Two dogs in a field

Doggy day care

Often owners hate the idea of their pet being on their own in the house for too long and with good reason, dogs aren't meant to spend a lot of time alone. They don't naturally enjoy being alone, preferring the company of their family.

What is doggy day care?

This is a place that looks after pets for the day. Not to be confused with home boarding, these facilities will usually have large areas for dogs to play in and are specifically kitted out for dogs.

For a fee, your dog can stay within the day care centre and will be:

  • walked
  • fed (if needed)
  • able to play with other dogs (if appropriate)

Some doggy day care centres even have pools!

Is doggy day care right for your dog?

A well run doggy day care centre can be fantastic for your dog. Giving them a safe place to be while you're not there and with lots of varied activities to help keep them mentally stimulated.

However, not all dogs will enjoy the experience doggy day care offers. It's worth thinking about whether your dog will be comfortable in this type of environment.

Not all dogs love playing and interacting with other dogs and some may just be too old and would prefer to sleep through the day, with just a walk to relieve themselves.

Before signing your dog up to doggy day care, you will need to consider the following.

Your dog's age

Are they still agile enough to be in with lots of bouncy younger dogs? If not, speak with the doggy day care to understand how they create a safe space for older dogs.

Your dog's personality

If you have a dog that prefers human company over their own kind, consider whether this may be too much for them.

Any behaviour problems

Your dog may be uncomfortable in certain situations. For instance, if they become defensive over their toys, think about how this could be transferred in an environment where dogs are playing with toys freely.

Any health issues

You will need to consider doggy day care carefully if your dog has any health conditions that could affect the way they can interact with dogs, such as arthritis.

If you have any concerns around this, speak with the doggy day care centre to see if they have any measures in place for those dogs who are less able to move around so that they don't get overwhelmed.

How your dog interacts with other dogs

Excitable dogs

If your dog is really enthusiastic about playing with other dogs, and enjoys playing rough in day care, then this can become a problem out and about if they expect this type of play from all dogs.

However, some day care centres are brilliant at managing this, so ask them if:

  • they allow dogs to play freely
  • how long play sessions are
  • they will be supervised at all times
  • they get breaks from playtime to rest

Quiet dogs and those that prefer human company

Some dogs are just all about that quiet life. Preferring to nap and go on a little walk to break up their day. Or, they may just enjoy the company of humans over dogs.

If your dog isn't a big fan of being around a lot of dogs, then it might be best to reconsider whether day care is right for them.

How much is doggy day care?

On average, you can expect to pay between £20 to £45 per day (up to nine hours).

Prices can vary from place to place, with cities like London usually being more expensive.

Additional costs can include:

  • a one-off registration fee
  • a dog taxi – if you're looking to have your furry friend dropped off and picked up from your home
  • if you have more than one dog that needs day care

Prices can also vary depending on the day of the week. Weekends and bank holidays are usually more expensive.

What age can my dog go to doggy day care?

Each individual day care will have their own rules as to how old a puppy or dog must be before they can start. But it’s something you should consider carefully before signing your young dog up. Day care can be very noisy and overwhelming, particularly for young or shy dogs, so it might not be the best environment for them.

The first year of your dog's life is such an important phase where they will learn important skills for their future. A well run day care will be mindful of this sensitive stage in your dog’s development.

Remember, young dogs in particular are very impressionable and it’s important that their experiences of day care and other dogs are positive.

A well run day care will:

  • monitor their behaviour with other dogs as this may shape how they feel about dogs in the future
  • protect shy dogs from more boisterous dogs
  • carefully manage young dogs who love to play with other dogs so this doesn’t get out of hand
Important: Day care should not take the place of socialising your puppy as this is something you should do together.

Information to give to your dog’s temporary carer

  • Vet details
  • Knowledge of any pre-existing medical conditions
  • Who to call in an emergency
  • Any medication that your dog is on, instructions and dosage
  • Your dog’s usual feeding routine (if applicable through the day)
  • A note of your dog’s microchip information in case they get lost
  • What time you usually walk your dog and how much exercise they need per day
  • Any behaviour issues that they will need to be aware of
  • Whether you are happy for them to let your dog off lead and if so, when you are comfortable with them doing this
  • The words you use to ask your dog what you want from them. For instance, do you ask your dog to 'come' or say 'here'. This will be particularly important for when your dog is off lead and your dog walker needs to call them back.

How to choose a doggy day care

It's important not to go out and book the first day care centre you see. There are some things you'll need to find out first.

Do they have professional training?

You're looking to understand if they have training in dog handling and behaviour, as well as dog first aid.

It's important that they have employees who have dog behaviour knowledge so they know what to look out for with so many dogs in one place.

Do they have a licence?

Doggy day care centres must have a licence to run their services. Be sure to ask for proof of their licence before you take your dog there.

Do they have insurance?

Ask what insurance they have in place. They should have home boarding insurance to cover:

  • employers liability
  • public liability
  • professional indemnity

Do they have references?

The best recommendations are through a family member or a friend. This way you have a trusted source to make your decision.

But, if this isn't possible, then look at their site to see if they have a review section or check Google or Trustpilot. If they don't appear on these then asking them to provide contact details for references is a great way to understand how other customers feel about the service.

Where will your dog exercise?

Ask if you can come and see the place your dog will be spending their time so that you can understand what facilities they have and the space available. It's also good to know if they will be walking your dog outside day care and if so, where.

How many dogs will they be with?

Here you're looking to understand how many dogs they will be spending time with.

Good questions to ask are:

  • will they always be with the same group of dogs?
  • will their temperament be matched within the group (not to pair excitable dogs with dogs that want a quiet life)?

Will they have down time?

We talk about dogs being mentally stimulated, but dogs can also become overstimulated.

Rest is super important to your dog, they also need to sleep through the day. If they're not given enough down time it can result in behavioural problems. So, speak with the doggy day care staff to understand where and how often your dog will get rest during the day – some do this really well and have break times for your dog to unwind.

How many people will be supervising play?

Depending on the number of dogs they have on site together will decide how many people they have supervising at any one time. All you're looking to understand is if there are enough people to keep an eye on all the dogs to ensure their behaviour is appropriate. And, in the worst case scenario, if they have the skill to intervene if something goes wrong.

Will they step in if a dog looks worried or is being bullied?

Understanding how and when they will intervene when a dog looks uncomfortable is super important. Spotting the early signs of stress in dogs can help someone step in before things escalate.

What happens in an emergency?

What you're asking here is what their procedure is if your dog is in an accident.

  • Do they have a car they can access? If they do, do they have crash tested crates or harnesses for safely traveling in the car with your dog?
  • Do they know dog first aid?
  • Which vet would they take your dog to?
  • When and how will they contact you?

Doggy day care alternatives

If your dog doesn't enjoy day care, you've chosen not to send them because you don't think they'd enjoy it or it's just too expensive for you, then there are alternatives such as:

  • a pet sitter
  • a dog walker
  • family or friends
  • checking in on your lunch (if you're at work and are nearby)

Please read our advice for information on alternative services you can use.

— Page last updated 31/01/2023