Dog daycare is an unregulated industry in New York and throughout most of the nation. There is no governing body that sets rules, regulations, or industry standards, so it’s very important for you to do your research when choosing a daycare. Here are some questions you might ask when choosing a daycare that is safe, fun, and healthy for your dog.

What is the staff to dog ratio?

Some states have mandated staff to dog ratio minimums, but NY does not. The Pet Care Services Association, a national organization, recommends one staffer per 15 dogs. Ask each daycare that you research what their policy is, and how they ensure proper staffing.

How is the staff educated?

While passion for dogs is required to run a great dog daycare, loving dogs in itself is not a enough to run a safe dog daycare. At a minimum staff should have training in dog body language, signs of stress, and basic animal care. But ideally you really want staff with a good behavioral foundation of how dogs communicate and the intricacies of the canine communication. Is the staff certified in Pet First Aid and CPR?

Is there a certified trainer at this facility?

Choosing a facility with an owner or manager who is on site and educated in canine behavior is one way to ensure your dog will be getting the best care. Select a daycare that is owned and operated by a person with training, veterinary, or behavioral pet care credentials. Dog trainers are educated in dog body language and in how dogs navigate their environment and will set up their protocols in a way that meets the needs of the dogs in their care. Certifying agencies like the Association of Professional dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild require professionals to attest to their skills. The Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers requires testing and monitors continuing education credits for accreditation.

Does the facility require proof of vaccination and a temperament test?

The facility should require proof of vaccinations, so they have the records of the shots and records of each dog’s veterinarian. An interview or temperament test is for the safety of both the dogs and the people. It helps to determine if the daycare is right for you and the dog. Again, not all dogs are suitable for daycare play. It’s also used to match your dog’s personality with appropriate playmates so your dog is placed in the correct playgroup. You can rest assured knowing that all the dog in your dog’s play group were similarly evaluated.

Where do the dogs spend their day?

The playrooms should be clean, well lit, spacious and not over-crowded. There should be no electrical wires, chemicals, or small objects within the dogs’ reach. Even tennis balls can be a choking hazard in an active playroom. A good rule of thumb is no toys under 6 inches diameter. Dogs should have places they can go to get away from other dogs, like furniture, crates, or a quiet corner. Dogs should have access to humans at all times, as well as to dogs with whom they are well-suited for play.

Does my dog get to go outside?

Dogs who are in the same room together all day without a break can quickly become burned out on daycare, even if they really love playing with other dogs. Breaking up the day with nap time, solo walks, and special training times is essential to making sure your dog gets enough stimulation and enough rest. Your dog should come home from daycare tired, but happy and relaxed, not agitated. There’s a difference between coming home tired from having fun and coming home tired from being stressed. If he seems happy, his tail is wagging and he’s eager to go to the daycare in the morning, then he probably is enjoying it. But if when you get there he puts on his brakes, he doesn’t want to go through the door, that’s a bad sign. He’s either going too often, or going to the wrong dog daycare.