Happy Dog, Happy Life!
Day Play Programs…A Clean, Safe Alternative to Dog Parks
Day Play for Dogs
Dog daycare is rising in popularity and with good reason! Many dogs benefit from the extra exercise and socialization, as well as, not being left at home alone for long, and/or stressful periods. With an understanding that not all daycare programs are created equally, it is essential to educate yourself on safe day play practices to ensure you are not subjecting your pet to a questionable play environment.
Factors to Consider When Assessing a Day Play Program
Small Playgroups (ratio of attendants to dogs)
Enrichment Activities (training games, puzzle toys, wading pools, etc.)
Structured Play Sessions (includes mental stimulation and physical exercise)
Rest Periods (to prevent over-stimulation, fatigue, and lower tolerance in the play yard)
Temperament Tests (know who your dog is playing with)
Knowledgeable Play Yard Staff (trained to recognize signs of agitation and escalation)
Is Play Yard Cleaned and Sanitized Daily
Small playgroups are essential to maintaining a safe play environment. Of course, it’s important to monitor playgroups, but if you have 20 dogs and one attendant, there is no way that one person can properly monitor all 20 dogs for signs of agitation. Having one attendant for every six-to-eight dogs (based on play styles, size of dogs, and temperaments) is an acceptable ratio for a safe environment.
We all know how important it is for our dogs to get physical exercise. Exercise allows them to expend energy and maintain good physical health, just as it does for us. That being said, your dog’s mental health is just as important as exercise. To help our dogs fulfill their need for mental stimulation, a day play program that offers enrichment activities is ideal.
The benefits to enrichment activities are two-fold: they work your dog’s brain and allow them an outlet for natural instinctive behaviors (digging, pawing, sniffing, herding, chewing, etc.). When dogs are given appropriate outlets for these behaviors, it can help to decrease these behaviors in unwanted situations (i.e., digging up the yard, going through the trash, chewing furniture, chasing other animals, etc.).
The mental stimulation provided by enrichment activities will often tire dogs more than physical exercise alone. This is similar to those of us that may be stationary at a work desk for the day, yet can return home feeling exhausted. The effects of these benefits often overflow into other areas of a dog’s life as well; a dog who regularly participates in enrichment activities may be less destructive, calmer, mentally stable, and able to demonstrate more impulse control.
Just like children, dogs can become over-stimulated. To allow a dog to play and run for long periods without breaks WILL lower a dog’s tolerance to others and can quickly escalate into a dangerous interaction with another dog. It takes a split second for a dog to turn on another, so before you can even react, a bite has already occurred. As most know, a human that tries to break up a dog attack will most likely be injured in the process.
Not all dogs enjoy being in a group-play environment, therefore, it’s important to know how your dog will do in a group of other dogs before subjecting them to a possible reactive situation. A temperament test evaluates a dog’s physical and mental characteristics and its reaction to the characteristics of other dogs to help ensure their safety and success in group daycare. Equally important, never force a dog to participate in a group atmosphere if they are not comfortable.
Knowledgeable Play Yard Staff
Knowledge of breed behavior and playstyles is essential to leading a fun, safe playgroup. Finding a day play program with certified play yard staff is a major plus.
The signs that a dog is becoming agitated can be very subtle, thus it is important that those who are monitoring the playgroup know what to look for to prevent escalation into an aggressive interaction. For this reason, the entire staff at Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital is certified in Dog Language and Group Play.
Vaccines and Sanitary Play Yards
You can never know if the other dogs are up to date with vaccines, and more importantly, if they have been vaccinated against the canine flu. Not all veterinary practices include the canine flu vaccine in their annual vaccine treatment. Just like the spread of the human flu, the canine flu is extremely contagious and much harder for a dog to recover from. Consequently, play yards must be cleaned and sanitized daily to prevent the spread of any contagious disease. The Pet Resort at Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital requires all dogs to be vaccinated for Rabies, Bordetella, DAP, and Canine Influenza (both strains; N2 and N8).
Daycare…it’s not just for kids…
Just like a child going to play dates, dogs truly become friends with their play buddies and are excited to see them daily. They learn a lot from each other, such as appropriate play, communication, etc. The exercise, stimulation, and socialization our Day-Play program provides is truly a healthier, safer, and cleaner alternative to dog parks.
The Pet Resort at Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital urges all pet owners to do their research before subjecting your pets to an unfamiliar environment.