more downtime, and so on.

Major warning signs of an irresponsible doggy daycare facility:

  1. No cameras or transparency: You should be able to see where your dog is and what is going on throughout the majority of the day. 
  2. No tours available: What’s happening on the other side of the lobby? As a pet owner, you deserve to know the environment you’ll be sending your dog into. There may be something they don’t want you to see or smell when they deny tours of the facility. 
  3. High staff turnover: If the management can’t keep their employees happy and engaged, how can you expect them to provide quality care for your dog?

So you think you’ve found the perfect daycare for your dog…now what? As you continue to entrust your dog in their care, it’s important to keep an eye out for some telltale signs that your dog is not doing well in their new environment.

  • If your dog comes home exhausted and exasperated, passing out for the entire night and into the next day, it’s possible that the daycare is not providing enough structure and down time.
  • If your dog comes home and immediately gulps water, this is a sign that they have not had access to fresh, clean water throughout the day.
  • Does your dog smell of urine or strongly of chemicals? A quick wipe of bleach or strong fragrances is oftentimes used to mask unclean facilities. 
  • Is your dog resisting entering the facility or urinating outside in a submissive manner? This is a sign of fear, which can be caused by bullying, mismatched play groupings, or mistreatment. 
  • Have the reports from the staff been inconsistent? It’s possible the staff is not being attentive enough to your dog’s needs and non-verbal communication, or the staff simply has too many dogs under their care to be able to properly notate details. 

Although it can seem overwhelming when weighing all the options of doggy daycares, it’s important to put the needs of your pet first. When you take all of the above items into consideration, you can thoughtfully and empathetically choose a daycare facility that will allow your dog to thrive throughout the day. 


At Patrick’s Pet Care, we offer Day Care 2.0— a totally new way to do day care, focusing on your dog’s unique physical, mental, and emotional needs.  Gone are the days of the all day “free for all” in a crowded room full of dogs. Instead, Day Care 2.0 provides the structure that dogs thrive on. Learn more about our program.