Most of us love the idea of having our dogs get to play with their buddies instead of being stuck home alone all day while we’re at work, but is daycare the best option for your dog? 

Some dogs absolutely love daycare and some dogs would rather be home on the couch than in the midst of the action.  Knowing your dog’s preferred socialization environment can help you make the best decision about whether or not doggy daycare is the right option for your pup!

Just like with humans, dogs have different socialization needs and preferences.  Some want to play with every dog they meet, some are happy to interact with most dogs, but only want to play with a select few, and some prefer to only hang out with their close pals.

Think of the average daycare as the night club of doggy socialization options.  It provides continuous physical and mental stimulation through fast-paced play with a multitude of dogs.  Many dogs relish the highly-stimulating environment, but others can find it a bit overwhelming.  Dogs do get a scheduled break to rest, but just like at a night club, taking an unscheduled breather while the activity rages on can prove to be difficult.

The dog park is more of the local bar option.  It’s a place where your dog can choose to play with some dogs and get distance from the ones they aren’t interested in.  They’ve got plenty of space to take a break whenever they feel like it, without worrying about being disturbed by the more go-go-go dogs.  Just like loving hanging out at the local bar doesn’t translate to wanting to dance the night away at a club, loving playing at the dog park doesn’t guarantee your dog will love daycare.  Some daycares do have separate play-groups meant for these more low-key dogs. Just be sure to ask!

For the dogs who are very selective of who they play with, the coffee-house socialization option of one-on-one or small group play dates in the backyard might be the way to go.  These dogs usually don’t enjoy the hustle-bustle of daycare and are often overwhelmed by sharing an enclosed space with a number of other dogs.

Many dog parents think that their dog will adjust to daycare and learn to love it, but this is usually not the case. It would be just like trying to get a person who loves the quiet environment of a café to start preferring the tumultuous atmosphere of a night club…not likely to happen.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!

If you’re not sure which socialization category your dog fits into, reputable daycares perform behavior assessments of your dog before admitting them to the program.  The assessments can help you decide if daycare is a good fit for your dog.  If your dog “fails” the daycare assessment, it by no means indicates that you’ve got a “problem” dog; it just means that the daycare setting doesn’t meet your dog’s idea of a fun time!  Dog walkers are a great alternative option for the dogs that aren’t fans of daycare.

If you’ve decided that daycare would be a great fit for your dog, check out our handy guide for questions to ask a potential daycare!

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