Loving and caring for animals comes with the reality that you’ll need a break from time to time. After a bit of research, reading reviews, and touring local options, doggy daycare can appear to be a viable and safe option.
Still, whether you are working full-time or joining friends on that month-long backpacking trip, if your dog has been in daycare for two straight weeks or more, it’s time for a check-in. Asking yourself, “How do I know if my dog likes daycare?” is a great place to start.
Use this list to realign with your dog. You may uncover why your animal is expressing new personality traits or physical behaviors. Doing so can give you peace of mind and make you aware of any changes that need to be made for their well-being.
Personality – Emotional Expressions
If your dog likes daycare, you will see:
Doggy daycare is an excellent way to help socialize dogs and to engage them in wholesome mental and physical activities. The next time you prepare to take your dog to daycare, notice if your dog is excited to go. Do they appear happy and energetic?
When you arrive, pay attention to how your dog approaches the caregivers and the other animals. Are they excited? Watch for mood changes once you take them inside. Does your dog seem comfortable?
Easily accepting affection and attention is a positive indication they are enjoying the experience. Consider it a bonus if that positive attitude carries beyond daycare and seeps into trips to the dog park and walks around the neighborhood.
If your dog doesn’t like daycare, they may express:
Sometimes, despite your thorough research, your dog may not adjust well to a given daycare center. There are so many factors that can make or break your dog’s experience, so be attentive and willing to adjust.
Negative emotional stress can cause significant changes in your dog’s mood and behavior. If your dog hasn’t been in daycare long and you begin to notice any of these emotions, it can be an early warning sign that they aren’t happy.
Behavior – Physical Expressions
If your dog likes daycare, you will see several physical signs, including:
- A wagging tail
- Playful prances and postures
- Play with toys
- Wiggling or dancing
Behavior is the most obvious indicator to know if your dog likes daycare. Are they bringing you the leash or waiting excitedly by the door when it’s time to go? Do they wiggle or seem to be dancing when you walk them inside the daycare?
When you greet the caregivers, is your dog happily greeting them too? Is their nose in the air trying to sniff out familiar playmates? Even older dogs that may have less energy or momentum display visible interest when they are pleased.
Be aware that each day will bring new experiences and interactions at the daycare as animals and caregivers change frequently.
If your dog doesn’t like daycare, the behavioral signs will be just as noticeable. Watch for:
- Hiding or Avoidance
- Stiff spine
- Whining and whimpering
- Violent Aggression
A guiding rule to keep in mind is that happy dogs are usually in motion. If your dog doesn’t like daycare, you’re going to see a lot of avoidance when it’s time to go and a lot of whining – or growling!
Dogs demonstrate several traits when they feel unsafe. Hiding behind you when you drop them off might be the first sign, but if ignored it can progress quickly to growling and defensive behavior outside of daycare.
Excessive stimulation from a negative daycare experience can also trigger your dog to have anxiety during quiet moments at home. Or, it can manifest as aggression during play or at mealtimes. You may notice your dog is displaying more dominance because they have to defend their space at daycare, and that mindset has extended into the home.
Trust Your Intuition
As a pet owner, you have the responsibility to protect your dog’s mental and physical health. Doing this check-in with your dog is a smart way to keep up with their wellness – especially if they spend significant time in daycare.
Be comfortable asking the caregivers questions about how your dog behaves while in their care and compare those responses to the dog’s behavior at home. Consider doing an unscheduled visit to see how your dog is cared for when no one is expecting you.
If something doesn’t seem right, connect with other pet owners and see if they are experiencing similar concerns. Ultimately, however, you should listen to what your dog is telling you.
Recognize that even if your dog likes daycare at the center you chose, they can still develop habits that may not suit your lifestyle.
Get Help – Unlearning Problem Behaviors
What happens if you complete this “check-in” with your dog and realize that somehow you’ve missed some important signals? You made some inquiries, but now you’re going through the fifth night in a row of your dog is displaying behavior that you don’t know how to address or correct.
Needless to say, they might need to “unlearn” some problematic behaviors.
Getting help can be the best decision you make for you and your fur baby, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We have several articles that can help you address issues like separation anxiety or excessive barking with actionable steps.
Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for additional tips and information: https://www.youtube.com/c/OodleLife
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also lists resources for behavioral help here.
Share the Love – Help Someone Else
Now that you have read this guide, you know what moods and behaviors to look for to ensure your dog likes daycare. You also know that you have resources to help you if changes need to be made.
One of the greatest things you can do to help all dogs and pet owners is to share what you’ve learned. Share this guide with friends who have pets in daycare or considering it.